St Ives: a haven for art, fine foods and fun in the surf

by charlottechris

St Ives boasts effortless charm and beauty. A perfect destination with everything you could wish for...and more!

St Ives has been a family favourite for generations and there is something so charming about this bustling harbour community that come rain or shine, surf or no surf, we just can not resist but to return. The memories my father has shared of being packed up into an old Mini by his parents evoke such joy and happiness that as small children my sister and I could not wait to be packed up and taken to this wonderful place, and today we load up our own cars still full of the same bubbling excitement as we head to rendezvous for "one last family holiday" (as we say each year!).

As you round the final corner, next to the RNLI Lifeboat Station, to turn into the harbour take a deep breath of that fresh sea air and a calmness washes over you, the journey is over and for me, "oh yes we're back".

By day

St Ives has something for everyone. As youngsters my sister, cousins and I would race around to Porthmeor beach every morning of our two week stay to assess the surf. Then, regardless, spend most of our time in the famously blue waters surfing, snorkelling, rowing our inflatable boats or catching crabs!

Endless hours have been spent in and out of the shops around the harbour and along Fore Street. Here you can find everything and more from the fabulous art work of local painters, of which Seb West (29 Fore Street; 01736 794828; has long been my favourite, to surf wear, causal wear and objet d'art to adorn your mantle piece to serve as a constant reminder of your time in St Ives. Kudos (71-73 Fore Street; 01736 798586; is an absolute treasure trove that I always return to and you will marvel at what has been squeezed into this tiny shop.

Of course, I cannot write about St Ives without mentioning art. Tate St Ives (Porthmeor Beach,
St Ives, TR26 1TG; takes pride of place in the town and draws people in from miles around. It is always an interesting collection that is on display there, though on each occasion I have visited I have left with mixed feelings, a lack of local talent on display, both past and present, is always a disappointment for me, especially when so much is on the doorstep. Even so, a visit to the Tate coupled with a visit around the Barbara Hepworth Museum makes for a satisfying day. Joint site admission is; for adults £8.75, concessions £4.50.

The independent galleries, most of which are free to enter, dotted about the town are all well worth a visit too and you will not be disappointed with the incredible variety and creativity found within one town. The little gallery, next to the shoe shop and opposite The Sloop is a little gem hidden away, that for years I had walked straight past.

The trek up Tregenna Hill is also worth all the effort as from the top, not only are you rewarded with stunning views back across the bay, but also with white-washed galleries that delight.

As evening draws in

There are so many places to eat that you are spoilt for choice. I have never had a bad meal and we have tried our best to try all the restaurants! If you have never had a proper Cornish pasty then this is the place to try one while perched on a bench watching the boats, just beware of the seagulls!

Seafood straight from the boat is in abundance here and the standard of all of the restaurants is such that you will find it freshly and creatively prepared for you whichever one you choose to dine in.

The absolute highlight is Portminster Cafe (Porthminster Beach, TR26 2EB; 01736 795352; tucked away from the hustle of the main town it serves perfectly presented, deliciously tasty food with an uninterrupted view over the sea. Typically a three-course evening meal with a glass of wine here will cost you around £40+ each.

A couple of my favourites include the 'Blue Cafe', though that's the name we gave it as kids as it had blue blinds under the glass roof, it is orange now I think and really called Porthmeor Beach Café & Surf Centre (Porthmeor Beach, TR26 1JZ; 01736 793366). But still, the menu changes frequently and is always highly recommended. The tapas (from about £5 each) they were serving last season was delightful and I cannot wait to sample this year's offering. The other I will mention is The Ocean Grill (Wharf Road, TR26 1LG; 01736 799874). If, on a sunny morning, you can get a spot on their balcony for breakfast then be sure to try the mouth-watering stack of blueberry pancakes - that is how every day should begin. Typically a three-course evening meal with a glass of wine here will cost you around £30 each. A full breakfast with drinks will cost you around £10-£15 each.

And finally for afternoon tea and scones then I would recommend you find a seat in Beachcomber Cafe, (The Wharf, TR26 1PU; 01736 794844) a delightful and very popular little place on the harbour's edge, great for a spot of people watching.

As night falls

An evening of free live music in St Ives is always brilliant fun. The Lifeboat Inn (The Wharf, TR26 1LF; 01736 794123) regularly has local bands playing, which cater to all sorts of tastes, and some we have sat listening to all night long. Tucked away in the back bar of The Sloop (The Wharf, TR26 1LP; 01736 796584; we have often come across one man, his guitar and some cheerful pub-goers singing along, which has been known to include us!

And so to sleep

We have stayed in St Ives so many times and in so many different places that I do not think I could choose a favourite. I would happily recommend every place I have stayed, though that could take a while! The ones I have picked out reflect something for everyone's budget.

At the top end, the Pedn Olva Hotel (West Porthminster Beach, TR26 2EA) is a lovely treat and being built on the rocks the views from all the rooms are out over the sea. Bed and breakfast here during the summer is around £135 for a double room with a minimum 2 night stay.

The Sloop Inn (The Wharf, TR26 1LP) we return to time and time again, the staff are so pleasant, the rooms are simple but charming and the harbour is on your doorstep. A double room for the night with bed and breakfast is just under £50 during the summer here.

For some fun in a tent then the place to camp is the Ayr Holiday Park (Ayr Terrace, TR26 1EJ). It has amazing views from its position on the hillside and very good facilities. To park up and pitch a tent is around £25.

One for the road

Be sure to slip a bag of fudge into the car for the journey home!