St Ives - A west country wonder

Posted on: 15 April 2010 by Mark O'haire

Cornwall’s St Ives has been tempting tourists for decades with a rich artistic heritage and beautiful beaches.

Up until 1877, the hamlet of St Ives nestled quietly on Cornwall's north coast and was appreciated by a privileged few. What little activity there was in the steeply cobbled streets, stemmed from the ebb and flow of fishermen, but when the Great Western Railway built a track along the picturesque coast from St Erth it catapulted the village into the spotlight. St Ives became the destination of choice for discerning Victorians, and 130 years later its popularity hasn't waned.

Renowned for its golden sandy beaches and a benevolent climate warmed by the Gulf Stream, the seaside town has a special place in the hearts of holidaymakers.

It's also revered by numerous artists. In fact art has been a feature of St Ives' heritage since 1920, when Bernard Leach founded his pottery here. Others soon followed, including Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Barbara Hepworth, whose home has now been converted into a museum and sculpture garden.

To celebrate this wealth of talent, the Tate established a gallery above the beach of Porthmeor 15 years ago to showcase local and national works, while smaller independent galleries crowd the narrow streets of the old town, selling the creations of many up-and-coming artists.

St Ives - Carbis Bay

Along with the enviable amount of sunshine that allows the gardens and hanging baskets of St Ives to flourish, the town also has some of the cleanest water in western Europe. Gently shelving beaches make it the ideal spot for bathing and surfing, while boat trips operate from the quay around the beautiful coast. If you choose to explore by foot, keep an eye out for mallow toadflax and wild garlic growing in the hedgerows, and for pied waders scurrying along the beach. Puffins, buzzards and razorbills may also be glimpsed among the many species of bold, audacious gulls.

Seafood is, of course, a speciality, so it's hardly surprising that St Ives boasts so many restaurants. Fresh lobster, mackerel, haddock fillets... Seafood fans will be in their element here, although there is plenty to tempt the traditionalist too. And with that Cornish pasty or indulgent Cornish clotted cream tea, why not wash it down with a local organic ale, genuine West Country cider or a glass of Cornwall's finest pinot noir?

Further Afield

With its mining heritage, Celtic roots and inspiring landscapes, Cornwall has a wealth of attractions...

  • St Michael's Mount – follow in the footsteps of pilgrims to this myth-laden island   
  • Looe – Get three for the price of one on a trip to East Looe, West Looe and picturesque Looe Island
  • Polperro - explore this archetypal Cornish village   
  • Padstow – pay a visit to Rick Stein's famous seafood restaurant   
  • The Eden Project – a unique cluster of biomes showcasing the global garden   
  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan – loose yourself in 80 inspirational acres   
  • Falmouth - discover the town's fascinating maritime heritage   
  • Truro - stroll past elegant Georgian buildings to discover its cathedral

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