The Pedn Olva is one of the most famous hotels in St Ives, and we found out why during our first visit to town and then decided that we had to stay here at least once in our lives. The following year, we got the opportunity when we decided to splash out on this three star hotel wíth prices like a five star one! Still, it was worth every penny despite some hiccups, and here's why.
Positioned on a cliff right between Porthminster Beach and St Ives harbour, it couldn't be better for when you arrive by train or bus, and you are on easy walking distance to the harbour as well as the beaches. All rooms have a sea view and our room faced the beach whereas some face the harbour. Some have a balcony but ours did not since it was down by the hotel pool. This meant that we had stairs on the outside which made it a bit awkward with a lot of luggage and in rain, but this was a minor inconvenience for being right by the pool. The only more annoying thing was that those stairs were painted a couple of mornings even though it was high season so we had to step sidewards some times. We had read on the internet that the small bathrooms was the major negative issue here and that is what we thought as well. Many European hotels have small bathrooms so the size itself was maybe not so much to argue about, but the shower cubicles were really narrow and hard to even get into if you are above average size. We also wondered why they had no towel heaters but just ordinary racks. It is hard to dry stuff by the sea at the best of times and especially in Cornwall with its Atlantic dampness, and on top of that, the Pedn Olva with its pool is generous with additional pool towels so we had an awful lot of towels to try and dry and had to use the coat hangers instead at one point. On top of that, one of our towel racks decided to come off the wall...as I said, it IS a three star hotel even if it looks like five. The bathroom has cupboard doors and it is almost as if it is an emergency solution to be able to have en suite rooms at all, but then again, I have never before stayed in a hotel where you can do seal spotting from the toilet should you want to :) Apart from the bathroom, the room had a TV with all major UK channels, a writing desk with a kettle and tea things, a hairdryer and a smaller table with two wicker chairs. All nice and clean and very bright and summery cheerful. There was an area for your coats and luggage but no drawers or wardrobe. Our window was huge and we very much enjoyed just looking out.
Being the sort of building it is, there are stairs also to the "inside" rooms so you need to ask in advance if you know this might present a problem to you. The hotel also has a bar and a restaurant open to non-residents. The bar has huge windows opening up to St Ives harbour and I could sit there all day and night and just look out (reception has binoculars). Since Pedn Olva is owned by St Austell Brewery, the great beers from there are served, but also several others and most things you would expect from a bar, including great Cornish bubbly, which can also be bought from the hotel souvenir shop if you like it. The bar serves bar meals until 20.00 and they are small but tasty, if somewhat unhealthy (and I got a very dry piece of chicken). If it is crowded, there is a neighbouring lounge for hotel guests. There are several terraces where you can also have your drinks or just a morning coffee, but there is no waiter service so you buy in the bar. Some face the beach and some face the harbour but all are fantastic. You can drink down by the pool too where there are deck chairs and some tables as well as a dressing room with a nice shower, but then please ask for plastic glasses.
The hotel restaurant is called The Lookout and is known as one of the better in St Ives. The chef who made it famous has left but we still had a great meal where the oil in the vinaigrette was the only thing we wondered about. More about this under restaurant tips. If you want to eat here (from 18.00 most days and with some earlier specials but those specials are then not served in the evening even if they forget to remove the specials menu...), check if you need to reserve a table in high season. The restaurant doubles as breakfast room and breakfast is a buffet with the usual toast, cereals, juices and fruit, but also some cold cuts and croissants. It also includes a cooked Cornish breakfast which was a bit smaller than the ones you get in B&Bs but still both adequate and tasty. You can also get eggs and salmon, or a brioche with yoghurt and honey so there is a lot to choose from here. Breakfast was between 8-9.30 and could have been half an hour more in either direction and it would have been perfect for us when we wanted to catch a really early bus or have a longer lie in, but this was a minor issue and there, just as in the bar, staff were all very cheerful and friendly and even though some were a bit more inexperienced than others, they did their best to find answers and help and in the end they started to feel like friends. You might think that prices here are so high that it is snobby but the really posh people come by car and stay in well-known (perhaps more five star) hotels in the countryside and the atmosphere here is rather one of very relaxed middle class and families in search of a special experience. We had brought clothes for dressing up a few nights, but found that we would not have needed to bring them other than for our own feeling of special occasion.
Unique Quality: Location is what draws you here. There is something special about lying in the heated pool on a day when you don't want to go to the beach (unless you are a surfer who goes in all weathers, and then it feels a bit of a waste to stay here where you could easily just spend a day in the hotel if you already knew St Ives itself). There are other hotels with pools in St Ives, even indoor pools for lousy weather days, but none with this exceptional location with not only sea views but also walking distance to the harbour without having to negotiate the hills above the train and bus station. You area also so close to the water that you can spot seals outside the breakfast room in the morning as well as on the cliffs below the bar in the evening, and this can turn into dolphins if the sea is warm enough...that does not happen in other St Ives hotels but only in self-catering apartments with the same kind of views and no distance to the sea. A marvellous stay, and I cannot wait to go back even if I might not stay here every time because of the very high prices in summer (and the fact that the pool and the many terraces is less of a pull in winter when prices go down).
Directions: Just below the bus station.