I have recently visited St Ives, a quaint town in Cornwall, for the third time. Although I always try to go to new places, like most people, I seem to find myself exploring the same locations with similar activities. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourites from the area.
1. Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gardens
Dame Barbara Hepworth was a British sculptor who lived in St Ives for a good part of her life. The museum and gardens themselves were the former Trewyn Studio and gardens where she worked from 1949 until her death. The gardens are beautiful to visit and her work is complimented by the lush greenery all around. Inside the museum a short biography is showcased downstairs with her smaller work and paintings upstairs. The Museum also offers free tours that are available to all museum go-ers which offer a deeper insight to the sculptor.
2. Tate St Ives
You may recognise the name Tate from the London located Tate Britain or Tate Modern, well, Tate St Ives is its Cornish counterpart located on the coast with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. I always make an effort to visit the Tate when I’m in the area as the exhibitions change on a fairly regular basis, meaning you’re hard-pressed to find boredom. Even better, if you want to visit both the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Gardens and the Tate there’s a combined ticket to allow you to visit the two within 7 days for a reduced price, with under 18s free already!
What may seem like a more lucrative summer sport, in reality, is rather affordable. Various shops on the high street in St Ives offer longboard (that’s the classic surfboard to non-surfboarders like me), bodyboard and wetsuit rental, ranging from £5 (for wetsuits and bodyboards) to £10 (for longboards) for a 24 hour rental, allowing you to have a go without forking out a huge amount of cash. It’s worthwhile renting a wetsuit as well, as turns out it offers great protection against the sandpaper-esque surface of the surfboard rather than just keeping you warm. I’d recommend going to Natural Balance Surf Co. which is where I went to, as it offered more competitive prices compared to the extortionate prices they ask for on the beach, and no one wants to pay those.
4. Porthmeor Beach
Whether you’re a keen surfer or prefer to tan in the sun, Porthmeor Beach is a must. It’s lifeguarded (although only at certain points during the year, details can be found here) and separate sections for surfers/swimmers are created during busy hours so whether you’re a parent or nervous in the sea, your fears can be put at ease. From a less practical standpoint it’s the biggest beach in St Ives and is close to the high street, allowing for a quick lunch or ice cream grab. But make sure to be aware of the seagulls(, as you don’t want to lose half your lunch like I did)!
5. St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is a small island with a castle. Although it’s in Marazion, rather than St Ives, it’s not a hard place to visit as you can go there by public transport, with a travel time of around an hour. There’s a man-made causeway from the coast to the island once you’re there, and during the high tide hours when it’s closed (you can refer to them here), there are cheap boat trips available so there’s no need to shorten your trip, allowing you to wander with ease.
On the Mount there are both the castle and gardens, ticketed separately and together, so the visit will last you for a full day, and as it belongs to the National Trust you can go for free if you’re a member. (Ticket prices can be found here.) There are shops and cafes located on site but also a variety of places to sit if you wish to bring your own.
6. Penlee House and the Jubilee Pool
Penlee House is another art gallery and museum, centered on the Newlyn School and the cultural heritage of Penzance, where it is located. Similar to the Tate, it varies its exhibitions focusing on a different artist each time, the work of S.J. ‘Lamorna’ Birch and Stanhope Forbes being showcased when I’ve been in the past.
The Jubilee Pool is located in Penzance and is a large Art Deco lido located next to the seafront. Entry costs £5 for adults (16+) and a reduced fair for children and with a cafe and long opening times it’s difficult to not to stay here for a while.
Travelling from St Ives to Penzance is pretty easy, despite being on alternate sides of the Cornish coast, and is a 35 minute train journey away. Tickets can be bought at the station right before travelling or you can pre-book on Great Western Railway’s website, where train times can also be found.
7. Leach Pottery
Many consider Leach Pottery to be the birthplace of British studio pottery, and was set up by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada. They have pottery courses on which last a few hours, or longer, if you’re wanting to have a go, booking required, but if you’re simply wanting to wander round and to buy a couple works to take home it’s another simple case of turning up and buying a ticket. Leach Pottery is located in St Ives and is a 15-20 minute walk from the high street, making for a lazy, easy morning trip.
Like most other places, shopping is a good past-time, whether you’re trying to escape the rain or trying to find that desperately needed dining out dress which you forgot to pack. St Ives features most of the common English seaside shops, such as Cath Kidston, Seasalt, Joules and Fatface, but don’t forget to check out their independent and smaller shops too. My favourites include Poppy Treffry, selling hand-sewn bags and pencil cases, and Home and Gift St Ives (not the most original name I know) which has a variety of goodies which you can either treat yourself with or bring back to friends and family at home.
I decided that the most important buy deserves its own paragraph, and it’s fudge. St Ives has a wide range of fudge shops, with one nearly every other shop! (I may be exaggerating but you get the picture.) I personally recommend Myrings, located on the high street closer to the harbour, as it offers plenty of options, as well as sticks of rock (a hard-boiled sweet) , a JellyBelly pick and mix and my one true love, chocolate covered honeycomb. If you’re in need of gift bags they have those covered with options for every family member or dog-sitter (they really do have dog-sitter themes ones, I’m not joking), or the plainer classic boxes. If dairy-free or vegan fudge is what you need then I’d go for Roly’s Fudge Pantry, which sell them pre-bagged. They’re more similar to tablet (more solid and crunchier) compared to your classic fudge, but since it tastes great who am I to complain.
Whew, that was long! But that rounds up my favourite things to do in and around St Ives. If you’ve planned a visit then I’d give what I’ve listen a shot, and if you haven’t then what are you waiting for!?