[skip to content]

St Ives & Cornwall

St Ives (Cornish: Porthia)

St Ives is a seaside town in the far west of Cornwall with something for everyone: holidaymaker, artist, surfer, walker and historian. St Ives Harbour

Since the middle ages St Ives was economically dependant on fishing, which has bequeathed it a picturesque port to complement the ocean-reflected clear blue light which brought many artists to the town. A branch of the Tate Gallery, as well as the Barbara Hepworth Museum, Bernard Leach Pottery and many other galleries now attract those interested in art.

With the decline in fishing St Ives is now primarily a holiday resort, and the warren of cobbled alleys around the harbour has seen the old stone fisherman's cottages converted into quality guest houses, restaurants and craft shops.

Boasting several blue flag beaches and with easy access to the South West Coastal Path, St Ives is reached by one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world.

The narrow cobbled streets of St Ives

History and Geography

St. Ives is reputedly an anglicised corruption of the name Saint Ia, who landed from Ireland at the nearby port of Hayle in about 460 A.D. and built an oratory at the site of the present Parish Church of St Ives.

The construction of the branch line in 1877 brought major changes to St. Ives. Victorian holidaymakers were now able to visit the town, leading to significant construction.

Porthmeor beach is the principal surfing beach, separated by 'the Island' (a rocky hill with a cliff-top chapel) from the smaller Porthgwidden beach. Another beach in the town, Porthminster, which is gently sloping and family-friendly, points towards St Ives Bay. Steep terrain is the primary feature of the outer, mainly residential, part of town which is where the Old Vicarage is located.

Art in St. Ives

Although St. Ives had attracted artists and had its own School of Painting since the late nineteenth century it wasn't until Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood joined the recently formed St. Ives Society of Artists that the town's reputation as an artists' colony was more widely recognised. Barbara Hepworth settled in St. Ives in 1939 and also joined the Society, and then in 1948 along with Ben Nicholson and Peter Lanyon led the breakaway of abstract artists from their figurative counterparts to form the Penwith Society of Arts.

Opened in 1993, the Tate St Ives gallery overlooks Porthmeor beach and displays modern and contemporary art by local, national and international artists. Barbara Hepworth wanted her Trewyn studio and adjacent garden to be open to the public and so have been in the care the Tate since 1980 and are now an integral part of Tate St. Ives.

Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada settled in St Ives in 1920 and built their pottery on the bank of the Stennack river near the Old Vicarage. The work produced by Leach had a strong Japanese influence from his friendship with Hamada and his many trips to Japan. The kiln in the Leach Pottery, which was still working well into the 1970s, was built by a Japanese kiln engineer and was the first of its kind in Britain.

St Ives Transport

St Ives has its own scenic branch line, built in 1877, which runs a regular service along the coastal cliffs and connects at St Erth for the main London to Penzance line.

The town also has a regular National Express Coach service to London, Heathrow and the rest of the UK. The nearest airports to St Ives are Newquay, Plymouth and Bristol.

St Ives and the Old Vicarage are the perfect staging point for trips to the Isles of Scilly, with easy access out of town to Penzance for journey by ferry and 'plane.

Local buses are reasonably frequent and taxi cab services are very convenient and reasonably priced.

The Old Vicarage is ideally placed for visiting Land's End, Penzance & St. Michael's Mount, the Minack Theatre, the Eden Project and the Isles of Scilly because, being located on the edge of town (near the Leach Pottery), there is no need to negotiate the quaint, picturesque but very narrow streets of St. Ives town centre.

View of Cornwall's Rugged Coast

Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow)

Cornwall benefits from the mildest climate in Britain and consequently was the obvious choice for the location of the Eden Project. This sub-tropical climate has produced gardens unique in Britain such as the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Trebah, both easily visited from St. Ives within a day.

Cornwall's striking granite cliffs and rugged terrain are tempered by the abundance of beautiful flora making the the South West Coastal Path a unique experience.

Cornwall is rapidly developing a reputation as a place to visit the theatre with unique venues such as the Minack and the youth and enthusiasm of the Kidz R Us Youth Theatre in St. Ives.

Supplying much of the world's tin and copper for the past 4,000 years, Cornwall contributed significantly to Britain's Industrial Revolution and advanced the technology of mining substantially. As a result of this the mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon have recently become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mining heritage is both visually stunning, as seen at Botallack with its cliff-edge chimney stacks, and fascinating as evidenced at Geevor Tin Mine, where the mine workings can be viewed and a guided underground tour taken.