Pennan seems to have come into existence as a fishing village in the 18th century. Until the 1930s, the village seems to have come under 3 main surnames— Watt ,Gatt and West. The people of Pennan were dependent on the sea. Most families had small boats for their own personal use. Where the men would catch fish it was usually down to the women and children to try and sell it to clients in the country.
Pennan became famous in the 1980s for being used as one of the main locations in the film Local Hero and representing the fictional village of Ferness. Film enthusiasts have come from all over the world to make a phone call from the Red Telephone Box which featured in the film. The phone box was in fact actually put there purely as a prop for the film, and then removed, but as a result of popular demand a genuine telephone box was installed a few metres from the original spot.