Our editor Rebecca Moore heads west to one of Cornwall’s most talked about towns, St Ives. She shares her favourite ways to spend your time in the jewel in Cornwall’s crown…
While many of us might not possess a physical bucket list, we all have places we want to see and explore before the inevitable. Reading Vision Express’s newly released survey on UK beauty spots, it came as no surprise to see that St Ives Harbour came in at an honourable fifth position. The survey asked 1,500 adults for their favourite hot spots, compiling a list of the top 30 places to visit.
A worthy contender, St Ives really has to be seen to be believed. It’s no myth that this picturesque fishing town is bathed in the most gorgeous glow. With no filter required, the reflectiveness of the beaches of crushed golden granite, pristine white seashells, and shimmering water create areas of stunning light quality. An artist’s dream, the area that surrounds the golden sands of Porthmeor Beach, is aptly known as the artist quarter, famous for its idyllic whitewashed cottages, funky bars and restaurants.
I’ve put pen to paper to inspire well spent days in St Ives in 2022. But top of my recommendations is to make sure you take the time to wander the wonderful winding streets, and gorgeous beaches – there are six easily accessible ones, all uniquely beautiful.
What better place to start than pinning down the best eateries? Cornwall’s food scene continues to grow at epic proportions, as Michelin Stars, celebrity chefs and culinary greatness grace the county. And St Ives food scene is not to be sniffed at. In the height of summer the top restaurants have a waiting list as long as your arm, so it’s worth planning ahead if you’re visiting.
My top picks…
If you’re hoping to clock up the Cornish miles exploring, you’ll want to start the day right. And hearty breakfasts are order of the day at Scoff Troff Café. Situated a few streets back from the Harbour on Market Place, Scoff Troff has been filling locals and visitors bellies since 2015. With a laidback vibe and cool industrial styling, this café is just the ticket for homecooked wholesome servings.
What to order?
The Scoffs English is legendary, so much so it’s served all day long. A plate full, enjoy butcher’s sausages, thick cut bacon, a fried egg, oven-roasted tomato, Heinz beans, pan-fried mushrooms, a hash brown and toast. Feeling particularly peckish? Size up for the Double English. Or, gobble up The Smoker; bloomer toast, three scrambled St Ewe’s free range eggs, melted Applewood smoked cheese topped with Cornish smoked bacon. Wash your breakfast down with cold brew coffee!
There’s of course plenty of options locally in St Ives, but I’d suggest stretching your legs and walking to neighbouring Carbis Bay. The Gannet Inn is a mile away and the perfect excuse to take in the views of the world-famous G7 location along the way.
A posh pub-style restaurant, The Gannet is the sister to Carbis Bay Estate, so you know it’s from good stock. The Gannet’s generous dishes have been created by the Rosette-winning chef from the Estate. Mouth-watering dishes make up the friendly menu, priding itself on a home-cooking style it’s packed to the rafters full of locally-sourced ingredients.
What to order?
The menu does change seasonally, but you’ll always find some tempting seafood dishes, from moules mariniere to beer-battered haddock. If you’re after something wholesome – and let’s face it, calories don’t count in Cornwall – it doesn’t get much heartier than the pie of the day, served with creamy mash (chip lovers may want to swap), seasonal vegetables and lashings of gravy.
The Loft and Terrace is situated in the prestigious artist’s quarter, with its impressive views and sought after location, it’s no surprise that this venue has been a restaurant for over 50 years. Since 2016, it’s been lovingly run by the Cryan family.
Boasting an undercover sun terrace alongside a romantic indoor restaurant setting, The Loft and Terrace is a discerning dinner spot. The sizeable menu takes inspiration from sea and land with a focus on local produce with a contemporary far-flung flavours. Expect beautifully designed dishes, which are as easy on the eye as they are on the palate.
What to order?
Dishes are wonderfully fresh to provide a plethora of memorable mouthfulls. Winning dishes for me has to be the cured salmon carpaccio and burrata salad to start, while for main courses the 24-hour braised beef cheek and creamy mushroom risotto are certainly not to be missed. And there’s a fabulous wine menu to match.
The beauty of St Ives is someone can be catching some waves on one beach, while another browses the local art galleries or enrols in a ceramics course. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never be bored in this buzzing harbour town.
Barbara Hepworth Conversation with Magic Stones 1973 © Bowness. Photo © Kirstin Prisk
Where to appreciate the art:
St Ives is home to one of the four Tate galleries. The exhibition calendar changes throughout the year. From 26 November (to 1 May 2023), a special exhibition Barbara Hepworth Art and Life will take place. With a special focus on Hepworth’s life in Cornwall, the exhibition is set to bring together many of her most important works. For serious sculptor enthusiasts, visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden too, which is also in the town.
Meandering along the winding streets you’ll come across plenty of art studios and galleries, all worthy of a wonder.
On the water:
From the harbour, take a boat trip to Seal Island, home to a colony of grey seals. About 3.5 miles from land, it’s part of a group of islands called The Carracks. The hour-long sea safari trips take place from April to October, keep your eyes peeled because as well as seals, you might spot dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks.
There’s of course an abundance of watersports to consider too. Learn the ropes at St Ives Surf School or the Ocean Sports Centre at Carbis Bay offers a host of specialist watersports adventures, such as Hawaiian canoeing, outrigging and foiling (hydrofoils).
Gurnard's Head, Zennor. ©National Trust Images Sue Brackenbury
On dry land:
A coastal walk is a rite of passage when in St Ives. A gentle suggestion is a stomp to Carbis Bay along the coast path, if you’re not staring at beautiful seascape then admire the enviable homes dotted along this stretch.
For something a little more challenging, head west along the coast path. Just over six miles will take you to Gurnard’s Head, a mesmerising rocky peninsula with sweeping views and the remains of an Iron Age fort. You’re not far from the village of Zennor, famous for the medieval carving of a mermaid inside St Senara Church. The walk will have built up an appetite, fortunately there’s a legendary ice cream parlour here, Moomaid of Zennor, to refuel.
If you’re a bit of a history buff, then step back in time at St Ives Museum. Volunteer led, the building was formerly a pilchard curing cellar and is a treasure trove which is not to be missed.
Dates for the diary:
Every Thursday St Ives Farmers’ Market takes place in the Guildhall from 9:30-2pm, celebrating local produce there’s a wealth of home-grown fare to be enjoyed, from fish and meats, to baked goods and alcoholic tipples.
There’s more delicious local fare up for grabs at St Ives Food and Drinks Festival, which will take place on Porthminster Beach between 13-15 May 2022. There’ll be artisan tents, food and drinks vendors, live music, and a chef’s demo stage.
From 10 to 24 September there’ll be sweet music in the air as St Ives September Festival returns. Celebrating music, art and poetry, the two week event takes place around the town, some events are free while others require a ticket.
Formerly a Natwest bank, recently renovated, Host is new to the St Ives Scene. The building itself is a work of art, everything the eye can see has been created by a team of dedicated local craftsfolk from the coffee cups to the wooden cornices. Pop in for a coffee, a cake or a cocktail…
For Cornish delicacies a trip isn’t complete without a traditional pasty, be sure to pop in St Ives Bakery, for creamy handmade fudge stop by The Fudge Box and for fish and chips head to the harbour, for aptly named Harbour Fish & Chips.
After all the exploring, rest tired legs at The Harbour Hotel’s HarSpa. Relaxation can be restored with the heated swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and fitness suite, alongside a tempting treatment menu.
Whether you are looking to book your holiday in a self-catering apartment or a large holiday home, our collection of St Ives holiday stays will inspire your Cornish holiday. We have curated a collection of our favourite luxury self-catering holiday cottages in the artist town of St Ives, known for its harbour, shops and food scene. Browse our accommodation to book your perfect stay.
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