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.

Splendid Septembers at the Blue Mist studios

The Blue Mist studio can be found in one of the most historic parts of St Ives. Looking for great views of the harbour? You can get it with this open plan studio. Situated in The Warren, one of the most scenic spots of the seaside town, the studio has magnificent views and if you are coming for a romantic getaway, this is the perfect hideaway from which you can explore the things to do and places to visit in St Ives, or sit back and enjoy the scenic sights of the town.

The Blue Mist studio is not only close to the galleries, shops and restaurants of the town, but is well within walking distance of a year round dog walking beach. So those coming with dogs will find they can come and enjoy the seaside town without feeling like they are neglecting man’s best friend!

Being a studio apartment, the bedroom, kitchen, sitting room and dining room are the same big open space. This space is furnished with usual furniture, such as a double bed and chest of drawers. Unfortunately  there is no wardrobe but this is because of the intention to maximise the living space. The breakfast bar has seating for two, modern cooking appliances such as electric hob and oven, washer/dryer and dishwasher. Slink away in the sofa or armchair and enjoy the sea views or television in the night.

There is a large walk-in shower with s WC and a basin.

Entrance to the apartment is via one flight of external stairs and through a common hallway. Unfortunately it is not wheelchair accessible. The WiFi connection is slow and so it is only suitable for general browsing. More higher bandwidth activities such as streaming or downloading are unsuitable because the connection is not consistent. While these may be viewed as minor inconveniences, the attractions of St Ives will more than compensate for them.

September is a popular month to visit St Ives as the long established St Ives September Festival runs then. It has been going for over forty years and brings together art, music, crafts and performing arts in over a fortnight of celebration.

This year the September Festival opened with performances by a variety of street entertainers around the town such as a Cornish dancers and the St Ives Concert Band.

St Ives School of painting, situated at Porthmeor studios also organised guided life drawing classes.

Elsewhere there were other activities such as lino decorating, Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa), a traditional Chinese self-cultivation practice,  music and poetry.

Third Man Theatre premiered the comedy Drenched – inspired by the Cornish landscape, people, folklore and the pasties!

The evening also finished with music by the John McCusker band and Tom Dale’s old-time blues, mountain music and rock music.

If you coming to St Ives, September is a particularly busy period so book your accommodation well in advance. And why not book a visit during the time of the September festival? Not only will there be the usual places to visit at St Ives, the whole seaside town will be buzzing with activities to suit everyone!

You’ll definitely have a blast!

More places to explore in St Ives

Have you ever been to the Leach Pottery at the top of The Stennack in St Ives. It is a nice intimate space where you can take a workshop and learn to make your own pottery. You can also visit the museum itself and see a wide range of ceramics, see the kilns used to make the amazing creations, or simply browse around the shop.

The St Ives Parish Church by the harbour has regular services and concerts so if you pass by do have a look at notices to see what is going on. Perhaps in a nod to its nautical roots, the beautiful building inside is slightly reminiscent of the hull of a boat.

These are among some of the many things you can do if you visit St Ives. You need not come by car should you wish not to. St Ives is wonderfully served by a scenic train line, the attractions and amenities are all within walking distance, and you’ll find everything you need or weren’t able to bring in town. And if you leave the car at home, you’ll contribute towards maintaining it as a green space of natural beauty.

Many people come to St Ives for the seaside and beaches. Indoor work can be a bit too much at times so take a break and enjoy the outdoors with us. If you fancy kayakking, you can get in touch with the St Ives Surf School to book a kayak trip around the coast. Kayakking is only one of the things that the surf school does, but basically if it involves water, they are the first port of call! It is best to check with them beforehand though, in case certain weather prevents the running of some of the many activities they organise.

There is a farmers’ market every Thursday at St Ives Guildhall. St Ives Farmers’ Market offers local produce and you can find all sorts of condiments and treats that are distinctly St Ives-sian in nature to remind you of your time here when you sadly, eventually have to depart. Or you can simply get what you need for a picnic lunch.

The West side of Porthmeor has a little waterfall and little river that children can play in. It is possible that they could spend a whole summer playing in the water and it is a lovely vibrant place at times, with the sound of children going about their make-up adventures.

Or if you prefer a bit more running space for children, head for the Porthmeor Beach itself. You can sometimes see writers and artists going about their work there, the picturesque scene being source of inspiration.

Another quiet space you can visit is the Trewyn Tropical Gardens. The gardens offer you a little bit of peace and quiet and respite if you ever get overwhelmed by all the things St Ives has to offer!

Much has been written about St Ives historical links with art. The beauty of this town drew artists to the area in droves and to this day the reputation of the town as a center of art remains. There are also many courses in various specialisms of art that you can participate in. If you head down to Porthmeor Studios, you can take part in Life Drawing classes every week. The Cafe Art in Royal Square is a fusion of an art gallery with a cafe. Enjoy the works of art along with your caffeine fix!

At 54 Lemons, you can create your own distinctive paint pot. You can start by choosing a blank shape from the many on offer and paint it up. You can then leave it with the staff for firing and then collect it at the end of your holiday. It is a lovely craft for little ones to do. If you ever drop by with children, you can also enjoy their lovely coffee and cake while the little people paint away!

I Should Coco on Fore Street is also an amazing shop where you can participate in chocolate making workshops! It is a good place for little ones to come up with amazing creations, and for those who wish to just cut to the chase, the delicious chocolates on sale are always waiting!

If you are into history, you can search for the oldest house in town on Fish Street and see if housing and construction styles have changed over the years.

The Sloop is the oldest public house in town, with a life dating back to 1312! Wonder if there any spooks around?

If you hang around the harbour and pier, you should be able to spot a few seals. The seals are pretty smart and have cottoned on to the fact that when the fishing boats come in, they may be lucky to get an odd scrap of a meal. St Ives does attract really brilliant animals to its shores. You may be lucky and see sunfish, dolphins and if you have binoculars or head to the tower, look out for whales!

Speaking of lookout, St Nicholas Chapel on The Island, the promontory that juts out into the sea – used to be used by smugglers as a lookout. Its ideal site and the view it offered gave a brilliant vantage point. Nowadays it lends its scenic backdrop for wedding blessings.

St Leonards Chapel on Smeaton’s Pier was historically a chapel where luck and good weather were sought by local fishermen before they embarked on their fishing trips.

If you are into more scenic spots, the headland on the far side of Porthmeor Beachs, also known as Man’s Head, is just the spot for a scenic walk.

Further inland, the St Ives Tennis Club is a brilliant flexible club that lets you “pay and play”, rather than make you take up the cost of membership that you are unlikely to need if you are just on holiday. The club has 2 tennis courts which are located behind Porthminster Beach.

The places we have recommended are all within walking distance of the town of St Ives. One of the attractions of St Ives is that it has a high density of amenities and attractions in the town, such that you can pretty much get around on foot once you are here. The town is actually named after St Ia and every February there is a Feast Day parade. If you are feeling adventurous, go hunting for the well of St Ia, or St Ia’s well – see how the town name is derived?

The town’s proximity to the coast means that it has always been a family favourite destination. There are no shortage of places for kids to play.

Ayr Field and Play Park has a huge climbing frame, slide, and bucket swing, so your kids can play in a easily-monitored area, but if they fancy football or just running around, there is a big field for ball games, scooting, and cycling. Younger kids may find the park at Penbeagle Hill more suitable with its baby swings. Behind the Penbeagle Hill park is a big field for ball games and also a skate park, so they can romp around with their rollerblades, scooters or bicycles.

St Ives is really one of the perfect holiday destinations and the town has regularly won various national awards to back that up. So come on down to enjoy a holiday you will remember! And if you need a place to stay, why not consider staying with Blue Mist?

The Blue Mist Cottage comfortably houses a party of eight at The Warren, and the beach is literally minutes away.

If you are coming in a slightly smaller group, try the Blue Mist apartment, which is set over two floors and sleeps six.

The Blue Mist studio sleeps two and provides an quiet, intimate space from which to explore the town.

All Blue Mist properties offer a high degree of comfort for the best value. Get in touch to kick off your St Ives holiday tour – it will be one to remember!

Visiting St Ives? What you need to know

Why visit St Ives? Well, for starters, St Ives has been a winner of various national awards, such as the best family holiday destination, as voted by Coast magazine. TripAdvisor has also listed it as among the top ten best European beach destinations. Come and see St Ives for yourself – the golden beaches and luscious vegetation, bathed in the sunlight will give you a rich and wonderful experience that you will never forget.

The picturesque seaside town has lured artists to its shores for decades. Its natural beauty has beena source of pictorial inspiration.  Renowned artists such as J M W Turner and the marine artist Henry Moore were among the first to come to St Ives in the mid-1800s and spearheaded the influx of artistic talent of painters, sculptors and ceramists. To this day the town remains a centre of artistry, as evidenced by the paintings and crafts of the local population. There are numerous galleries with exhibitions that also attract famous artists from further afield.

The four beaches of St Ives – Harbour beach, Porthmeor, Porthgwidden, and Porthminster – are renowned for their warm beach climate. Porthminster beach, by virtue of its waves, is a particular favourite with surfers who come to try to conquer the brilliant power of the waves – come down and experience it for yourself! You can arrange for a surfing lesson from the local surf school, at the blue flag-rated Porthmeor beach, but if surfing is not necessarily your first pursuit, you can also troop down to various pavement cafes or lounge in the pubs with great histories. Various eateries serve a large range of cuisine and you are guaranteed to find what you want, with a range of mouth- watering menus on offer!

The picturesque working harbour can be easily spotted from the train. Departing St Erth at regular intervals, the branch line to St Ives takes only twenty minutes and as its journey around the golden bays to finally arrive at St Ives, will leave you mesmerised. You can spot the colourful fishing boats coming into the harbour, a myriad of inspirational colours.

Feel the lovely white sand under your feet at Portminster Beach and as you stroll out along the bay, Godrevy Lighthouse, the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s famous novel To the Lighthouse, calls out to you from the distance.

Away from the coast, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives is a favourite with visitors. Take in the sensual sculptures  exhibited in the tranquil garden, and discover more of her celebrated works as you venture along pathways through the trees and shrubs.

If you are interested in the historical origins of St Ives, the local museum is a good place to start. St Ives’s long history as a hub for marine activities such as fishing and boatbuilding, as well as the attraction for art and subsistence agriculture, are all encapsulated in the vast memorabilia and displays on show in the museum. What the locals know and fondly refer to as Downlong, is the heart of the old St Ives town. As the town of St Ives gradually expanded to its modern day look, the character of the old town changed, but the signs of bygone times can still be located if you know where to look. Behind the Sloop Inn, dating back to the 14th century, and the Harbour beach, you can observe that the character of the past has been retained; you can still see the narrow cobbled streets from which horse-drawn carriages clinked over, and the fisherman’s cottages from which they would rise at dawn and return only at dusk. These harken back to bygone times, and you could easily spend an afternoon exploring the maze of streets and taking in the atmosphere.

There are only four Tate galleries in the world and Tate St Ives, which opened in 1993, is proud to be one of them. The importance of art in Cornwall and St. Ives in particular was perhaps recognised in the decision to base a Tate museum here. Hundreds of works produced by the St. Ives School over the past three centuries can be seen here.

Seal Island, located 3½ miles from the west of St Ives, has been a favourite with visitors since the 1930s when it was possible to embark on the boat trip from the harbour to watch the local colony of seals playing in the sea and bathing on the rocks. The colony of seals has grown to around forty and they are known for their inquisitive behaviour. As they watch the boat approach, you can almost sense them raise a quizzical eyebrow at the visitors who come to observe them, and some more exuberant ones are happy to approach.

St Ives is the dazzling jewel in Cornwall’s crown, and you will never be short of things to do or places to explore. But if you prefer a quiet day, then this simple pleasure can be enjoyed at the beach, where children can have fun building sand castles or playing in the rock pools.

And if all that’s still not enough? You can also walk towards Lands End, stopping to take in the view of the  dramatic cliffs along the coastal path.

There are so many things to do in St Ives, that if you come from outside the immediate area, it is reasonable to stay for at least a week in order to experience it fully, without either feeling rushed to do it all, or unfulfilled in not having seen all the things on offer.

St Ives has many places to stay, with accommodation ranging from, top hotels, bed & breakfast, self-catering cottages or apartments. But if you are looking for the right balance of view, cost and vicinity, why not consider staying at Blue Mist?

 

Blue Mist is a great holiday cottage located in an unbeatable location. You are close to a range of eateries, pubs and cafes while only a two-minute walk away from Porthminster beach. Blue Mist was previously a popular bed and breakfast and the layout of this holiday home is reflected as such. Each room has en-suite facilities and hence it is ideal for families or big groups who are visiting St Ives together; individuals who like to have a quiet enclosed private area at the end of a busy day exploring the many sights and sounds St Ives has to offer. Each bedroom has an en suite shower room, television and stunning sea views which look out across the harbour. After a day spent at the beach and drinking in all that St Ives has to offer, Blue Mist will give you a quiet space, and a personal area within that space, to spend an evening admiring the beautiful lights of the harbour, and the world go by.

There are four bedrooms in Blue Mist cottage. All have great sea views, and all have shower and WC facilities. They are also equipped with a TV and DVD. Two of the rooms have double beds, while two of them have twin beds. The lighting is dimmable and can be maximised if you need it or lowered for just the right level of comfort for your eyes.

Dogs are permitted on the beach around Blue Mist all year round, so it’s  perfect for four-legged friends. Easily found at the end of the street is Lambeth Walk and at low tide you can walk your dog all year round on the beach right down to the end of Smeaton’s Pier.

Within the Blue Mist cottage accommodation itself, the sitting and dining room has two sofas, two armchairs, table with seating for eight, and a breakfast bar style seating for four, so however you prefer your meals, informally or formally, the room will sit your needs and you can take in the brilliant sea views in comfort.

The kitchen has been designed for eight occupants in mind and also has washing facilities such as a dishwasher, tumble dryer and washing machine. On the occasions you prefer a quiet night of dining, as some respite from your daily sojourns, you can rustle up something from the ingredients in the  large fridge/freezer and work your Masterchef magic using the utilities you would expect in a modern kitchen.

There is also a small outside patio area, perfect for storing beach equipment such as surfboards, sand buckets, and deck chairs.

The property is set over three floors on a road called The Warren. The Warren cottages are the preferred location for many families because of their vicinity to the beach, museums and the town’s restaurants, pubs and cafes.

The Warren is also within easy walking distance to the bus and train station. The latter offers pay and display parking which many people holidaying in St Ives often use.

Come visit St Ives and make your base in St Ives in one of the oldest streets with lots of character. Your stay in Blue Mist will give you all the amenities you need to ensure your time in St Ives is one you will look back on with fond memories!