I’ve just returned from two weeks in beautiful St. Ives in Cornwall. The view from the train from St. Erth to St. Ives is spectacular and overlooks Porthminster beach (pictured above). I walked from one end of the town to the other and explored most of the streets, nooks and crannies during my holiday.
I also explored a lot of art galleries everywhere I went in Cornwall, from St. Ives to Boscastle. I fell in love with the sculpture of Icarus by Philip Wakeham in the Penwith Gallery in St. Ives, I walked around it for ages trying to embed it in my memory as there isn’t an image online that does this sculpture justice. I also liked the work of Andrew Strange, Carol Cruickshank, Jan Phethean and Jackie Gale which is currently on display in the Crypt Gallery, St. Ives, and Helen Setterington’s work also caught my eye in The Old Forge Gallery in Boscastle. I was so inspired I found myself standing in the Post Office in St. Ives one day contemplating buying drawing pencils and paper and I haven’t sketched for ages.
My favourite place was the St. Nicholas Chapel on the Island in St. Ives.
A sense of peace fell over me as soon as I stepped out of the car park and onto the path to the Chapel. All you can hear is the waves crashing against the rocks below and the birds calling to one another as they soar above the Island, as the hustle and bustle that takes over the centre of St. Ives from 10.30am-5pm each day falls away. Benches are dotted all over the Island so you can sit and enjoy the view, which is stunning. If you want to have the Island virtually to yourself, go up on a sunny day when everyone else is heading to the beaches. This was a tip I received from, William, one of the volunteers who looks after the Chapel.
My second favourite place was the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden.
I went there on the only day that the weather was a bit drizzly, first thing in the morning. It was fascinating to see Hepworth’s workshop and all the tools that she used to create her sculptures. Her work is showcased in the enclosed garden and there’s a real sense of creative energy there, as her work complements and reflects the nature surrounding it.
My third favourite place was Olives Cafe which is hidden up the back streets near The Loft bar and the entrance to the Island.
Great staff and delicious preservative free cakes served in generous portions. They’re also a popular destination for cream teas I noticed. Cornerways Guest House, where the author Daphne Du Maurier stayed in the 1940s, is close to Olives Cafe.
The best ice cream experience can be found at Moomaids of Zennor on the Harbour.
They do a wide range of flavours and epic ice cream sundaes. Check out the dark chocolate sorbet!
The most popular destination for scones was St. Ives Bakery, where you can buy them fresh for just 50 pence each.
This was also a popular destination for freshly baked Cornish pasties.
Unfortunately due the nature of my allergies I was unable to try many of the local foodie treats. I did have the Scotch breakfast once in Scoff Troff though, the eggs were fantastic, a rich buttery yellow and you’ll receive great service in there. Their creative menu is inspired by their travels around the world. The Yellow Canary Cafe is also a great place to eat and for coffee. I met author Liz Fenwick in there early one Saturday morning and we chatted about writing and the new book she’s working on, which sounds great. (Thanks for the writing tips, Liz!). I bought locally sourced free range chicken from Harvey Bros, the local butchers, again great service with a smile and a bit of banter. The local greengrocers were also well stocked and I bought free range eggs and Cornish butter from The Allotment Deli in St Ives.
My best experience overall was seeing Nicholas Nickleby, Part 1 at the world famous open air Minack Theatre one night.
I booked the trip through Oates Travel, along with a trip to the Eden Project and a third trip which covered Jamaica Inn (has to be done if you’re a fan of Daphne Du Maurier, you can also learn about the history of smuggling and if you stay overnight be prepared for some mysterious bumps in the night), Tintagel (King Arthur country) and Boscastle (where novelist and poet Thomas Hardy met his first wife, Emma, in 1840 and where there’s a fascinating Museum of Witchcraft and Magic).
It was magical to sit on the stone steps of Minack Theatre surrounded by the sea and stars while watching such an entertaining performance. At one stage there was a play within a play when Nicholas Nickelby ends up joining a theatre company which was putting on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Major liberties were taken with the plot and there were frequent Acorn Antiques style missed cues, it was one of the funniest productions I’ve ever seen on stage, I was in stitches. When the play within a play ended though the whole cast came together to sing in harmony and it was one of those unforgettable beautiful moments that makes all the hairs of your arms stand on end. Well worth every penny.
If you do go to the Minack Theatre I advise taking a blanket and wearing layers as it can get quite chilly when night falls. I wasn’t that sensible (although I was wearing layers) and was fortunate to meet a lovely lady on the coach who shared her blanket with me. You can hire seat pads with back rests for £1 and drinks and food are available to buy, plus there’s a gift shop on site.
I’d read The Many by Wyl Menmuir on the train to St. Ives and was so moved by it I read it again later that week. Obviously being a bookworm I headed straight for the St. Ives Bookseller on my first day.
I’ve never seen such a wide range of books packed into such a compact space. They have books to suit all tastes and there seems to be a more literary and contemporary readership locally going by the books on the main display table. I ended up buying six, three as gifts which I posted while I was there (fast delivery too from the local post office). Two copies of In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings were sent off to aunts, basically because if you can’t get to St. Ives and want to know what it’s like this psychological thriller depicts the beauty of the place (read my review here).
For myself I bought Under A Cornish Sky by Liz Fenwick ( you can read my review here) and The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson. I genuinely did feel a buzz of excitement when I walked in a few days later and spotted To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey on the display table and immediately bought it. I read Eowyn’s book on the train journey home and I was completely hooked.
While on hols I also read The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, which was an unforgettable experience that also moved me to tears, the new novel Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes, a gripping psychological thriller, and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, which is full of the kind of truths that shake you up in recognition, a great recommendation from @WaterstonesNG on Twitter. I read Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore on the Island, which was such an immersive reading experience I soon forgot to look at the spectacular view. Then I picked up a copy of The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier at Jamaica Inn and proceeded to read most of it on the journey between stops during the day.
Craft fairs, second hand goods, antique fairs and farmer’s markets were frequently held at the Guild’s Hall, which is seconds away from the apartment I was staying in.
I bought a lovely scarf and learned my purchase would be supporting Circle Home Children’s Centre in Pokhara, Nepal and I bought a little silver cockle shell pendant from Natural Silver, which is wild jewellery cast from natural objects, to remind me of my trip to St. Ives. I treated family members to local fudge, sticks of rock and chocolate from I Should Coco, where you can eat Poldark’s face as it’s currently adorning slabs of chocolate due to the popularity of the BBC TV series based on Winston Graham’s novels.
I visited every beach in St. Ives but spent the most time on Porthminster Beach.
The children’s entertainment team on the beach were fantastic, energetic and full of fun. All the kids I saw with the team were having a fabulous time. Dogs are also welcome in St. Ives, many of the shopkeepers leave bowls of water outside for them. I just loved the look of sheer joy on the faces of the dogs as they tore across the beaches and splashed about in the sea, I think they were even happier than the kids!
I stayed at Apartment 6, Customs House, St. Ives, which I booked via Trip Advisor.
It’s a great one bedroomed apartment in a Grade II listed building which had everything I needed, including a thoughtful welcome pack and a really comfortable bed, plus it was only two minutes walk away from the sea. The owner also supplied a pack with things to see and do in the local area, complete with discount offers and a local bus timetable which made it easy to explore as much of Cornwall as you wanted to. The Tate St. Ives wasn’t open this year, so there’s that and the annual St. Ives September Festival, which sounds wonderful, plus many other attractions to tempt me back at some point in the future.
Photos from the Eden Project: The Eden Project is very well organised and there’s plenty for visitors to see and do, both inside and outside the domes.
Photos from Tintagel, where there’s a wonderful old Post Office that’s a medieval half-house. I loved the garden, it contains a wishing well and has that same peaceful feeling I experienced on the Island.
Photos from Jamaica Inn, which was a brief visit. You can view the Daphne Du Maurier room where you can see the typewriter she is said to have used to write Jamaica Inn, which was her first commercially successful novel. There’s also a fascinating Smugglers museum, a gift shop, a farm shop, restaurant, bars and accommodation. The place is huge.
Photos from Boscastle, which was severely flooded in 2004. I have to say that standing there you can feel how scary and isolating that experience must have been, but to look at the place now you would not know that it was nearly destroyed twelve years ago. Boscastle has beautiful tea rooms, lovely walks, shops, art galleries and a Museum of Witchcraft and Magic which covers a lot of fascinating history. I also bought the local mag – the Boscastle Blowhole – while I was there.
I took all the photos above on my iPhone 5S.
As you can see the weather was glorious for most of my trip. I hope you’ve enjoyed my report of my holiday to St. Ives and that it inspires you to explore Cornwall. Have you been and have you got any tips to share with future travellers to Cornwall? I’m also open to suggestions for other places in the UK to explore!