A Guide to St Ives
St Ives is one of the most popular seaside towns and ports in Cornwall. Despite its modest population of 12,000 people, it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, with many returning time and time again. The town is situated 6 miles north a of Penzance in the district of Penwith, and faces out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Part of St Ives’ appeal lies in the historic charm of its winding cobbled streets that are known to locals as the ‘Downalong’. The old quarters of St Ives, found just behind the 14th century Sloop Inn, are always bustling and lively, packed with independent boutiques and cosy cafés.
Harbour and Beaches in St Ives
Two of St Ives’ defining characteristics are its ancient harbour and abundance of beautiful sandy beaches, all within walking distance of each other and the town centre. St Ives’ picturesque fishing harbour dates back to the 18th Century when the pier was first built by John Smeaton, and to this day remains a working harbour and an important pilchard port. As well as a working port the harbour is also a sheltered sandy beach, which remains even at low tide. At high tide St Ives Harbour Beach joins up to Porthminster Beach, another family friendly beach home to the popular Porthminster Beach Café.
Perhaps the most famous of St Ives’ beaches is Porthmeor, a haven for surfers due to the Atlantic swell and home to Porthmeor Beach Café and St Ives Surf School. Porthmeor is overlooked by ‘The Island’, a grassy peninsula with spectacular panoramic views across St Ives, Carbis Bay and Godrevy Lighthouse. On the opposite side, The Island shelters Porthgwidden Beach, a quieter and more secluded beach lined with colourful beach huts and home to the Porthgwidden Beach Café. Porthgwidden is smaller and less well known than Porthminster or Porthmeor creating a more relaxed atmosphere.
Art & Culture in St Ives
The unique quality of light in West Cornwall has enticed painters to St Ives since the early nineteenth century, but establishing the railway in 1877 led to the creation of an artist community which is still thriving to this day.
The town is packed with independent commercial galleries but the jewel in the crown of St Ives’ art community is Tate St Ives, which opened in 1993. In 2017 underwent a £20 million expansion enabling them show both contemporary art and works from Tate’s impressive collection of British artists with connections to St Ives. Tate St Ives also manages the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden where sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, one of the Britain’s leading 20th century artists are displayed in peaceful gardens.
The St Ives September Festival celebrates music and art in one of Cornwall’s most popular seaside resorts. There’s a number of events throughout the month including; live music at The Guildhall and The Western Hotel, free exhibitions, open studios and guided walks around the town. What makes this festival really unique is the wonderful atmosphere around the town.
Food & Drink in St Ives
The culinary scene in St Ives is a dynamic mix of fresh seafood, great Cornish products and influences from around the world. Some of our favourites include; Porthminster Beach Café, Alba Restaurant and Bar, and The Rum and Crab Shack. For those looking to experience real Cornish cuisine we recommend attending the St Ives Food and Drink Festival. Taking place on the beautiful Porthminster Beach, each year the festival promises great culinary experts, attractions and a wide variety of local beverages and food. With crowds of over 12,000 expected, there is always a huge range of activities and entertainment which promises fun for all the family.