You’ll never want to leave St. Ives after your first five minutes. It is so stunningly beautiful, from the scenic high vantage points, to the little streets and shops, the white beaches and rugged coast line, all with the South West Coastal Path nearby, this former fishing village turned tourist and artist destination tugs at the soul.
The seaside resort sits down on the lower part of the peninsula. Saint Ia of Cornwall (or Ives), the martyred Irish princess and daughter of Erc of Slane (Hill of Slane), was buried here in the 5th century. The Grade I listed St. Ia’s Church sits just off the coast in the center of St. Ives and is believed to have been built over Saint Ia’s bones, during the reign of King Henry V.
St. Ives has an interesting history and some older buildings, such as the circa 1312 Sloop Inn, located on the wharf, which is still functioning as a pub and inn. Until 1877, when the Great Western Railway built a line to St. Ives, the town was mainly a fishing village. Much of the seaside resort that developed was built after the place became a tourist attraction and popular with artists. The fisherman houses, set near the ocean, down cobbled, narrow lanes are now sought-after property. Much of the town has turned into accommodation for those having a holiday, which has become a concern for those permanently living and working in the town.
Whether you’re an art fan or not, you’ll understand the draw when you see the colors of the stone cottages, the white sands and the greens and blues of the ocean meld together in harmony. It would make even those of us who shy away from the paintbrush want to learn, just to capture a bit of it. So it’s no wonder St. Ives is a highly-regarded art destination. Leach pottery was founded here in the 1920s. And many artists, both native and blow-ins, settle here because of its inspiring beauty.
If you drive down by car or take the bus to St. Ives, make sure you take the train up to St. Erth and back down to St. Ives at least once. It is one of the most beautiful train rides. Sit on the righthand side to see the coast and St. Ives peaking around the bends (from St. Erth to St. Ives). The Victorians brought the railway to St. Ives and created one amazing view that has become an attraction in itself. One of the first stops is Lelant, on the Hayle estuary. You’ll see the tide in and out on different journey times. It is a fascinating view. You can also stop at neighboring Carbis bay on the journey, which also has a beautiful beach.
Accommodation and prices vary greatly in St. Ives. Anything from five-star treatment, to B&Bs, self-catering and camping are available. There are plenty of shops, including clothing, restaurants, pubs, and bakeries. A Tesco is not far out of town.
The easiest way to get around town is by walking, though bicycling is a good option. The streets are narrow and parking can be tight. You’ll find some lovely walks nearby, including a walk to the Island (which is connected to the town and not an island), where you can view the ocean and get a panoramic view of St. Ives. St. Nicholas Chapel sits at the peak of the Island and is a focal point for the town. You can also walk along the South West Coastal path and on the beach. Just over on the south coast is Penzance, and nearby St. Michael’s Mount. St. Ives is also a good location if you intend to visit Land’s End.