Explore & More in... St Ives

PUBLISHED: 11:53 19 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:52 20 February 2013

Explore & More in... St Ives

Explore & More in... St Ives

Lesley Double finds out what makes St Ives one of our favourite Cornish towns...

Best known for...

What makes St Ives one of the most famous and well-loved Cornish towns? It could be the sub-tropical climate, which provides an environment suitable for all manner of plants rarely seen in other parts of the country, and which has allowed St Ives to win the Britain in Bloom competition many times. It could be the quays, harbour and narrow winding streets that make you feel youve stepped back in time. It might be the many beautiful beaches, mostly just a stones throw from the town. Or perhaps its the history of the town, especially the art history, seen everywhere from the tiniest galleries to the fabulous Tate Gallery.

This month theres another reason to come to St Ives. The September Festival (from 10-24) is an explosion of music, comedy, films, talks, poetry, workshops and exhibitions of all kinds, and takes place at many venues around the town. From Barbara Dickson and the Chris Barber Band, to Adrian Edmondson and The Maltese Falcon, St Ives is the place to be if you want to be entertained.

Simple pleasures

During the September Festival, there are several concerts at St Ives Parish Church. On Tuesdays at 12.30pm there are organ and vocal/instrumental concerts by local and visiting musicians. There are three informal afternoon concerts consisting of a mixture of light classics, theatre organ music, ragtime, novelty numbers and show tunes a delightful mixture of music not normally heard in a church which comes courtesy of Neil Shepherd, director of music at St Ives Parish Church. These concerts are all free, although there are several other concerts at the church during the St Ives Festival, such as performances by St Ives KRUners, Marazion Apollo Male Voice Choir and Camborne Youth Band, for which tickets are necessary.

Hidden treasures

Barbara Hepworths studio at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden offers an insight into the life and work of one of St Ives most famous artists. Hidden behind high walls, there is no clue that something exciting may be happening beyond. However, once through the tiny entrance, you can forget the hustle and bustle of the town. Even those who do not like modern art are won over by seeing Hepworths sculptures outdoors.

Hot tips

Lizi Newbury is proprietor of Wheal Sara Flowers in Bedford Road. This quirky, odd-shaped shop is perfect for the myriad of different styles of flowers on offer. We recently discovered the Saltwater Caf in Fish Street and will definitely go there again, says Lizi. We believe simple things make you happy, and after a day in the shop we love walking around St Ives, especially along the pier, and watching the world go by.

Nick Phillips has worked for White Star Boats for two years, a self-drive boat hire company which is based on Wharf Road and is open from Whitsun to mid-September. I enjoy all kinds of water sports, especially surfing and wakeboarding, and although I travel all over the county for this, I particularly like surfing at Porthmeor here in St Ives, says Nick. I often go to The Balcony, where they serve good food at reasonable prices.

Joni Farrington has owned the Gallery on the Square since November 2009. The majority of artwork on show is Cornish and local, although there are some works by out-of-county artists. I dont have a lot of time, as I work seven days a week during the season, says Joni, but my daughter and I had a lovely meal at the Porthmeor Caf the other night, which has wonderful views over the beach and towards the Island.

Out of town

Make sure you visit the Island, home to the tiny St Nicholas Chapel and St Ives Coastguard Station. Not exactly an island, it is joined to the mainland by an isthmus. Once at the top, the views are panoramic you can see up the coast to Godrevy and its possible to take a boat ride to here from St Ives harbour. If you are lucky you will see some resident seals.

Arts, crafts & entertainment

With so much happening this month during the St Ives September Festival, its difficult to choose what to see and when. Pick up a leaflet from many outlets and shops around the town or visit their website for a host of ideas.

There are dozens of smaller galleries in the town. Take a walk along the tiny streets and you will discover them in all shapes and sizes in old church crypts, fishermans cottages and modern outbuildings.

Food for thought

Many restaurants serve fresh, locally caught fish and seafood. There are several restaurants and cafs along Wharf Road, such as the appropriately named Onshore, The Beach, and Alfresco. If you are lucky, you may be able to sit on the patio or decking outside, all the better to enjoy the view while you eat.

For something different, try The Alba, which is situated in the old lifeboat house, or Seagrass, where head chef is Lee Groves, who was asemi-finalist inMasterchef The Professionalsin 2010.

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