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.

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!

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!