St Ives out of season is also not a bad idea

Think of St Ives and beaches, ice creams and sunny clifftop walks come to mind. The cosmopolitan artists’ haven in south west Cornwall has always been about more than bucket-and-spade brigade, though in the summer months – when the sands are thronged, the traffic end-to-end and the queues for fish and chips snake along the harbour – you could be forgiven for forgetting that. St Ives in late autumn and winter is quite a different fish. While some hotels, guest houses and cafes shut up shop for three or four months, it is far from a ghost town.

In fact, there is just enough buzz to make it a perfectly smug place for a winter break: there are no cars, the beaches are empty and majestic, the coastal path blissfully clear and rooms and restaurant tables are yours for the taking. And when the mist rolls in, as it surely will, there is plenty to do – from exhibitions to thermal spas, shopping to cosy hidden bars.

There is even more reason to visit St Ives this winter. Great Western has just relaunched its London to Penzance Night Riviera sleeper service with some quite neat new cabins which have surprisingly comfortable, if narrow, beds (bunks if you’re sharing) that can be converted into sofas, plus a small sink, wifi and phone-charging sockets. The 23.45 from Paddington arrives into St Erth just in time to catch the 07.49 to St Ives on the branch line, which is an attraction in itself. The beautiful, 15-minute pootle around the coast has views across the Hayle estuary and Carbis Bay, dotted with oyster-catchers and flashes of wild flowers.

The other draw is that the new Tate St Ives, officially opened in October, having been closed for 18 months for a £20 million refurbishment and extension. The original gallery, which opened in 1993 and attracts over 250,000 visitors a year (over three times the number for which it was designed), has now doubled in size. The new extension, an “anti-iconic” build by Jamie Fobert Architects, has been cleverly carved into the cliff; the only signs of it are six light wells on the hillside and a handsome new facade clad in sea-green and sky-blue ceramic tiles which seem to change with the weather.

The new exhibition space is currently given over to a single, vast, room of sculptures by Rebecca Warren, but the space is flexible and for the next show in February, which is dedicated to Virginia Woolf and women artists since the 1850s, it will be divided up into various rooms.

The tiles on the new Tate St Ives extension change colour with the weather The old gallery spaces, centred around that remarkable loggia which reflects the sea back into the gallery, have been de-cluttered and refreshed, the better to show off the permanent collection of work by artists more or less connected to St Ives – from Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Mark Rothko right up to 2017 Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid. It is a joy to walk around and thanks to a redesigned entrance hall and cafe (still the best place for coffee with a view in town), the queues in summer should be shorter, too.

Visiting in November, I had one dull-ish day and another filled with gorgeous sun, which I devoted to the South West Coast Path. I caught the branch line back to Lelant Saltings and walked the four-and-a-half miles to St Ives, through fields and churchyards, down country lanes (peeking into the vast back gardens of mansions), across clifftops and beaches including the wild Porthkidney Sands with its view across to Godrevy lighthouse, as immortalised by Virginia Woolf. Magnificent – and I saw a handful of people the whole way.

According to locals, the Pedn Olva hotel at the top of The Warren has outside terraces overlooking Porthminster beach and the harbour. You might even spot a dolphin. It is open to non-residents and is excellent for a coffee, a drink or a meal with really friendly staff.

My local favourites include the Beach Cafe Bar on The Wharf. You can get fabulous coffees, drinks and food all day and late evenings in the summer.

The Pilchard Press, the UK’s smallest – and Cornwall’s first – micropub which is fairly comprehensively hidden behind some bins and a pasty shop on the harbour. Inside the whitewashed cave are about four card tables and a bar serving five craft ales (as well as beers and wine) of varying strength. It opened last year and will not be hidden for long, I suspect.

The view from inside the sauna on the cliffside at the C Bay Spa I stayed at the Gannet Inn, a very cosy hotel in Carbis Bay, on the road to St Ives, which opened last year. The stylish rooms are named after sea-birds and have distant views down to the sea, the food is hearty and the welcome warm. The lounge, stuffed with leather and tweed armchairs and centred on a roaring fire is a very pleasant place to return to. Guests get access to the beach and spa at its sister property, the Carbis Bay Hotel, 10 minutes’ walk away.

The spa has two pools – one large and bracing, the other small and toasty with hydrotherapy jets – and a charming round sauna perched on the cliff, overlooking the beach as the waves crash in the distance. Who needs summer sun when you have views like this all to yourself?

If you are planning a long winter break for yourself, why not book one of the Blue Mist accommodations? There is a studio, family-sized and larger cottage for groups of all sizes, guaranteed to give you the cosiest stay for you.

Barbara Hepworth and St Ives

St Ives has always proven to be an inspirational seaside town, a font for creativity and artistry. The beautiful landscapes are among the many sources of inspiration and the opportunities to work alongside creative individuals continues to inspire the development of beautiful art.

Various well-known artists, past and present, have passed through St Ives and continue to its vibrant art community.

If you link the word “St Ives” along with “sculpture” it would be inconceivable to imagine that you would not at some point arrive at the name Barbara Hepworth. Such was her influence on the town, that you will see many of her sculptures displayed at various locations around it. There is also a museum, the Barbara Hepworth museum, that continues to inspire modern artists.

Born in Yorkshire in 1903 to Herbert and Gertrude, Barbara frequently accompanied her dad in car rides over the West Riding for his work as a civil engineer. She received a music scholarship during her time at Wakefield Girls School, and the summer holidays were spent at idyllic St Robin’s Bay in Whitby.

Hepworth studiesd sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London and her early twenties were interspersed with trips and stays in Paris and Rome. Her life up to her mid thirties revolved around travel, working with and learning from other artists.

She arrived in Cornwall with her second husband and triplets in August 1939, before the outbreak of war. With little time to work, and living in cramped conditions, Hepworth had no major output until the end of the war, but it was after that when her work flourished and the outpouring of major creative works began.

If you ever visit St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth museum is definitely an attraction not to miss out on. But if you live in St Ives, and are venturing afield, perhaps at some point you might like to visit the Hepworth Wakefield museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where more of the sculptor’s works are exhibited alongside artists who have a link with the region.

Tate St Ives to re-open this weekend!

After a £20m underground extension project lasting over 18 months, the Tate St Ives is due to re-open this weekend.

The new underground extension to the art gallery will be used as a space to hold contemporary art shows, especially those by local artists. St Ives had long had a reputation for the quality of arts and crafts, and the gallery, which is built in the Cornish cliff side, will give local artists an avenue to do just that.

The renovation work resulted in an 18-month closure and the main obstacle for the drilling machines was that the Cornish cliffside consists largely of blue elvan, the hardest rock in the British Isles. The blue elvan was particularly resistant and hence the removal was painstakingly slow. Builders had to dig down 15m into the cliff face, and in the process 977 lorry-loads of granite were dug out to create the four-storey extension.

But no one will doubt now the hard work has been for nought.

The new 500m square gallery will allow more space for exhibits and art shows. This can only serve to motivate artists to continually improve at their craft, which will raise the standard of art to even greater heights.

The sculptor Barbara Hepworth lived in St Ives and many of her works are displayed in the area. In the same vein, the first artist to be shown in the space is Rebecca Warren, a contemporary British leader in sculpture. This opening weekend will see some of her works in the new extension, including five large totem sculptures which had to be drilled and fixed to the floor. As if not enough drilling had been done already!

This was to accommodate the incredibly heavy, bronze, totem-like sculptures to eliminate any slight chance of them falling over. Bearing titles such as Aurelius and There’s No Other Way, the three metre-high works were first made by Warren using clay before casting them in bronze and painting them.

Warren said of St Ives that “It does have this pagan, odd feel and I’ve really enjoyed spending time here and getting to know the character of the town and the people. It is like a completely different world. Especially compared to London, where everyone is walking in to you on their phone.”

The extension, which has been part of a four-year project, will allow for both contemporary art and works from Tate’s vast collection of modernist art to be displayed the same time. Previously the lack of exhibit space meant that displays had to be rotated, and in order to do so, the gallery had to be closed for a fortnight three times a year while the reshuffling was carried out. This had significant impact especially if tourists were visiting during the closed season, as the gallery is one of the draws of the town. The gallery also does £9.50 for entry – it is the only one of the Tate museums to charge, in order to be sustainable and viable – and a six-week closure, considering it attracts an average of 800 visitors a week could have led to a significant financial shortfall.

The museum is now expected to draw in 300,000 visitors a year and the extension means it will be possible for the existing galleries not to close for the six weeks each year, and to showcase important works by artists including Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost – all artists with links to the area.

The gallery brings in £11m in economic benefits and the council estimates the extension will nearly double that.

The extension was first proposed on the existing car park but the uproar and disapproval resulted in the extension built in hiding. One might be forgiven in thinking that the architect Jamie Fobert had been told to create nothing more than an underground hole with no windows or views. Did it really take all that time just to dig?

The gallery will open at the weekend with free extended entry. A party atmosphere is expected too, and to commemorate the grand re-opening there will be fireworks on the beach. So where do you think would be the most happening place in St Ives this weekend?

If you are intending to come down at some point to see the new Tate St Ives, why not consider staying for a long weekend, or taking a week? Maybe even a fortnight? It may sound like a far-fetched idea but there are so many things to do that you may not have the time to fit it all in! You can see the previous posts if you are coming with children, or if your are coming as a couple, our previous posts will also give you some insights as to which the best places to see are.

The Blue Mist accommodations consist of three different types of properties to suit parties of different sizes. You can find a studio apartment that sleeps two, or slightly bigger accommodation that can sleep six or eight. The decor of our properties vary, but with all of them you will find a hearty welcome, get a cosy evening sleep, and the attractions of St Ives all easily within walking distance!

Romantic Places in St Ives

St Ives has many places to visit and many things to do for every one young and old. Many people come to St Ives to experience the brilliant arts culture, maritime history and also head for the beaches for the sun, sand, sea and surf.

The beaches are beautiful but they aren’t the only visual scenic treasures around. There are many other beautiful gardens and places within St Ives that will evoke many beautiful memories in time to come.

St Ives is such a place of beauty that it has inspired various artists to capture the landscapes through art and photography, and craftsmen continue to be inspired on a daily basis by their surroundings. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets, juxtaposed with the boats in the harbour, on the shimmering blue sea where cormorants on the rocky landscape dry their wings … It is a truly magnificent backdrop for your holiday photos.

If you are ever considering a romantic getaway why not make St Ives your place of choice?

Along with what has already been mentioned, the winding streets and magnificent beaches make St Ives one of the most romantic parts of Cornwall. Come for a romantic holiday weekend, a Valentine’s Day romance … Or maybe even more? Here are some suggested romantic spots.

 

The Island

The Island is a lovely spot from which to observe the sunset or the waves crashing to the shore. It is not really an island, in the sense that it is actually a promontory that juts out to the sea. Nevertheless, when you have walked to the tip of it, you and your special one could feel like you are the only two people in the world, away from everyone else on the mainland. You are still connected to humanity, but away from them in your private little world. It’s easy accessibility comes at a bonus. You don’t have to hire a boat to get to some secluded island. As the day draws to a close, simply walk there and reminisce over the day or life in general. Make The Island your base from which exciting future adventures are thought up. Or head there after an evening meal, feel the winds rush through your hair as you take in the night lights of the seaside town. Or just head there for a stroll during the way, hand in hand, and climb up to tiny St Nicholas’ Chapel at the top for the best views.

 

Porthmeor Beach

Porthmeor Beach is one of the many to choose from at St Ives, but the rock pools and golden yellow sand give it a rustic combination that provide that quaint rural seaside feel. The walk along the sand is enough to take you away from the daily stresses of life and give you that sense of peace and calm that you came to St Ives for. During the day the beach is popular and a fun place to be around, so it is an exciting to spend time in the sunshine during the day, and as the night draws near, the beach takes on a different facade. Head there in the day and night, and when you look back on both sets of romantic snaps, one of which might eventually end up framed above the bed, you will be amazed to know they are of the same place because they look completely different.

 

Smeaton’s Pier

Smeaton’s Pier in the harbour extends out to sea, and you can also get good romantic snaps with the tethered boats towards The Wharf. When the tide is out you can walk along the wet sand and get pictures of yourselves closer to one of these boats. Perched on the pier ledge, with the water under your feet, pastie in hand and wind in your face … This is Cornish romance at its blossom.

Trewyn Gardens

Hidden up a hill behind Barclays bank, the inviting benches of Trewyn Garden are a nice quiet place to spend an afternoon. The lush green lawn and the stunning subtropical plants in the miniature park are inviting on summer, and a lovely cuddly spot on a chilly February day.

 

Carbis Bay

Surrounded by trees and backed by with the characteristic blue St Ives  seas, you might think Carbis Bay was the beach they put on magazine brochures for Mediterranean destinations. Carbis Bay is a short romantic route from St Ives: From the east end of Porthminster Beach, choose the South West Coast Path which takes you between the beaches. Carbis Bay is a nice quiet bay where you and your special one can have a picnic. Bring a packed lunch, bottle of wine and mat all in a little picnic basket, and the world is all yours.

 

Trencrom Hill

Trencrom Hill is a short drive away from St Ives in Lelant Downs. You can get incredible views from the top of this Neolithic settlement. Penwith Peninsula and St Michael’s Mount, as well as up towards St Austell, are all visible with the naked eye. This is a wonderful spot to catch the sunset. The secret path to the top is from the small National Trust car park, which reveals to you the short winding path  that leads you up there.

 

The Hayle beaches

 Three Miles of Golden Sands” are what you get with the beaches at Hayle. The beach seems to go on forever, the perfect place for a quiet romantic getaway. Many a romantic has seized upon this chance to pop the important question at the end of the walk! En route you can see more rural views of St Ives; Godrevy Lighthouse awaits you in the distance.

If you are looking for some place romantic for evening dining, there are so many restaurants in St Ives for that kind of special evening. Looking for somewhere to stay? Why not try the Blue Mist apartments? There is the bigger Blue Mist cottage, but for a romantic getaway for two, the Blue Mist studio sleeps two and provides an quiet, intimate space from which to explore the town. It provides a welcoming space to come home to after a day spent exploring St Ives and all the brilliant things it has on offer. Pop back in, put on some Romantic music, and just unwind and watch the waves from your window.

Some people take the opportunity to propose to their other halfs with the backdrop of St Ives in the background, both literally and metaphorically. A beautiful picture of two with the sunset and beaches in the background can make for the inspirational start to a new life, while the memory of where it happened will live forever in your minds. Find a restaurant or a romantic hideaway like the Blue Mist studio that plays light romantic music – either acoustic guitar or sentimental piano. Loud rock music, or music that even sounds remotely like it, such as rock music played on piano, is probably best avoided! Or you may also decide to do a course together while you are here. The possibilities that St Ives can offer are quite abundant!

 

Hidden places and activities in St Ives

St Ives is a magical place to visit: It truly is. To round off our list of many things to do in the town, which are all within walking distance, here are more suggestions:

Stone Balancing – the preferred spot for stone balancing is on Lambeth Walk Beach and you can often see stone balancers at work, or the products of their skill. Stone balancing requires skill, knowledge and a touch of creativity and maybe even luck! But it is one thing to watch someone try to balance uneven shapes of rocks, try it for yourself to see how really difficult it is and you can appreciate the skill that has gone into the creations.

Fancy something a bit calmer? You can play pitch and putt golf on Beach Road which is near the wonderful Porthmeor Beach. And when you are done with golf, you might also want to try the bowling green there, or simply head for the beach and relax.

Speaking of relaxation, why not pamper yourself and go for a luxurious Spa treatment. The spas in St Ives and truly amazing and you will never have difficulty finding a place where you can relax. There are plenty to choose from. Try St Ives Harbour Hotel; you can also try The Sail Lofts. There are also two other amazing spas in Una Spa or Carbis Bay CBay Spa. Pick one, or try them all!

My parents used to say that a holiday is not a holiday without a cream tea and it was always a customary thing to head for a cafe and try one. They even rated their experiences from various towns. When they came to St Ives one of the suggested places for a cream tea was Olive’s but you can readily find a cafe which serves one they way you like it.

Keeping in line with St Ives’ reputation as a fun place for families, children, and a hive for the arts, The Wonderful Bear Emporium on Fore Street is a wonderful arts space for children where they can design and create their very own bear. Imagine all the different types of creations you can come up with! It is a good place for a rainy day activity and you can have hours of fun there.

Cornish pasties are the best in the world, but this is perhaps a slightly biased view. Nevertheless, they don’t come better than at the St Ives Bakery, who bake mouth-watering pasties. Their main competition is provided by others such as Ferrells and The Yellow Canary. You could try a few (or why not all?) so you could determine for yourself which is your personal favourite.

If sailing is one of your many talents you are welcome to come and sail with the St Ives Sailing Club if you are visiting. They are based at the back of The Sloop car park – look for the cabin and boat yard. And while you are in the area you can also visit The Sloop Studios where you can see the beautiful creations being made by the amazing craftsman and craftswomen.

The Sloop, along with The Castle and The Lifeboat, also organise live music events in the event so check out details of evening entertainment and have yourself a good night out!

At the top of The Stennack you will find The Roundhouse and from there you can visually locate Consols Pond. If you are ever in St Ives around the Easter period the pond is a nice place to visit as you can see children sailing their model boats there – a traditional custom. The river Stennack meanders down The Stennack and the houses along the way that you can see were from the days of tin-mining. The word Stennack has its origins in the Cornish word Stenek which means tin-bearing ground.

The Steeple Woods and Nature Reserve, located a short walk to Steeple Lane, meets every Wednesday morning to help maintain the reserve.  Gloves and tools that you need are cheerily provided, so if you are free to volunteer your time and efforts do pop by!

St Ives has more than just seagulls around its beaches. Take your binoculars or telescope to places such as Mann’s Head and The Island and observe other species such as cormorants. You can always find them having a quiet moment, drying their wings on the rocks.

A walk to Carbis Bayis best done with older children because it is not pram or wheelchair- friendly, but the lovely walk along the coast, which also takes you over the train line and finally venturing down into Carbis Bay has magnificent sights that make it well worth the effort; if you have exerted all of yours getting there and are too tired to walk back, the train ride back is always also available on the return trip.

While St Ives – being a seaside town – has mainly water sports, it’s not to say this is at the exclusion of other traditional sports. The local rugby team St Ives town RFC play matches when the season is in progress.

Tregenna Castle is a lovely place to visit if you can. Not only does it have an eighteen-hole par three golf course that non-residents can use, the walk there presents spectacular views of St Ives. The Tregenna Castle gardens and grounds cover seventy-two acres of beauty around St Ives, and what’s more, if you get in touch with the castle before you arrive it is possible for you to get guided tours.

While not being walking distance from St Ives, and hence not in line with the theme of things you can do in St Ives while walking, St Just and Lands End are a bus ride from St Ives. Or you may argue everything’s within walking distance, depending on how far you are willing to walk!

Also slightly further afield, you can try horse-riding at Halsetown (Penhalwyn School) which you can find on the road into St Ives. Shorter taster sessions are available, or if you are a seasoned pro at horse-riding you can book longer sessions to suit your level of skill and experience.

St Ives has many things for young and old, ranging from sea activities, walks, places to try new food and art and craft activities. A word of warning regarding the last group though – for younger children the art and craft activities should be approached as taster sessions, and children should manage their expectations, and not expect – if they are wholly beginners – to attain the same level of skill as the craftsmen who have been honing their skills for years. It takes practice, willingness and desire, tempered by time and expectation, in order to achieve a level of skill, and children should be guided to take the time to learn a skill properly, practice at it, and continually refine their abilities at it in order to improve. (You can read about an interesting article about learning the piano here.) You don’t get from A to Z immediately, and taking up a craft or skill is a good way of learning this life skill of patience!

So many things to do in St Ives – why not book a trip here when you next have a break? And while you’re thinking about it, consider staying with the Blue Mist. The three properties will suit you and you will definitely find one to suit your budget and expectations!