Saint Ives Things to Do

  • St. Ives Bay from the harbour
    St. Ives Bay from the harbour
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  • Smeaton Pier
    Smeaton Pier
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  • Things to Do
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Most Recent Things to Do in Saint Ives

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    Porthmeor Beach

    by EasyMalc Updated Mar 7, 2015

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    Portmeor is the largest of St. Ives’ four beaches and the only one not enjoying the protection of St. Ives Bay. Whereas the other three beaches are idea for sunbathing and swimming, Portmeor is better suited to surfing.
    The waves that travel across the Atlantic hit this side of the Cornish coast producing some good surfing conditions, and as a consequence, facilities here cater for those who enjoy the sport including a surf school.
    If you prefer walking to surfing then you can take the short walk around to Carrick Du. This greenstone outcrop resembles a man’s head and is often referred to as such. There are no facilities here but if you return to the beach there’s a beach café half way along. It tends to cater for a younger crowd but if that isn’t quite your scene then behind it the Tate has a very nice café with a terrace overlooking the beach below. Although there is a charge to enter the Gallery there is no charge to visit the café or shop.

    Man's Head
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    The Tate

    by EasyMalc Written Feb 19, 2015

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    The Tate St. Ives attracts a lot of attention, and opinion about its merits or otherwise are very polarised. Opinions are subjective of course, but firstly here are a few facts.
    The gallery was opened by Prince Charles in 1993 to a design by architects Evans and Shalev. Perched above Porthmeor Beach The Tate was designed to celebrate and compliment the work done by St. Ives artists that have given the town such a well known reputation.
    Apart from the gallery the Tate also looks after the Barbara Hepworth Museum and sculpture Garden in the town and a combined ticket can be bought which can save you a bit of money if you want to see both.
    As for the gallery itself there is no permanent collection but special exhibitions that change three times a year. When these exhibitions change the gallery closes to make the appropriate preparations, so it’s worth checking the website to see what’s on and when.
    There are four levels with disabled access to each. The 1st level is named after Patrick Heron who created the large stained glass window here and is where you buy your tickets.
    The shop (level 2) and the café (level 4) are free to enter without a ticket and the galleries are on level 3.
    As regards the galleries there are four rooms plus an upper and lower level around the crescent-shaped gallery 2. What this means in reality is that The Tate St. Ives is probably nowhere is big as you might have expected, although work has started on an extension (Feb 2015).
    So much for the objective, so now let’s turn to the controversial stuff.
    Hailed as a great cultural asset to the town when it opened, I came here not long afterwards to see what the fuss was all about and I have to admit I was completely underwhelmed.
    The items on display left me totally indifferent and it was also very expensive to get in. I wasn’t the only person to feel like that and the Tate soon got a reputation for being elitist.
    That was over twenty years ago, so I thought it was about time I gave it another go.
    Firstly, I would have to say that it’s a lot more welcoming and nowhere near as expensive in real terms as it used to be.
    The galleries, although much better laid out, still seem to include objects that would appeal to a minority of people. I must add that it’s important to know what exhibition is running to see if it suits your taste. I came to see ‘The Modern lens’ which is a photographic exhibition about modernist photography (modern in this sense means from the 1920s onwards). Although I like photography I have to admit that this exhibition done nothing for me at all and I left feeling disappointed once again.
    The Tate has had an enormous number of people come through its doors since it opened and has undoubtedly been a real boost to the town, but it also has to be said that I wonder how many people really enjoy the experience.
    I love the building, but I probably won’t come back in here again except to visit the rooftop café with its superb views.
    Many people complain about how much money has been- and still being - spent on this cultural icon, but it does bring money in to St. Ives, there’s no doubt about that.
    Whether it’s people just being inquisitive or actually enjoying the visit I’m not sure. It’s just down to people’s individual tastes I suppose.

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    The Island

    by EasyMalc Written Feb 18, 2015

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    St. Ives gets a fair number of day visitors and I wouldn’t mind betting that most will go to the beach, have a wander around the harbour and tramp the streets looking for a shop or two to spend their money. Absolutely nothing wrong with that of course, but it would be a shame not to find some time to walk up to ’The Island’ .
    It’s no distance away from the harbour and although it’s uphill, it really isn’t too much of a struggle to get up here. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with some fabulous views along the coastline towards Godrevy Lighthouse and beyond.
    ‘The Island’ in actual fact isn’t an island at all but a promontory which is why it’s also known as St. Ives Head.
    Perched at the top is a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, and is open to visitors when a volunteer is available.
    Looking down eastwards from the chapel towards the Coastwatch station is an old Victorian Battery where it’s still possible to make out the gun emplacements. The building that you see here was the gunners’ quarters.
    Right on the headland the gun emplacement became the foundations for the Coastguard station, but after the Coastguard service closed it down, the National Coastwatch Institution took it over and has been manned by volunteers since 1999.
    Even if you’re not interested in Victorian gun emplacements and the rest of it, this is a great place to bring your Cornish pasty for a picnic with a view!

    The Island from Porthmeor Beach St. Nicholas Chapel Coastwatch Station
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    Porthgwidden Beach

    by EasyMalc Updated Feb 16, 2015

    Excluding Carbis Bay, which is further on around St. Ives Bay, there are four main beaches in St. Ives - the Harbour Beach, Porthminster, Porthmeor and Porthgwidden.
    All these Porths can be confusing and I’d like to be able to tell you how to remember which one’s which - but I can’t. What I can tell you though is the meaning of the word ‘Porth‘, and in this context it means ‘Bay’.
    Porthgwidden is the smallest of these bays and is tucked under ‘The Island’ just a short walk around from the harbour.
    It maybe small but it’s very sheltered and a veritable suntrap. It’s just a nice little cove where you can come and soak up the sun all day while the kids have fun on the beach and in the water. There’s also a café here that will keep you topped up with any refreshments you may need.

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    • Beaches
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    Porthminster Beach

    by EasyMalc Written Feb 15, 2015

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    If you arrive in St. Ives by train the first thing that you’ll see, apart from the platform, is Porthminster beach. It’s a great introduction to the town because it gives people an idea on what to expect from St. Ives.
    It gets its name from the minster that was here up until the 15th century and is a sheltered beach of golden sands that stretch for almost half a mile.
    It’s great for families, because not only is it safe for bathing, but also has facilities such as a café, restaurant, beach huts and a putting green.
    It’s an easy walk into the town as well, but if you’re feeling a bit more energetic there’s a cliff top walk to Carbis Bay.

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    • Beaches
    • School Holidays

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    The Harbour

    by EasyMalc Written Feb 15, 2015

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    Even if you’ve brought the kids away just to play on the wonderful St. Ives beaches, it’s the harbour that you’ll always be drawn back to.
    Protected by the West Pier next to the Lifeboat Station, and the longer Smeaton’s Pier on the opposite side, the harbour is a magnet for both tourists and locals alike.
    Between the two piers are a plethora of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants that will keep everyone amused even if they were to get tired of the view. With artists painting en plein air and boat trips from the harbour it’s almost as this place was built purely for visitors - but of course it wasn’t.
    Mining, quarrying, and of course fishing, all had an important part to play in the prosperity of St. Ives and the harbour would have been used for these different commercial activities. As these industries withered away tourism took over to became the dominant source of income and the harbour gradually changed to what we see today.

    St. Ives Bay from the harbour Smeaton Pier The Lifeboat
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    • Sailing and Boating

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  • High-adrenalin coasteering adventures!

    by manbat Written Jul 25, 2013

    If you're spending any time in west Cornwall, be sure to take a trip with Kernow Coasteering. They are the UK's most westerly provider of this adventure activity, offering coasteering around St. Ives, Lands End and Penzance.

    If you don't know what coasteering is, it is an adventure activity where you combine swimming, scrambling, climbing and cliff jumping to explore a stretch of cliffs, and the cliffs around west Cornwall are simply stunning. It's incredible fun, suitable for all the family, and thanks to the experienced, qualified guides, you can do this activity in safety. They also provide wetsuits and top quality safety equipment.

    Quite simply the best fun you'll have on your holiday!

    Related to:
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    • Adventure Travel
    • Water Sports

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    Go For A Beer - #4 The Lifeboat Inn

    by johngayton Written Oct 15, 2012

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    This pub has an unbeatable location overlooking Harbour Beach and externally is a hell-of-a-looker with its inviting doorway and window looking out onto the view. Internally this is so obviously a pubco pub but, and it is quite a but as normally being a pubco pub would be enough to prejudice my experience, I found this a very warm, comfortable, characterful and welcoming boozer.

    There was a very mixed clientele on the late afternoon I was there which gave the place a pleasant buzz. I think there was a large-screen TV somewhere but that wasn't particularly intrusive. There was a sort of games area with a pool table and there were a lot of people eating but I found a quiet corner at the bar and just enjoyed the overall ambience over the course of a couple of pints and just sort of shot the bull with the barman and an odd Hi and smile with others coming to the bar for drinks.

    OK by now I was pretty laid-back myself and more forgiving of any faults or other shortcomings but I still retain the ability to know when a pub is a pub and yep The Lifeboat is a pub ;-HIC!

    Pub Frontage Harbour Beach View
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    Go For A Beer - #3 The Castle Inn

    by johngayton Written Oct 15, 2012

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    Now this was much more like it!! The Castle is a traditional-looking pub from the outside with its mullioned srtained glass windows through which the diffused subtle lighting, along with the propped open door were immediately inviting. A friendly welcome from the characterful barman (who may actually have been the manager) a good selection of, mostly local, beers and a general laid-back atmosphere all served to make me instantly at home.

    Inside this is an attractive and characterful pub with its low beams, subtle nautical themeing, traditional pub furniture - ie a little bit battered - and best of all bar stools where both the barman and the couple of regulars actually included me in their conversation.

    Definitely a two-pint pub and if I'd had more time could've been a full-on session pub ;-HIC!

    Pub Window
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    Go For A Beer - #2 The Union Inn

    by johngayton Written Oct 15, 2012

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    From the outside this loked like it was going to be a proper pub but inside was a total disappointment. Admittedly I'd dropped in late lunchtime and most people were eating but I didn't get a particularly warm welcome from the barman and the place felt a bit souless - there was no local feel to it.

    If I remember correctly they only had one real beer available, Sharp's Doom Bar, which isn't one of my favourites. The decor and furnishings are modern, but not particularly trendy, except the sofas around the fire, and the attempt at adding character with the old St Ives photos merely make the place even less inviting to my mind.

    So another one where I just had a single pint and moved on.

    The Pub In The Background!
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    Tate St Ives

    by johngayton Written Oct 15, 2012

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    I didn't have time for this on my afternoon visit but I'll definitely make the time for it when I next get down this neck of the woods and probably double up with the Barbara Hepworth museum. It's interesting to note that you get a £1 reduction on the entrance price if you have a public transport ticket and so that's a quid towards one of my beers!

    In the meantime I'll just make do with browsing the website.

    Gallery Entrance
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    Go For A Beer - #1 The Sloop Inn

    by johngayton Written Oct 14, 2012

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    Having stuck to my principle of never having a drink until I've done something either creative, constructive or energetic I reckoned my wanders around the town pretty much fulfilled all three criteria and so it was definitely BEER TIME.

    St Ives' oldest pub is the Sloop Inn, which dates from 1312. It is, of course, an ex-smugglers haunt, as are they all - the whole population of coastal Southwest England was involved in the trade, unless they were wreckers or even both.

    Its present incarnation is as a fishermans' and artists hang out, as well as being a bit of a tourist trap but I suppose my out-of-season visit let me catch it "au naturel" (seeing as I'm being arty) and the tiny public bar is indeed atmospheric and buzzy. The beer was good, although expensive, service was friendly but I found the locals a bit cliquey and so it was only a one pint visit before moving on.

    Nice building though!

    Inn Frontage
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    St Ives Museum

    by johngayton Written Oct 14, 2012

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    Unfortunately this was shut when I visited - it closes down between the start of November until the beginning of April - but it does look like an interesting little local history museum.

    It's only £2 entrance and the exhibits focus on things like the fishing industry, the arrival of the railway, agriculture, mining and various other bits and pieces relevant to the town and the area. It claims to be child and dog friendly and local school pupils get free admission (normally 50p).

    Website has details of opening times etc.

    Closed Museum Frontage
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    Walking The Streets

    by johngayton Written Sep 30, 2012

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    St Ives town centre is a maze of narrow streets, some cobbled, others not and even the main shopping areas of Fore Street, High Street and Treganna are cosily compact. This makes it a delight just to wander and see what you come across - usually a pub or/and an art gallery. It is very accessible too with only a few gentle hills and much of the centre is pedestrianised.

    Corner of Street-An-Pol Westcotts Quay Back Road West Fore Street Barnoon Hill
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    Enjoy The Beaches

    by johngayton Written Sep 30, 2012

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    Even though my only visit, so far, has been a November one I couldn't help but be impressed by the golden-sanded beaches here. There are four distinct stretches of sand, extending over a mile in total, and each has its own character:

    Below the train station there's Porthminster which has its own mini-bay-within-a-bay which makes it ideal for families with half-a-mile of fine sand and safe bathing.

    The harbour itself becomes a beach at low tide and is ideal for watching the working boats and with all the town's facilities close by.

    Heading towards the Island (the promontory jutting out into the sea) there's the cove of Porthgwidden, once again finely-sanded, with its beach huts, cafe and toilets.

    Finally, past the Tate Gallery, there's the more open Porthmeor which is especially popular with surfers, having its own surf school. By all accounts this is the best of the beaches for catching the summer sunsets over the ocean but only having been in winter I can't attest to that.

    All the beaches are Blue Flag standard and during the summer are manned by trained lifeguards.

    Porthminster Beach Harbour Beach Porthgwidden Beach Porthmeor Beach
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    • Surfing
    • Beaches

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