St Ives – the dreamiest staycation in the UK
As I was going to St Ives, I met a man with seven wives. OK, not really. What I did meet with though was a whole lot of FUN! Here's six reasons why you should take a trip to the Cornish coast this summer.
St Ives in Cornwall is one of my favourite British holiday spots. Not familiar? Well, think the best beaches this side of the Caribbean, a fantastic art scene and more gourmet delights than you can shake a Michelin chef at. Here’s why I think you’d love it as much as I do. High fives for St Ives, everyone!
It’s cultural, innit
British seaside towns aren’t traditionally known as cultural hubs but, alongside Margate, St Ives punches well above its weight when it comes to artistic endeavours, thanks in a large degree to Tate St Ives. Last time I visited it was in the midst of a multi-million pound renovation with a sad little café, but now in its place is the chic Gallery restaurant, with its exquisite views over the Atlantic and modern cuisine from new head chef, Ian Lucas.
There are weekly brunch events in the museum throughout August as well as yoga workshops and, on Saturday 22 June, a public performance art event, headed by the artist in residence Allard van Hoorn. A 2m-high silver ball – based on the traditional St Ives Feast Day hurling ball – will be rolled through the streets before taking its place on display outside the museum. Get involved! (But don’t get squashed.)
Less flashy but still fascinating is the Barbara Hepworth Museum, tucked away on a quiet little lane. The late sculptor carved away in this studio for 25 years until her death in 1975 – take time to stroll around her beautiful garden, which is packed with stunning sculptures amid the tropical plants. It’s my favourite spot in the entire town.
Leach Pottery is another arts hub well worth a visit. Often considered to be the home of British studio pottery, it’s now a museum dedicated to 20th century potter Bernard Leach with a working studio that trains the next generation of St Ives studio potters. And to round off your Cornish culture trip, there’s Porthmeor Studios, a complex of artists’ studios with pilchard cellars below, that are still used by working artists. They’re the oldest studios of their kind in Britain, with a unique heritage of fishing and art, and are also home to St Ives School of Painting, which has a varied programme of courses throughout the year.
The food is fabulous
In my experience of St Ives it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal. The jewel in the crown is Porthminster Beach Cafe , an Art Deco pavilion, with a divine sun terrace, right on the beach. Have the lobster and dream about it forever more – but make sure you book as it’s hugely popular. That’s not to be confused with Porthminster Kitchen with equally lovely views, this time over the harbour, and an emphasis on healthy options. A short walk along the wharf and you’ll also find SILCo Searoom a relaxed, family-run ‘gastrobar’ which serves small plates starring local seafood and cocktails made with St Ives Gin, which is distilled by the same family.
You could also try Sea Food Cafe – pick your fresher-than-fresh seafood, meat or poultry from the counter, choose your sides (roasted garlic and rosemary new potatoes for me, thanks) and they’ll rustle up a plate for you. And if you fancy takeaway, tucked away down a tiny street near the sea front is burger nirvana, Blas Burgerworks. The meat is local and sustainable, there are great veggie/vegan options and the chips are handcut Cornish potato perfection. Accessorise with an ice-cold bottle of beer and a sea view.
For a sweet treat (you can’t go to the coast without scoffing a few ice creams, can you?) there’s Moomaid of Zennor, a little ice cream parlour on the harbour. Using Cornish milk and Italian know-how, it makes original and delicious flavour combos; the ‘Shipwreck’, with sea salt, dulce de leche and honeycomb, should hit the spot. Or there’s St Ives Bakery, where giant meringues are often piled up in the windows (*drool*). It makes handmade and freshly baked pasties – shortcrust or flaky pastry – with loads of savoury fillings. Watch out for seagull snatchers.
The surfing, dude!
Cornwall’s not short of super surfing spots but we’ve heard that the St Ives Surf School, based on Porthmeor Beach, is one of the best in the county. We also love the sound of Tassy Swallow‘s surf school, Surf Ratz. She’s a St Ives born-and-bred pro-surfer who champions female participants (it’s still such a male-dominated sport), often local little girls from diverse backgrounds, some of whom wouldn’t normally be able to afford lessons. She does private lessons for tourists too so you can cough up knowing your cash is going to a good cause. Make this summer the one you learn something new – and, don’t fret, I look terrible in a wet suit too, but who cares!
You can stay (or just hang out) at this gorgeous eco-lodge and spa resort
I stumbled across Una St Ives a few months back, having reached little spot of paradise near Carbis Bay during a coast to coast walk. A five-minute drive from St Ives (and speaking of cars, there’s ample parking on site – good news because the town itself can be a nightmare for parking!), it comprises of 29 chic family and dog friendly eco lodges that sleep between two and eight people, a stylish bistro (Una Kitchen) and impressive spa and leisure facilities. And you don’t have to stay to play – I reviewed the ‘dip & dine’ spa and restaurant package here and it’s fab. St Ives town centre can get crazy busy in high season so this tranquil locals’ secret is the place to know. Like what you see? Read below for your chance to win a holiday here for freeeeee!
It has some of the best boutique shops in Cornwall
Cornwall isn’t exactly overrun with hip boutiques but St Ives comes up trumps. Common Wanderer on Fore Street is an outdoorsy paradise, stocking everything you need to adventure in style. Do we need all these colourful, Scandi-inspired trappings to get back to nature? Perhaps not – but I want it all (even if it is mostly menswear). Then there’s indie fashion and lifestyle boutique Academy & Co (and sister stores Number 8 and Port of Call) where you’ll find a carefully curated selection of relaxed staples and lesser-known labels.
The tipple is pretty good too
If it’s booze you’re after (isn’t it always?!), Johns’ – The Liquor Cellar, on Fore Street, sells a range of craft spirits, fine wines and local beers. Established in 1894, it’s one of the county’s oldest family-run businesses, and also has a store in Truro. You could also try Scarlet Wines, on the outskirts of St Ives, a non-pretentious speciality wine store stocking over 300 wines, 40 gins, a large selection of spirits, as well as local cider and craft beer. There’s also an adjoining buzzy coffee shop, bar, pizza joint and courtyard, a perfect spot for sipping vino in the sunshine.
Have I whetted your appetite for a sunny St Ives break? Then your luck is in! WIN WIN WIN a three-night stay for up to six people in a three-bedroom Eco Lodge at the stunning Una St Ives, PLUS a two-course dinner for six one night, worth up to £1,350. Enter in seconds, relax for days!