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Are you wondering about the best things to do in St. Ives, Cornwall? One of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall is the small fishing village of St. Ives, which is located on Cornwall’s southern coast. There is a good reason for this. It is one of the best destinations to visit in the UK.
The town is situated on a slender peninsula that is surrounded by sandy beaches. The town’s picturesque winding streets are full of personality and lead to the picture-perfect harbour, which appears to have been taken straight from a postcard.
An intricate network of painfully charming cobbled streets lined with fishermen’s cottages can be found radiating out from the picture-perfect harbour. And as if all of this weren’t enough, St. Ives also has a rich artistic heritage, which is celebrated with a plethora of galleries ranging from the modest to those that are internationally acclaimed.
To use a cliche that has seen better days, St. Ives has something for everyone, and the purpose of this brief guide is to suggest some of the town’s most noteworthy attractions.
Check out the 10 Best Things to do in Cornwall (England) for a Perfect Weekend Break
You might be wondering, “What are the best things to do in St. Ives?” if you have it in your mind to pay a visit to this breathtaking town during your staycation in Cornwall. In this blog post, we will discuss every one of them!
Best Things to Do in St. Ives, Cornwall (UK)
1. Tate St. Ives Museum
The Tate St. Ives is a must-see on any trip to St. Ives. St. Ives has been a part of the art scene for more than 100 years, and artists like Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, and Mark Rothko have been inspired by the town.
The Tate St. Ives is built on the site of a former gasworks. It looks out over Porthmeor Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. When it first opened in 1993, architects Eldred Evans and David Shalev were chosen because their designs, such as the “rotunda” at the centre of the gallery, were similar to the shapes of the old gasworks.
The gallery is in the middle of a town full of artists, and the size and shape of the collection galleries were based on studios in the town. In 2017, architect Jamie Fobert made a big change to the building by sinking a new gallery deep into the cliffs.
The outside of the building follows the shape of the coast, and it is covered in ceramic tiles to honour the history of potters in St. Ives, like Bernard Leach. Their clay is a pale sand-coloured yellow, and the glazes are blue and green. These colours show how the weather in Cornwall is always changing and blend with the colours of the sea beyond.
Because of this, it is best to buy tickets ahead of time, though there are usually a few tickets available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. The Tate Gallery is one of the best things to do in St. Ives if you like modern art.
Eat Fish and Chips & Cornish Pasty
Fish and Chips. Fish and chips up north in any other part of the country simply do not compare to the flavour of those served in St. Ives. The fish has a more pronounced sense of freshness, the coating is crunchier, and the chips are at their crispiest.
If you are in the middle of the town, you may want to try The Balancing Eel. You can’t go wrong with The Balancing Eel! You can either eat in or get takeaway from this place.
By The Sea, which is just off Royal Square down Chapel Street, is quickly becoming one of the most popular restaurants in the area despite its somewhat remote location. You have the option of eating in or taking your food to go.
There are two traditional fish and chip takeaways located on the outskirts of town. The one that we go to is called Sharkeys, and it is located in the industrial estate at the very peak of Penbeagle Hill.
The restaurant Becks, which is located on the main road in Carbis Bay, is a favourite of my friends because of their gluten-free diets.
Cornish Pasty. A trip to St. Ives is not complete without at least one Cornish Pasty. If you haven’t tried eating pasties because you’ve been turned off by certain well-known but less tasty versions, I strongly encourage you to give it another shot!
Simply put, the Cornish Pasties that are produced by the bakers in St. Ives are of the highest quality. The exterior of the pastry is crisp and crumbly, and it has a lovely golden sheen; the fillings are opulent, steaming, and extremely flavorful. Nothing at all like the tasteless, pale versions that you are probably thinking of.
The majority of people in this town each have a preferred Cornish pasty shop. My favourite is the St. Ives Bakery, which can be found at the intersection of Fore Street and The Digey. It is the store with the magnificent window display.
One of the best lunches that have ever been had has got to be a shortcrust steak accompanied by a nice hot cup of tea. Especially if it is consumed in a sunny nook on the beach that is free from pesky seagulls.
Check out The 20 Most Popular British Food To Try in the UK.
3. Enjoy the Cornish Beaches
St. Ives is endowed with an unusually large number of beaches for a community of its size, and a visit to the city is not complete without at least one excursion to one of these beaches. Not only is there a great deal of them, but they are also without a doubt some of the finest beaches in Cornwall (and, consequently, the world!).
Within a short walking distance of the centre of town are four major beaches, each of which has a distinctive personality. These are the Carbis Bay, Porthgwidden Beach, Porthminster Beach, and Porthmeor Beach.
The first beach that you will come to is Carbis Bay. This is the famous location wherein the 47th G7 Summit was held when the UK hosted the event.
When I need to get here, I walk down Hain Walk as it is the most direct route. Along Hain Walk, which leads to Carbis Bay, there is a really beautiful walk. After leaving Porthminster Beach, head over to the path that’s located by the Porthminster Cafe and follow it as it winds its way up and over the railroad tracks. Be sure to take a moment to pause and take in the scenery, which includes both the massive houses and the tiny Huer’s Hut.
The hike is about a mile long and has some very steep inclines along the way. You will find yourself on Carbis Bay Beach, where you will be able to purchase refreshments and take a refreshing dip in the water.
You won’t need to wear sandals here because the sand is so soft and luxurious; the property spans a luxurious 25 acres. Thankfully, even those who aren’t staying at the hotel can take advantage of this little slice of paradise. The fact that it is only a short distance away from the train station in Carbis Bay contributes to its popularity among tourists coming from neighbouring communities.
However, public parking is limited, located at the top of a hill, and can be costly; consequently, taking the train is a fantastic alternative to consider.
The beach at Porthgwidden is adorned with bright huts, which contribute to the beach’s ultimate vacation atmosphere. The water is clear, and the sand is extremely fine, both of which contribute to the seaside charm of the location. One of the best things to see and do in St. Ives is the beach at Porthgwidden, which is known for both its natural beauty and its peaceful atmosphere.
This beach is a hidden gem that is perfect for families because it has less powerful waves than some of the other, larger strands in the area because it is more protected. On a day when there is a significant amount of wind, however, you will still feel the breeze.
Porthgwidden is situated near St. Ives Harbour, making it a short stroll away from several quaint shops and restaurants. You won’t need to stress about finding a place to buy all of those things that you forgot because there are a lot of different concessions to choose from.
While you’re here, you might want to consider renting a deck chair. They never fail to make a trip to the beach more pleasurable.
The beach at Porthminster is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is bordered by palm trees, giving it an appearance that is more reminiscent of the Caribbean than Cornwall.
Because of its location directly underneath the St. Ives Train Station, it is the very first thing that visitors to the city who arrive by train see when they arrive in St. Ives. It is a beach that is very protected from wind and waves, making it ideal for families.
This beach is perfect for families because it is just a short walk from the main part of town, the water is always calm, and there is a miniature golf course with 18 holes. Because there are so many cafes and restaurants in the surrounding area, it is very simple to spend the entire day at this charming location.
This gorgeous little stretch of sand should be included in your itinerary. Porthmeor is one of the most popular beaches in St. Ives, even though it is only a half mile long. In addition to having the typical soft, firm sand and crashing waves that are characteristic of all beaches, Porthmeor also has a plethora of delicious cafes and restaurants in the immediate area.
Gather some food to eat outside for a picnic, and then find a shady spot to watch surfers having fun in the water. When you’ve had enough of the sun, you can go into town for some retail therapy or give your inner artist a treat by going to the Tate St. Ives, which is located right next to the beach.
Another advantage is that Porthmeor was awarded the prestigious Blue Flag for its outstandingly high standards of water quality and safety, as well as for its commitment to environmental management and education. There are only seven beaches in Cornwall that have been given the prestigious title, and this beach is one of them.
4. Try Tarquin’s Cornish Gin
Because there are so many gins that are being released these days, I must admit that I am quite frequently distracted by the exciting new offerings that appear on the market. This is to the point where I forget about some of the greats, and Tarquin’s Cornish Gin is undeniably one of those greats.
Read more about the 5 Best Alcoholic British Pub Drinks To Try in The UK
Even though I’ve only sampled a few of Tarquinn’s gins, I can confidently say that my favourite is the Sunshine Blood Orange Gin. On the nose, you’ll pick up fresh, fruity citrus notes along with warm juniper tones leading the way. The flavours of sweet fruit, sour fruit, and bittersweet herbs are all present on the palate, and they all linger for a considerable amount of time into the finish.
Do you also know that their gins do not contain gluten and that they are suitable for vegans? I know! Just another reason to adore them!
If you haven’t already come across Tarquin’s, it is highly recommended that you take a look at the variety of gins that they offer because the prices are very reasonable.
5. St. Ives Museum
The St. Ives Museum is a wonderful little museum that is jam-packed with St. Ives’s rich history and is deserving of a visit.
It is crammed to the gills with interesting and unusual tidbits of history from St. Ives, and it is full to the rafters. From the mining sector to the tourist trade, the fishing industry, and the train line all contribute. It offers a wealth of information regarding the past and present of the city.
Someone I know observed that it seems as though the people who live in St. Ives have opened up their attics for everyone to see. Although some of it is peculiar, the vast majority of it is quite fascinating!
You will need to check the opening times because it is not always available to the public. The museum is typically accessible beginning the Monday before Good Friday (although it is closed on Good Friday itself) and staying open until the end of the October half-term break.
6. Enjoy Art and Pottery Galleries
For more than a century, the seaside town of St. Ives has served as a source of creativity for local artists. St. Ives is the ideal location for artists to showcase their work because of the town’s breathtaking scenery and the vibrant colours that are reflected off of the town’s pristine waters.
In this context, I’m referring to all of the local, independent art galleries. The kind where you can wander around, admire all of the beautiful artwork, and perhaps buy something that will become a cherished possession.
It is highly recommended that guests pay a visit to the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden. Even though it is in the middle of town, it manages to maintain its peacefulness and enchantment.
Trewyn studio and garden are currently playing host to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Between the years 1949 and 1975, the renowned sculptor called this place her home and studio. She passed away in 1975. It is also one of the town’s most well-known and frequently visited tourist attractions.
Simply entering this breathtaking area is a fascinating experience in and of itself. In a perfectly manicured and intricately designed garden, colossal sculptures that are the largest grouping of her works to be on a permanent display stand resolutely. This is possibly the most interesting part of the museum, and visitors shouldn’t miss out on seeing it.
Even though they are breathtaking when illuminated by the sun’s rays, the sculptures and the various types of vegetation take on an entirely new, though no less impressive, appearance when it rains. Therefore, you should bring an umbrella with you just in case.
The artist comes to life for visitors as they explore her home and studio, where they can learn about the sculptor’s inspirations and how her work evolved over the years. Because of her arthritis and her cancer, Hepworth was forced to come up with new approaches to her artistic practice.
The Leach Pottery can be found perched a short distance up The Stennack, close to the outskirts of the town.
The pottery was established in 1920, and its first location was an old cow shed that also served as a tin ore store. At that time, there were mines and farms located throughout this region of St. Ives.
In 2008, after undergoing extensive renovations, the location reopened as a working studio pottery, museum, and gallery.
It is possible to enrol in classes, and they frequently host children’s workshops during vacation periods.
On Back Road West in St. Ives is where you’ll find the Penwith Art Gallery, which is housed in what used to be a pilchard packing factory. It is the location of the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall, which calls this building it’s home.
Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach, Sven Berlin, and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, amongst others, established the society in 1949. Other founders of the society include Bernard Leach. After that, members such as Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, and Henry Moore joined the group.
There are three public galleries, a sculpture area, artist studios, and an archive contained within the gallery.
St. Ives Society of Artists
The St. Ives Society of Artists is a wonderful gallery to look around in and make purchases from. It is housed in The Mariners’ Church. In 1927, marine artist George Fagan Bradshaw was the driving force behind the establishment of the St. Ives Society of Artists.
The exhibition programs of the Society feature works selected by guest curators and invited exhibitions that include a wide variety of different types of contemporary visual art.
The work of the seventy members of the gallery is displayed in three separate exhibitions at the main gallery, with invited exhibitors showing their work in between. Additionally, there are two open exhibitions in which non-members are welcome to submit their artwork.
Since 2000, Art Space has been a part of the creative heart of St. Ives. It is a small, independent gallery that is open and friendly. It shows the work of seven well-known and very creative artists who live and work in Cornwall. There are affordable original paintings, prints, ceramics, and jewellery for sale, and you can also meet the artists.
There are traditional oils, bright acrylics, delicate watercolours, pit-fired ceramics, and striking woodcuts from land and sea in the exhibition, which is always changing. This high-quality, artist-run gallery on the famous St. Ives harbour is a must for art lovers who want to look around or add to their collection of Cornish art. It has a unique collection of contemporary art.
7. St. Nicholas Chapel
St. Nicholas Chapel is a simple one-roomed granite building that sits on top of St. Ives Island, an ancient promontory fort and birdwatchers’ paradise (which isn’t an island at all).
Not just birdwatchers have been drawn to the island because of its unique and exposed location. Before 1434, St. Nicholas Chapel stood there, and it is thought that it was used as a place of worship until 1434 when the main St. Eia Parish Church was built.
It has been used for many different things. It was a place of worship, but it was also used by smugglers to keep an eye out for revenue officers and by the war office during World War II.
After the chapel stopped being used, it was used as storage by the War Office for a few years. In 1904, the War Office partially destroyed it because they didn’t know how important it was historically. In 1911, St. Nicholas Chapel was fixed up after the public complained.
Today, you can walk up to it and go inside if the doors are open. You can also rent it for blessings, but legally, you can’t get married there.
8. Capt. Sir Richard’s Museum
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890) was a famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Victorian Maverick, adventurer, spy, explorer, and translator of the Kama Sutra and 1001 Arabian Nights, among other works.
The Museum costs £8 to get into, and you can only get in when you make an appointment, which can be in the evening. Some of Burton’s things are among the 28 exhibits that are part of a story installation with over 30 voices that takes you through his truly amazing life and makes you wonder why he isn’t better known.
The Museum is in a private home in the centre of St. Ives, Cornwall, UK. It is open all year and was modelled after Burton’s smoking room in Trieste. At night, Moroccan lanterns add to the wonderful atmosphere. During your visit, which lasts about an hour, you will also get free Moroccan mint tea or herbal tea. Plus a chance to discuss Burton further with the Museum’s creator, Shanty Baba.
Don’t think that this Museum will be like any other Museum you’ve been to.
9. Enjoy the Nature walks and coastal scene
The Island in St. Ives isn’t an island. It’s more of a promontory that sticks out from the rest of the town. It’s a lovely place to go. There are places to sit, a lot of grass to have a picnic, and a great path that goes all the way around.
From up there, the views are amazing, and it’s a great place to see animals. There is often a kestrel around, and there are so many small birds in the bushes that look out over Porthgwidden beach.
St. Nicholas Chapel is at the top of the island. The building after that is called the Surfhouse St. Ives, and it is where lots of fun things happen, like the Summer Island Disco. The Coastguard Lookout is the white building at the end of The Island.
St. Ives Head
The rock that looks like a man’s head is called “Man’s Head.” It is on the far west end of Porthmeor Beach. It looks like an old man from some angles. Our kids love to climb the rocks there and it’s a great place to walk. From here, you can see Porthmeor Beach and watch the waves from the side.
Steeple Woodland Nature reserve
On the road to Carbis Bay, turn up the road by the Cornish Arms and stay to the left to the top of the hill. The amazing Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve is here. It is a 40-acre public park, and Knill’s Monument sits on top. It has a beautiful view of St. Ives Bay and is a great place to walk through the woods and heathland.
Anyone can go there for free at any time, and there are volunteer work sessions on Wednesdays.
If you are into nature, I wrote another article about the Eden Project: Unique Dome Greenhouse Attraction in Cornwall (Review).
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