The English seaside gets a bad rep. And it’s true, you can’t guarantee the weather, but there’s something special about Cornwall that means that doesn’t really matter. It’s raining for a week? Grab your wellies or wetsuit and get stuck in anyway. Sun shining? Then the area really comes to life with surfers, kayaking, coastal walks and cream teas.
St Ives is a pretty seaside village on the northern coast towards the end of the peninsula. It’s one of the most popular holiday spots for a lot of Brits (and, weirdly, also a lot of Germans, Austrians and Swiss. Apparently a famous romance novelist sets a lot of stories here) but the atmosphere manages to remain laid-back, creative and authentically Cornish. Everyone from artists to surfers, gourmet travellers to action-adventurers rubs shoulders at ice cream parlours along the pretty harbour or in the water.
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SEA & DO
1. TATE MODERN: London’s most famous modern art gallery has come to Cornwall and it couldn’t have picked a better town. Showing a permanent collection and a revolving exhibition list of the world’s greatest contemporary creatives. http://www.tate.org.uk
2. THE ISLAND: Not really an island. The peninsula separates the St Ives coastline in two and has amazing views over the ocean and the village. The tiny chapel at the top has been used as a lookout for spotting smugglers and a store for the War Office before being restored in 1911 and again in 1971. http://www.stivestowncouncil.co.uk
3. BEACHES: With two huge, golden sand beaches in town (Porthmeor and Porthminster), it’s not hard to get your daily dose of laid-back seaside life. Both have watersports centres, swimming and cafes although Porthmeor (on the west side) is one of only five blue flag beaches in Cornwall.
8. WATERSPORTS: Kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding – you name it, St Ives Surf School can teach you how to do it. They offer tuition and tours of the coast with experienced and friendly instructors and it’s a great way to see another side of the town – and meet the local wildlife, seals and dolphins occasionally pop in along the way. http://www.stivessurfschool.co.uk
9. BUY LOCAL ART: The streets of St Ives are peppered with galleries showcasing local watercolours, sculpture and ceramics. Pop into any and pick up a unique souvenir.
10. WANDER THE BARBARA HEPWORTH SCULPTURE GARDEN: Part of the Tate St Ives, and perfect for a relaxing afternoon when you’re tired of sand in your shoes. Hepworth’s bronze, stone and wood pieces are dotted throughout the area in a celebration of the work of one of Cornwall’s – and the UK’s – most important 20th century artists. http://www.tate.org.uk
EAT & DRINK
4. PORTHMINSTER BEACH CAFE: Want fresh-as-it-gets fish from the local waters? Porthminster is your place. The award-winning fine dining restaurant is directly on the beach, providing spectacular sea views while you tuck into your smoked mackerel, oysters sea bass, or even local Dartmoor venison. www,porthminstercafe.co.uk
5. RUM AND CRAB SHACK: Part bar, part restaurant, this spot doesn’t look that promising, but does a seriously good lobster. Sweet, succulent and served with all the trimmings, it’s a top spot for a casual dinner that doesn’t disappoint. No reservations. http://www.rumandcrabshack.com
6. SEAGRASS: It doesn’t have a seaside view, but it has great seafood in a sophisticated setting. http://www.seagrass-stives.com
7. PASTIES: You can’t come to Cornwall and not eat a pasty. www.pengennapasties.co.uk
11. THE HUB: The local favourite. It’s pretty generic, but it has a good vibe and you’ll meet plenty of St Ives locals there. The sea front location invites spilling out onto the pavement to make the most of a sunny summer evening. http://www.hub-stives.co.uk
12. THE RUM AND CRAB SHACK: Already eaten? The Rum Shack does a mean line in rum-based cocktails and rum shots that will release your inner pirate. Their list is pages long and features classic brands and up-and-coming distilleries from across the world. www.rumandcrabshack.com
BEYOND ST IVES
13. COASTAL DRIVE: The B3306 between Land’s End and St Ives winds its way along the tops of the coastal cliffs around the entire toe of the peninsula.
14. FORAGING: Caroline Davey is a former ecologist turned professional forager, running cookery courses from her home in St Buryan. Participants are taken to find seasonal, local food in the hedgerows, woodlands and coast, before cooking it up into delicious dishes. http://www.fathen.org
SEAGULLS: These bold bullies are all along the beach, waiting and watching beady-eyed for a briefly unattended box of chips or an ice cream carried without due care.
PENZANCE: 30 mins from St Ives on the southern coast, Penzance is the area’s other main town. It’s famous for pirates, but in reality it feels a bit like a dock town fallen on hard times. If you’re in the area, head to St Michael’s Mount instead.
LANDS END: Someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea to turn Land’s End into a budget theme park with 4D movies about dinosaurs. I have no idea why. Seeing the actual end is quite fun, if a little underwhelming, but go outside of opening hours.
1. Tate St Ives, Portmeor Beach 2. The Island 3. Portmeor Beach, Porthminster Beach 4. Porthminster Beach Cafe, Porthminster Beach 5. Rum and Crab Shack, Wharf Road 6. Seagrass, Fish Street 7. Pengenna Pasties, 9 High Street 8. St Ives Surf School, Portmeor Beach 10. Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, Barnoon Hill 11. The Hub, 4 Wharf Road 13. Coastal Road, B3306 14. Fat Hen, Gwenmenhir, Boscawen-noon Farm, St Buryan