Looking for a new solo travel destination? Read on and discover: St. Ives, Seaside Surf Town, a guest post by Michelle Williams. For more great surfing spots and tips, you can find her here.
St Ives is a is an attractive old seaside town situated on Cornwall’s North Coast of the Celtic Sea. Originally a fishing town, it is now primarily a holiday resort in season, and also the home to many musicians and artists of various kinds. As a holiday resort it is very popular and, with four stunning beaches, delightful old streets and shops, excellent cliff top walks, and superb award-winning restaurants, this is hardly a surprise. Here we will look at how to spend a little time there in order to extract the maximum pleasure.
If you want to go to St Ives you will find that it is surprisingly accessible. You can travel by car, by National Express, by Rail and by Air. To travel from London Paddington you need only make one change at St Erth, just a few miles away from St Ives, and then catch the regular coastal railway for the final leg and enjoy some of the best coastal views en route.
The nearest airport is Newquay from where you can catch a train for the final leg and if you shop around you can find very good prices for both air travel and train. National Express coaches leave from London Victoria and several other cities.
Driving there is very simple – the normal route is along the M5 then the A30. If you travel out of season then it is quite fast but in season it can take quite a long time unless you are prepared to drive through the night.
Where to Stay
The towns boasts a huge assortment of hotels, guest houses and self-catering holiday apartments. They range from the luxurious to the utilitarian and from the ultra-modern to the quaint. Whatever your taste you will be certain to find something to your liking. Out of season there is no problem in finding appropriate accommodation, but in season things are not so easy, so you are advised to book well in advance.
Where to Go
St Ives has some of the finest beaches of any resort in England. In fact there are four of them, and they are all entirely different from each other in character and cater for different tastes and activities.
Porthmeor Beach is the Atlantic surfing beach of St Ives and it attracts many keen surfers from all over the world. There is a school where you can learn to surf and special areas for beginners to learn to body board. Lifeguards are on duty and the sand is soft and golden. Porthmeor Beach is also a great family beach and a place where you can enjoy the sun all day long. At the back of the beach there are cafes, restaurants and toilets, so once settled there it is hard to rear yourself away.
Porthgwidden Beach is much smaller and more intimate than Porthmeor with safe family bathing and plenty of shelter for those occasional windy days. You can hire beach huts there and it is a great place to spend a quiet seaside day. There are also cafes and restaurants close to hand and no speeding surfers to have to contend with.
The Harbour is to this day a working port and once was the home to a thriving fishing community. It is right in the heart of the St Ives coast line and the beach is golden sand. It is very sheltered and an excellent sun trap and if you like watching boats or sitting outside the Sloop, one of St Ives’ finest ancient public houses, it is easy to spend the day there. There is even a resident seal and it is not unusual to spot the odd shark too. Here are some pictures of a shark swimming in the harbour waters.
Porthminster Beach extends for half a mile and the sands are soft and golden. Nestling at the foot of St Ives, this beach, which faces the Celtic Sea, is sheltered from the Atlantic rollers of Porthmeor so is ideal for both bathing and more serious swimming. There are superb views from the beach across St Ives and at the back is the gastronomically famous Porthminster cafe. The beach is also a great starting point for a fairly demanding cliff top walk to the adjacent Carbis Bay, though if you are feeling lazy you can just take the train which terminates at the top of Porthminster.
As well as cliff top walks and wonderful beaches St Ives boasts beautiful streets full of shops and galleries. There is also the famous Tate Gallery with a rich collection of local art and special exhibitions.
Eating in St Ives is also a delight and some of the best restaurants can be found there. Of course you can also find the best fish and chips and the best Cornish Pasties too if you prefer.
If you are there in September then you should make the best of the famous St Ives festival with music, poetry, drama and dance to suit all tastes.
St Ives is very different from when it was a fishing port several hundreds of years ago, but what is has become is truly one of the greatest seaside resorts in England.