St Ives – so good, it can’t be contained in one blog post! Last week I offered five great reasons to add St Ives to your travel plans… ahh, the vibe… the beaches… the coastal walks… and not forgetting the great local food and eateries. What more could a beach town offer to get you packing your bags and heading to the sea? Here’s five more reasons to head to beautiful Cornwall and make St Ives your base:
1. The Weather
St Ives is located at the foot of England on the Atlantic coast and is one of the sunniest parts of the entire country. Cornwall itself is bordered on three sides by sea and this makes for a micro-climate which can lash the coastline with storms, yet bring out the sunshine within a few hours. The weather can change very quickly here, but as much for the good as anything else. I woke up one August morning to this view from Porthmeor beach over to the Island and St Nicholas’s Church on the hill:
And yet just a couple of hours later, the cloud had blown away, the wind had dropped and this was the view from the same beach:
So don’t despair when the sun doesn’t shine… It might be just around the corner!
2. The St Ives Line
Travelling to St Ives by train is a pretty smart way to get there. Parking is really difficult in the town and many holiday homes do not offer parking. There are Park and Ride facilities and pay and display car parks (prepare to dig deep), but by far the best idea is to take the train. Nearby St Erth sits on the main line between Penzance and London which means there are several intercity services per day. The St Ives Line is a small branch line which connects St Erth to St Ives. It takes approximately 15 minutes and is one of the most stunning train trips you will ever take. The line follows the coast around the headland and as you come around the last turn, the beautiful sprawl of St Ives drifts into view. It’s a sight I will never tire of, the memory of which can lift me right up on a grey day back home in Manchester, and I’m not ashamed to say it can bring a tear to the eye. Here’s what’s in store:
3. 50 Shades of Blue…
I mentioned last time that St Ives is a magnet for artists. With the sea bordering on three sides, the light here is magnificent. I’ve truly never seen as many blues as on a sunny day in St Ives when the sun is shimmering and dancing on the Atlantic Ocean… The featured image at the top of this post gives just a little teaser, but you really have to be there and see it for yourself.
4. The Local Area
St Ives is ideally placed as a hub for visiting the whole of West Cornwall. You can take a bus or drive the coast road past Zennor, Pendeen and Botallack all the way round to Penzance. On this route you will pass many ancient tin mine workings, many of which are included in the 200 or so engine houses which make up a World Heritage Site. Some of the most spectacular mine workings can be found perching dangerously on the cliff edge at Botallack. If you love the current BBC production of Poldark, you’ll recognise some of these sights. Further along the coast road you will come to Lands End (overrated and often overcrowded in summer), Cape Cornwall and Sennen Cove (both much better places to spend your time).
As the coast winds round toward Penzance, be sure to stop by the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno. If you’re lucky there will be a performance on at this outdoor amphitheatre with the sea and the sunset as a beautiful backdrop.
Continue to follow the road and you will reach Newlyn, just on the fringe of the larger town of Penzance. Newlyn is a traditional Cornish fishing village and is probably most famous for the crab which is landed there. Do not leave Cornwall without trying a Newlyn crab sandwich, an absolute treat! You can do this right here in the village, but I would also recommend The Dolphin pub in nearby Penzance. Penzance is the most westerly major town in England. It’s full of intriguing little spots, including the Egyptian House and the Morrab Gardens. Don’t miss St Michael’s Mount either:
From Penzance you can complete the circuit back to St Ives by train – and ride the aforementioned St Ives Line again. You’ll never tire of it, promise…
5. The Legends
Cornwall, like its Celtic cousins, is a land of storytelling and mystery. You won’t need to stray too far to find reference to smugglers, ghosts and pixies. A couple of good ghost walks run from the centre of St Ives and tell of the monks walking to the top of the Island to St Nicholas’s church, drownings, smuggling and much more. These twisty streets take on a distinctive echo after dark.
Legend has it that pixies inhabited much of Cornwall and you will see references to this wherever you go. The Potter’s Shop in Fore Street sells handmade pixie ceramics which make for a charming gift. And of course smuggling is synonymous with the Cornish coast, so you will see references to this all over St Ives. The Sloop Inn on the Wharf is a great pub to visit as it was featured in the book ‘ West Cornwall Smugglers’ Pubs from St Ives to Falmouth’ by Terry Townsend. The Sloop has been in St Ives since 1312 and history just oozes out of the walls!
So that concludes my ten reasons to visit beautiful St Ives. Wishing you Bon Voyage!
Missed Part 1? Catch it here.