48 Hours in... St Ives.

PUBLISHED: 12:21 18 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:16 20 February 2013

Porthminster beach

Porthminster beach

In August where better to visit than the famous Cornish holiday attraction that is St Ives. this idyllic seaside town has art, beaches, blue skies and great shopping and eating places - a perfect place to spend your holidays.

Lesley Double explores the idyllic seaside town of St Ives


To best appreciate the magic of St Ives, you will need three things: a camera, a pair of walking shoes and a good sense of direction. Leave your car behind; the lanes are too narrow to drive along comfortably and you would miss all manner of interesting things from the inside of a vehicle. With names like Teetotal Street, Love Lane, Smeaton's Pier, Clodgy View and Crusoe Flats, you could be in a storybook town. There's Island Square that's almost a triangle, and The Island that isn't an island. Cobbled streets bend confusingly this way and that, with the end always out of sight, and tiny fishermen's cottages almost reach out and touch their neighbour opposite. Everywhere there are little galleries and artists' workshops, chintzy cafs, interesting shops and colourful flowers tumbling from hanging baskets.


Where can we stay?


Set in 72 acres of woodland and sub-tropical gardens, the 18th-century Tregenna Castle (Tel:01736 795254), on the south side of St Ives, looks out across the hotel's golf course to the town and sea beyond. On the other side of town is The Garrack Hotel (Tel: 01736 796199), which looks down over The Island. And from The Porthminster (Tel: 01736 795221) you can see Godrevy Lighthouse, immortalised by novelist Virginia Woolf.


There are dozens of little hotels and guesthouses in St Ives: the Grade II Listed The Anchorage (Tel: 01736 797135) is a mere stone's throw from the harbour; The Old Count House (Tel: 01736 795369) sits in a small, quiet square; the Atlantic (Tel: 01736 795117) is near to the Tate Gallery, and the 16th-century Skidden House (Tel: 01736 796899) is reputed to be the oldest hotel in St Ives.


Self-catering accommodation is very popular and can get booked up early in the season, so it is best to contact the Tourist Information Centre in St Ives for availability. Short breaks are often available out of season. Try the converted barns at Gonwin Manor (Tel: 01736 798858) or Seahorse Flat (Tel: 01736 793239) with views to the pier and harbour. Ayr Holiday Park (Tel: 01736 795855) is the only holiday park in St Ives itself, and is made up of areas for touring and camping, static caravans, apartments and cottages.


Around town


Renowned as an artists' town, St Ives attracts all manner of painters, sculptors, jewellers, wood-turners - the list is endless. Whatever your taste, you will find it here. Artists such as Alfred Wallis and Barbara Hepworth, whose work is on show at the Tate Gallery, are celebrated. A plaque on a cottage in Back Road West shows where Alfred Wallis lived, and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in Barnoon Hill is where she practised her craft. 'Dual Form, 1965' by Barbara Hepworth is outside the Tourist Information Centre.


Several galleries have just one artist on show, whereas others are filled with several artists' work. The Sloop Craft Market is made up of lots of tiny workshops, where you can often see the artists at work, and there is a weekly Craft Fayre at the Parish Rooms, St Andrew's Street, on Monday from 10am-4pm.


There are spectacular views from the tiny Chapel of St Nicholas, perched high on top of The Island. The harbour lies at the foot of The Island, where it is further protected by Smeaton's Pier. The medieval Chapel of St Leonard, at the entry to the pier, is where fishermen prayed before going to sea.


St Ives gets its name from St Ia, an Irish priestess said to have crossed the Irish Sea on a leaf. The parish church was consecrated in 1434 and is dedicated to St Ia and to the fishermen St Peter and St Andrew. Opposite the church is a beautifully kept memorial garden and the old Market House, and nearby is the new RNLI Lifeboat House.


Finally, don't forget the beaches - sheltered bays, exciting surf and miles of golden sand for buckets and spades, sunbathing or swimming in the sea. St Ives is the perfect seaside town, with something for absolutely everyone!


Three things to take home


Shoes - amazing shoes from Jan Jansen in Fish Street. The only UK branch of this Dutch company, no one will have the same shoes as you! You'll love the different styles on offer.


Stained glass - brighten up your home with ornaments, pictures, window hangings, seahorses, puffins, dragonflies, all made by Deborah Martin at the Sloop Craft Market.


Dips, seeds and dressings - Halzephron Herb Farm in Fore Street or Living Foods at Pier House has a huge selection of preserves, sauces, marinades, ready-sprouted beans, etc. Try before you buy. Delicious!


Eating out


There are plenty of places to eat along Wharf Road, many with outside seating or tables by upstairs windows - all the better to enjoy the view over the bay. There's local seafood at the Beach Restaurant (Tel: 01736 798798), Italian food at Cafe Coast (Tel: 01736 794925), a Sunday carvery at Gallions (Tel: 01736 797999), cocktails at The Hub (Tel: 01736 799099), Mediterranean food at Onshore (Tel: 01736 796000), gourmet at Alba (Tel: 01736 797222) and good pub grub at The Lifeboat Inn (Tel: 01736 794123) and The Sloop Inn (Tel: 01736 796584).


The AA-rosette Wave Restaurant (Tel: 01736 796661) in nearby St Andrew's Street serves an early dinner set menu. Watch the sun set at Porthmeor Cafe (Tel: 01736 793366), which is set right on this fabulous surfing beach and has seating inside or out. If you fancy a treat, many hotel restaurants are open to non-residents, for example The Garrack (Tel: 01736 796199) and the Chy-an-Dour Hotel (Tel: 01736 796436).


Why not have a picnic? Try some local and seasonal food from the St Ives Farmers' Market (Tel: 01736 795387) at the Backpackers, open every Thursday 9.30am-3pm, or grab a sandwich from the Yellow Canary Cafe (Tel: 01736 797118).


Things to do


You really shouldn't visit St Ives without learning of its place in the 19th- and 20th-century Arts and Crafts movement. As well as containing work from local artists from the last 100 years, the Tate Gallery is full of international, modern and contemporary art of all media. Barbara Hepworth's Museum and Sculpture Garden is a complete delight; her work is exhibited outside amongst the flowers and trees at her sheltered Trewyn Studio. On the outskirts of St Ives is the recently restored Leach Pottery Studio and Museum, which pays homage to the man who helped start the St Ives Society of Artists in the late 1920s.


The St Ives Bay Line is one of the Great Scenic Railways of Devon and Cornwall, passing through Carbis Bay, Lelant, Lelant Saltings and St Erth on its way from St Ives to Penzance. Running along the coast and Hayle estuary, the views are spectacular. It's an excellent way to visit the towns without using your car, and there are plenty of places to stop for lunch en route before returning to St Ives. There are many fine walks along this line too, and places where you can birdwatch, thanks to the RSPB.


If you like jazz, then you must go to the St Ives Jazz Club. Based at the Western Hotel, it advertises itself as 'the last jazz club before New York', and has live music every Tuesday evening throughout the year, with performances from artists from around the world.


St Ives Theatre is home to the acclaimed Kidz R Us Youth Theatre Company. This charity teaches children in all branches of the performing arts and has regular productions throughout the year. The Kidz have performed in many venues, from the West End to the Minack Theatre.


Events


Tate Gallery: 'Dawn of a Colony: St Ives 1811-1888', until 21 September, is an exhibition of artists who visited Cornwall before 1890, including Turner, Whistler and Sickert. Tel: 01736 796226


Ghost walks: every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout August at 8.30pm and every Tuesday at 10.15pm. Tourist Information Centre. Tel: 01736 331206


Kidz R Us performances: Disney's Aladdin on 7, 14, 21 and 28 August and Anything Goes on 13, 20 and 27 August. Tel: 01736-797007


FACT FILE


Tourist Information Centre: The Guildhall, Street-an-Pol Tel: 01736 796297


St Ives Bay Line Tel: 01752 233094 or National Rail Enquiries Tel: 08457 484950, www.nationalrail.co.uk


First Bus and Coach Travel Tel: 01872 260000, www.cornwall.gov.uk/buses


St Ives Leisure Centre Tel: 01736 797006


Further information: www.parow.org.uk (walks and cycle paths), http://www.visit-westcornwall.com/ (general info), www.penwith.gov.uk/beaches (all beach info, including those that are dog-friendly)

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