Are you thinking about visiting St Ives in Cornwall? The town is a popular choice for holidaymakers and is considered by many to be one of the best places to visit in Cornwall. We take a look at the things you shouldn’t miss when you visit.
St Ives has a lot to offer the holidaymaker, with its white sandy beaches, great surf, picturesque views, and events. Explore the cobbled streets, tightly packed with fisherman’s cottages or roam along clifftop paths. St Ives has an enviable artistic history too, with many galleries to draw your attention. If you want a more relaxing time, take advantage of the beachside cafes and restaurants. These are just some of the things which make St Ives such a great place to visit.
St Ives in Cornwall attracts over 750,000 visitors in a typical year, we review some of the things drawing people to the town and why you should make it a destination you visit too.
St Ives Beaches
One of the big attractions of a visit to St Ives in Cornwall is its fantastic beaches. Fortunate to have five beaches only a short walk from the town centre, St Ives offers an excellent choice to the beachgoer.
Porthmeor Beach – The popular beach towards the north of the town attracts surfers throughout the year. During the summertime, the wind isn’t as strong, and the vast expanse of sand provides plenty of room for visitors and novice surfers. In the winter thanks to the Atlantic winds, the beach offers some of the only good places to surf in the area.
Porthminster Beach – To the south of St Ives, close to the train station, is the east-facing Porthminster Beach. Offering a long white sandy beach set below Victorian villas, the beach provides a safe venue for families with lifeguards available. There is a well-reviewed cafe and all the amenities you would need for a day on the beach.
Porthgwidden Beach – The sheltered sandy cove of Porthgwidden is a short distance from the east end of Porthmeor Beach and could be a better choice on a more windswept day. Though the beach is considerably smaller than Porthmeor, it still offers all the facilities you need, including a cafe and beach hut hire.
Harbour Beach – Sheltered by the harbour wall, this beach benefits from easy access to the shops and cafes around the harbour. At low tide, it is possible to walk to Porthminster Beach, though some care should be taken as this is still a working harbour.
Bamaluz Beach – One of the smaller and less busy beaches can be found between the harbour and Porthgwidden Beach. It is more difficult to access than other beaches and is only revealed at low tide. If you have a dog, it is the only beach which offers year-round access; the others don’t allow dogs in the summer months.
Exploring the History of St Ives
St Ives in Cornwall takes its name from the legend of a 5th-century Irish princess. She was said to have travelled across the sea on a boat made of ivy to do missionary work. The princess named St Ia had an oratory constructed on the current site of the Parish Church.
St Ives began to grow in the middle ages, thanks to fishing and mining. This would reach its heights in the 19th century when the demands for tin, copper, and pilchards drove prosperity. At its peak, the harbour was filled with over 300 fishing boats, netting pilchards for export to the Southern Mediterranean.
The St Ives Archive has a record of the town’s unique history if you want to delve further. This can be found at the Wesley Methodist Church in Carbis Bay.
The history of the town can be seen in the buildings and lanes which exist to this day. Take a walk through the old part of St Ives, known as Down-a-long.
Located on the land which separates the Island from the rest of the town, the narrow and often cobbled streets offer a glimpse into the past before the concept of town planning existed. Stroll down Teetotal Street towards the St Ives Museum, but don’t expect to find a pub nearby.
The St Ives Museum features varied collections of items chronicling the history of the town and county. Including items related to boat building, fishing, mining, Crysede fabrics, shipwrecks, art, and more, there is a lot to discover.
St Ives became an artistic centre in the mid-1900s, with modern artists making the town their home. Many world-renowned artists used the location for inspiration, a heritage which can still be found in the art on show. Located near Porthmeor Beach, on the site of a former gasworks, the Tate St Ives offers exhibitions from modern British artists. Featuring collections from artists such as Virginia Woolf, Patrick Heron, and Rebecca Warren in recent years.
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden was taken over by the Tate Group in 1980. Located not far from the Tate St Ives down a narrow lane in her former home, the museum charts the work of the local resident who became a leading sculpture artist from the 1920s onwards—tracing her journey through sculpture which led to her international success.
If you’ve looked on a map of St Ives, you might be surprised to find a location known as The Island. This is odd because it isn’t an island. While it might have been an island in the past, and perhaps again in the future with rising sea levels, it isn’t currently.
The Island is the headland to the east of Porthmeor Beach, which was previously home to an ancient fort, but is now a coastguard lookout station. There is the St Nicholas Chapel to visit and vast views to experience with a walk around The Island on the South West Coastal Path.
Not only does the harbour contain one of the popular beaches in St Ives, but it is also an excellent place to visit for shops and restaurants. With a view out across the bay, a walk around the cobbled harbour shouldn’t be missed.
In the St Ives Bay on a small island, a colony of grey seals live. There are trips from the harbour on a daily basis in peak season. You can get close to the seals and other wildlife, as well as enjoying the views along the Cornish coastline.
St Ives Railway Line
The rail journey between St Ives and Lelant follows the South West Coastal Path for much of the trip. This gives you the chance of spectacular views over sand dunes and across bays, without the need to walk for miles along the coastal path. The route has been open since 1877 and is considered to be one of the best scenic journeys in the country.
Festivals in St Ives
Though the current worldwide health crisis has led to the cancellation of many festivals, St Ives in Cornwall is usually the home to many events. Let’s look at some of the events you can typically expect to be on offer in St Ives.
St Ives September Festival – A celebration of music and art held over a fortnight across multiple venues in the town. Using theatres, libraries, churches, galleries, studios, and pubs, the festival should have something for everyone.
St Ives Food and Drink Festival – Held in mid-May the celebration of food and drink takes place on Porthminster Beach. With cooking demonstrations, live music, a fire pit, artisan market, kids entertainment, and fireworks in the evening, there is a lot on offer.
St Ives Feast – The first Monday after the 3rd of February, is the date for the remembrance festival for St Ia. This takes the form of processions, including musicians, schoolchildren, and other locals wearing pieces of ivy. The major throws a silver ball into the air from the church steps to signify the start of the Hurling of the Silver Ball game. The Hurling of the Silver Ball was once a serious local competition but now played for fun by children and teenagers with just a five-shilling piece as the prize.
St Ives Literature Festival – If you are interested in poetry, book launches, workshops and other open-air events, the Literature Festival is held during May.
December Events – Though not strictly an organised festival, there are many events normally organised for the last month of the year. These include the Etsy Made Cornwall Christmas Fair, Fair Mo, Lantern Parade, Food Trail, Kidz R Us Christmas Bizaar, Boxing Day Swim, and a New Year’s Eve fancy dress party.
St Ives Webcams
With the current global pandemic, it often not advisable to travel. Many attractions might also be temporarily closed to visitors, but thanks to live cameras set up around St Ives you can experience a little of what the area has to offer.
St Ives Harbour webcams:
While looking at webcams is a long way from actually visiting St Ives, it could give you some ideas of the places you want to visit when things get back to normal. Though the current situation can seem overwhelming, it is only temporary, and it does give you a better chance to really plan out your holiday to beautiful Cornwall.