St Ives has a tug on my heartstrings like almost nowhere else on planet Earth. It was the stuff of my childhood summer holidays, finishing school, piling into an overfilled car and driving for hours in what seemed like never ending rain until we touched down in St Ives, where the sun shone and the sea sparkled. It felt like we had travelled to the end of the world and whilst this may not be geographically accurate, Cornwall sits at the furthest flung south-western corner of England, bordered on three sides by sea and attached to the mainland via its neighbouring county, Devon. Yet something happens when you cross the River Tamar and leave Devon behind in the rear view mirror. Cornwall has its own culture, language, flag and unique charm, the stuff of pixies, smugglers and ghosts. It feels like venturing into a different country. And one I love dearly…
It’s hardly surprising then that I have made several trips to Cornwall in my adult life. It pulls me back on a regular basis and I’m happy to say that I still feel the warmth and the charm of this magical land. St Ives is ideally situated for exploring Cornwall’s Atlantic coast. Its location in the far west of Cornwall makes for a longer journey to get here, but it’s well worth the effort. Here’s the first five of my 10 reasons to pack your bag and make that trip to St Ives:
1 The Beaches
St Ives is about as well endowed as a place can be for stunning beaches. Within a short walk of the centre of town you can be on the long golden strands of Porthmeor or Porthminster beaches. Porthminster is ideal if you have young children as it’s slightly more sheltered than Porthmeor, which faces out into the Atlantic and attracts surfers with its larger waves. Porthgwidden is a smaller cove with a more intimate setting, whilst the harbour beach is ideal for nipping across the road for a quick pasty/ice cream/cream tea (delete as appropriate)! Just along the coast a couple of miles is the stunning Carbis Bay. Well worth a visit, parking is a nightmare so take the train from St Ives.
2 Coastal Walks
If you love walking then St Ives has some fantastic options. It is situated on the South West Coast Path and from St Ives you can walk east or west along this dramatic stretch of coastline. East takes you towards Carbis Bay, a lovely 1.5 mile walk which criss-crosses the train line and offers a large part of the walk under the shelter of a canopy of trees. Perfect on a hot summer day. Walk west for a much more demanding hike to the small and enchanted hamlet of Zennor. This walk traverses the cliff tops and offers stunning views back to St Ives, but is not for the unfit or the faint-hearted!
3 The Eateries
For such a small place, St Ives is jam packed with magnificent cafes, tea rooms, restaurants and delis. If you like fish then you will find numerous places in town to satisfy your craving for the freshest catch straight out of the ocean. The Seafood Café in Fore St serves various catches of the day. You can select the type of fish and customise the rest of your dish from a range of sauces, potatoes and other accompaniments. But St Ives is about more than seafood. One of my favourite haunts is Blas Burgerworks in the Warren. It’s a lively and upbeat indie with great options for vegans, veggies and meat lovers alike. The vibe is communal with a huge table and the staff are excellent too. If you like your treats to be sweet, then don’t miss Olive’s café on Island Road. The cakes are divine!
4 Cream Teas, Pasties & Ice Cream
St Ives is a disaster if you are watching what you eat. But who comes on holiday to do that?? The local specialities in Cornwall are comfort food staples. The aforementioned Olive’s serves up the best cream tea I have ever tasted. And in this part of the world it’s jam first, then cream. Sorry if you’re from Devon, but I’m with the Corns on this!
Numerous Cornish Pasty shops populate the town, but for a really authentic offering then head to Pengenna Pasties on the High St. The Yellow Canary on Fore Street also has delicious pasties (the Spinach and Ricotta is a dream). It also serves great coffee. And who can resist an ice cream when by the sea? There are plenty of places to satisfy this particular craving but my tip is the Moomaid of Zennor, who make their ice cream about 6 miles away in a variety of beautiful creamy flavours. As with all snacks in St Ives, guard them carefully from the highly evolved dive-bombing local seagulls. I stood open mouthed as a man lost his pasty from right out of his hand on the seafront. Much foot stamping and fist shaking followed!
5 The Vibe
In St Ives the laid back vibe is king. It’s something in the air which enchants and captivates. Maybe it’s to do with the endless lap of the waves on all sides of the peninsula on which St Ives sits. Certainly the dominant blue skies and sunshine against the golden sands help. There’s also a strong artistic community here. St Ives has always attracted painters and sculptors to capture the unique light here. There are numerous small galleries dotted about alongside a couple of big hitters (The Tate has a gallery here). My favourite is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy the sculptures out in the gardens. If you fancy learning to paint yourself, then there are numerous art classes available to book. There’s no shortage of surf schools either, so if you’ve always wanted to catch your first tube you can learn to do that too.
So there’s five reasons to get packing your bags and head off to the south west tip of England to discover beautiful St Ives. If any further persuasion may be required then in my next post I’ll give you five more reasons why St Ives rocks as a must-see destination!
Read part 2 here.