St Ives, Cornwall – Why You Should Visit

It’s so picturesque

It’s one of the most photographed towns in Cornwall and it’s easy to see why – St Ives looks like something straight out of a fairytale. From the traditional grey-stone houses, to the luscious green hill above the town, it’s certainly an inspiring sight. It’s worth noting that the light is strikingly bright here – even on a particular gloomy day, the colours and vibrance punch through. When the midday January sun started to poke through the clouds on our visit, we couldn’t quite believe how intense the light was. No matter the weather, the view of the harbour is an impressive one.

The beautiful surrounding scenery

If you’re a fan of hiking around scenic locations with plenty of history, you’ll be spoiled for choice in this neck of the west country. There is something so incredibly special about the Cornish landscape – it’s unique and recognisable; the winding country lanes, craggy cliffs, dramatic heights and ancient buildings peppered around. If you’re on borrowed time visiting St Ives, here are few my recommendations for local walks:

Knill’s Monument (the pointy building above St Ives) has an interesting story. The monument stands at 50ft tall, perched on the top of Worvas Hill in Steeple Woods. The building was commissioned in 1782 by the local mayor, named John Knill. The views at the top of Worvas Hill are pretty breathtaking. Old legend has it that Knill built the monument to look like a church spire to fool ships in bad weather to head for it –  the sailors wouldn’t realise how close to land they were and as a result their ships would become wrecked.

The coast path to Zennor is a special one. A fairly tough walk for the intrepid hiker. The best route is to take the coast path from Porthmeor Beach in St Ives and head out towards Zennor. Rugged, jaw-dropping and incredibly scenic – you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to head in to the Zennor’s village center when you arrive – a charmingly-tiny village with a population of only 176. After all that walking, treat yourself to a fresh pint of cider at Tinners Arms. 

Portreath to Bassetts Cove (pictured) – Portreath is a small port and fishing town, located about a 25 minute drive from St Ives. If you fancy fitting in another coastal walk and some lunch on the way home from your St Ives visit, Portreath is a great shout. To find the short hike, walk along the Hayle/Portreath road, turn down onto a small unmarked lane heading north. Be warned – it’s a steep climb up and there are sudden drop off points on the cliff face. The views are breathtaking though, and because of the way the cliff is eroding, you’ll be able to spot a variety of birds perching on the cliff face. Enough to make you slightly dizzy!

Traditional Shops

St Ives has an abundance of interesting stores to choose from – there truly is something for everyone. Expect independent art galleries, craft shops, bookstores, outdoor hiking shops and traditional Cornish food shops (yes, you’ll find pasties and fudge galore). Meander down the windy cobbled streets, munch on a humble ‘oggy’ and fill your lungs with sea air.

Godvrey Lighthouse

Just twenty minutes away by car is the historic Godvrey Lighthouse.  This 26 metre famous landmark was made famous by novelist, Virginia Woolfe, in her a story ‘To The Lighthouse’. There’s plenty of lovely walks to choose from around this area – all boast views that will have you stopping every 10 minutes.

Read all about the lighthouse’s interesting past here.

Seal spotting

From what I have read, this isn’t a widely known fact in Cornwall. To our surprise, whilst on our Godrevy Lighthouse hike, we spotted hundreds of seals basking on Mutton Cove. Definitely a special sight to remember. If you’re planning to visit, bring a pair of binoculars or a zoom lens – I really regretted not having mine. The seals are obviously very happy here and are far enough away to not be at all bothered by gazing spectators.

and dolphins…

Yes, really! After walking around St Ives Harbour across to Porthgwidden Beach, we spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance. It’s always those moments when you aren’t expecting anything that they actually happen. Just beautiful.

For a tasty lunch/low-key dinner:

The Crab and Rum Shack – if you love crab (or seafood) and rum, this will be your idea of heaven. This place had a lovely warm atmosphere -the food is extremely reasonable and exceptional tasty. Oh and the rum? Very, very good.. it did take far too long to decide what to choose mind. It gets quite lively in the evening too (it would be weird not to, with all that delicious rum to offer).

For a quick snack:

Surf Shack – a quirky (and surfy, obviously) place to come for crepes and cakes. Staff are super friendly, service is fast and the coffee is good. Try and grab the window seat and admire the harbour.

For a delectable dinner:

The Seafood Cafe – I have fond memories of eating here with my family as a youngster. I still remember trying a delicious pot of steaming, garlic mussels for the first time. Nothing has changed in the past 15 years as the service is still fantastic and the food – heavenly. I highly recommend the sea platter if you want a little taste of everything. Each day they serve a collection of fresh, local fish and seafood as well as poultry and meat – it doesn’t get much fresher.

Bonus – The approach to life

There is just something so appealing about the pace of life in St Ives. In some areas of the UK, especially in the cities, we really do forget to breathe and take in the beauty of the world around us. It’s always go, go, go – we’re always in a hurry. St Ives, like many other areas in Cornwall, seems to be full of friendly, creative people who really seem to appreciate their hometown. Life is softer and slower – people aren’t huffing and puffing behind you because you’re ambling along at a normal pace – I like that, it rubs off on you.

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Why should you keep a travel journal? Find out here.

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