Saint Ives Things to Do

  • St. Ives Bay from the harbour
    St. Ives Bay from the harbour
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    Smeaton Pier
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Best Rated Things to Do in Saint Ives

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    The Eden Project

    by carlrea Written Jan 12, 2005

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    Even if you are not into plants, gardening or anything of botanical nature even then still give the Eden Project a go. Eden is a symbol of regeneration, bringing life and community where there was none and i have to say from my perspective an extremely peaceful place to be although it does get rather hot and steamy inside and you have to be fairly fit on some of the steeper slopes as the heat can get to you. I wouldn't say you need a full day but certainly put aside half a day to enjoy it and relax. oh and why not sit and have a nice coffee and a meal at the lovely restaurant at the end of it.

    All the food incidentally is grown locally and they also cater for vegans and gluten free diets!

    Eden Project
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    Goonhilly earth Station

    by carlrea Written Jan 12, 2005

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    You will either love or hate this place (my friend hated it incidentally) as i am interested in telecommunications and all things related i simply loved this place. it is situated near Helston on the beautiful Lizard Peninsula and it reminds you of something out of science fiction but th etruth of teh matter it is a little more down to Earth. Goonhilly is the largest satellite earth station in the world.
    With the ability to transmit to every corner of the globe via space, and through undersea fibre optic cables, Goonhilly simultaneously handles millions of international phone calls, emails, and TV broadcasts. There is tons to do and you can go on a guided tour which helps as they tend to make things a little clearer and help you understand a little more what goes on at Goonhilly. The largest dish 'Merlin' has a diameter of 32 metres and was responsible for carrying the 'Live Aid' concert to over 2 billion people in over 100 countries

    Nope! not looking for E.T
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    Tate St Ives

    by londonbabe Updated May 28, 2005

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    For those of you used to the vast galleries of Tate Britain, or the monster space of Tate Modern, Tate St Ives will come as a bit of a surprise! Unless you are a true afficionado of whichever exhibition is on, you shouldn't need more than an hour or so to visit the one set of galleries.
    However, do allow at least half an hour to visit the cafe on the top floor. This has superb views out over the beach, or over the neighbour's back gardens, with seagulls nesting in rooftops.
    Because the gallery is so small, the space closes completely when they are re-hanging, so do check the site to make sure it's going to be open when you visit. However, the cafe stays open.
    There's also the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden which I have to admit, I didn't visit. Not quite sure why - the Cornish pace of life overtook me and I decided one event per morning was quite enough!

    Opening Hours
    March - October Monday - Sunday 10.00 - 17.30
    November - February Tuesday - Sunday 10.00 - 16.30

    It's the building in the middle ..
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    Visit the chapel on the island

    by londonbabe Written Jun 1, 2005

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    The large mound at the northern tip of St Ives is known as 'The Island', for some reason, even though it's not. It is, however, a wonderfullly scenic addition to the St Ives panorama, with the coastguard station at the far end and this small chapel perched right on top. It's an easy climb to the top, and waking round the chapel gives you great views back over St Ives and, northwards, out across the Atlantic. Watch out for the wind though! It blows right round the building and can be very chilly!
    Apparently it used to be used as a base for 'the Preventative Men', on the lookout for smugglers.

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    Seal Island and other boat trips

    by Sjalen Updated Apr 8, 2010

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    St Ives Pleasure Boat Association can take you on various boat trips around the coast wheather permitting. With the old lifeboat James Stevens you can go on an hour long guided tour, whilst they also offer fishing trips and longer trips to Godrevy Lighthouse (of Virginia Wolf fame) and Seal Island where apart from Atlantic grey seals you might also be lucky enough to spot dolphines along the way if the conditions are right (read: warm enough). Due to the tidal water differences in the harbour, you often have to walk out onto the sands to board the various boats if it is in the middle of the day, or walk down the narrow stairs from the pier at times so wear sensible shoes.
    Boat trips are announced on boards along the harbour front for specific details and bookings.

    Related to:
    • Sailing and Boating
    • Photography
    • Birdwatching

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    Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

    by Sjalen Written Apr 7, 2010

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    If Tate was a disappointment, Hepworth's house took us by complete surprise and I can honestly say that I had what can best be described as an almost religious experience in the tranquil gardens. We came first thing in the morning on a rainy day and were on our own for the first half hour and got a good feeling for what was Yorkshire born sculptress Hepworth's own home once she got to buy it after some years as an artist in St Ives. The garden is surrounded by thick stone walls and you can only hear the seagulls in the distance. The rest is just peace and quiet apart from neighbouring birds in trees and you can visit her old greenhouse and sit in an old chair and just soak up the atmosphere which is just what I did once I had seen the house itself which has a biographic exhibition on Hepworth downstairs and an indoor gallery with wooden sculptures and similar in what was her living room studio upstairs. Then I strolled around the garden to look at her huge sculptures as well as her guest house left just as it was when she lived here. The most moving thing was otherwise the workshop, also in the garden, where her coats and tools hung neatly and slabs of stone stood on the floor. Simple and marvellous. Our daughter happily modelled things with clay you could buy for children in an activity pack and she got so inspired she continued this when we got home. If this was not already a world class museum, I would give my right arm to be able to buy the wonderful house and garden as it speaks to you in a way few places do.
    Visit it the same day as Tate Gallery if you intend to see both, as then you get a discount.

    Sculpture garden The studio inside The workshop The greenhouse All hiding inside these thick walls...
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    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits

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    WALK SOME OF THE SOUTHWEST COASTPATH

    by Tricky_Dicky69 Written Jun 17, 2007

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    The Southwest Coastpath runs right through St Ives so if you fancy a walk then you have a choice of 2 directions. Our walk from Newquay ended in St Ives so I haven't been along the path to the west but I'm told that it is very rugged with great views but quite hilly.

    The path heading east runs along the cliffs through Carbis Bay and on towards Hayle. The path is fairly easy going with only a few minor climbs to negotiate. If you don't want to walk both ways you could take the train one way. If you catch the train from St Ives to Lelant Saltings there is a pub just round the corner for a quick pint before the walk back into town. The walk is probably about 3 - 4 miles and has some great views across St Ives bay towards Hayle beach.

    VIEW FROM THE SOUTHWEST FOOTPATH VIEW FROM THE SOUTHWEST FOOTPATH VIEW FROM THE SOUTHWEST FOOTPATH VIEW FROM THE SOUTHWEST FOOTPATH
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    • Hiking and Walking
    • Backpacking

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    Down(a)long

    by Sjalen Written Apr 7, 2010

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    Downalong is the old fishing part of St Ives that you logically find down by the harbour and it is a network of narrow streets with fishermans' cottages huddling their sides. Turn the wrong corner and you will feel the wind on a brisk day out on what is in fact the beginning of a small peninsula between the beaches. The cottages used to be full of locals but today many of them are sadly abandoned for most of the year and used as holiday homes either for the lucky (and rich!) owners or let to tourists. Those that are lived in all-year-round have often been turned into art galleries and studios and you will find that every little boat shed here seems used for someone to live in during high season. The surfing tourists seem particularly keen on renting here and that's understandable since you are close to the major surfing beach Porthmeor, and some flats even overlook the beach. Everywhere you go you see wetsuits hung out to dry. It's a shame that the locals cannot afford to live here anymore and the whole thing reminded me a lot of the situation in the Yorkshire Dales but a very pretty area it is nevertheless.

    Salubrious Terrace England...or Greece? Norway - yup, that's the name
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Surfing
    • Sailing and Boating

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    St Ives Parish Church

    by Sjalen Updated Apr 8, 2010

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    Also called Church of Saint Ia, the patron saint of St Ives who leant her name to the town, this is the main church. St Ia came from Ireland or Wales and you find a sculpture of her by the altar but the church is also dedicated to Saints Peter and Andrew. There has probably been a church here since around 600 AD but today's building is from 1410-34. The tower is its most striking feature to visitors and is made of local granite from the nearby village of Zennor which was taken here by boat. A Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the form of "Madonna and Child" can be seen in the church which is also well known for its nicely carved pews, its painted ceiling, and its 15th century baptismal font. Sunday is of course service day but there are also a lot of organised evening concerts and such here.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture

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    Tate St Ives

    by Sjalen Written Apr 7, 2010

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    Since the Tate Gallery spread out of London, St Ives got an annex 1993 on account of being one of England's really famous art towns with hundreds of people coming for art holidays in town apart from the more established artists already living here. The strange cinema-looking gallery is built on what was the former town gas works which were bombed during the war so the site became vacant in the modernisation which followed. It lies on a slope just above Porthmeor Beach. It has a café on the top floor with views over the lower parts of St Ives as well as the beach itself. We never tried it as there was a queue and waitresses looked stressed, but we had a wander out to its terrace for those great views. Sadly there were no lockers or anything so if you have a backpack, you have to lug it around with you, and the same goes for your coat.
    The gallery itself was rather disappointing to us apart from the wonderful Barbara Hepworth sculptures in the atrium. We came on a rainy day when everyone had the same idea (and it got tremendously hot) but even crowds aside, the exhibitions were too odd and uninspiring for us, with a few exceptions. I had expected at least something famous and quite a bit of local art and its history but there was only Alfred Wallis (buried in the cemetery next door) to represent the latter group and his naive paintings were not my kind of thing I'm sad to say. Katie Moran with her almost Chinese paintings were nice but some huge installations with projections and letters on white walls I just thought was pretentious. Still, these belonged to the temporary exhibition 2009 and you might be luckier and get to see inspiring things. As for us, we finished off in the museum shop which is just as fabulous as in other Tate galleries with fun note books and lots of art literature, cards, things on architecture, film...you name it. If you want to visit Tate, you can buy a combined ticket with the Barbara Hepworth Museum if you visit both in the same day which is perfectly possible.

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits

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    St Ives Lifeboat

    by Sjalen Updated Jul 30, 2010

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    Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI for short) has lifeboats in selected harbour towns all over Britain and relies on voluntary help and donations to finance its activities, not least rescuing people in trouble at sea. You recognise their navy blue and orange boats easily and here at St Ives, there has been a lifeboat station for 165 years or so, since this is a tricky bit of coastline to navigate with various reefs and undercurrents. To get to know more about the history, medals received for bravery and spectacular rescue actions, head for the town museum (see tip), but to see the boat itself when it is in, head for the lifeboat station at one end of the harbour any weekday during office hours, when you get to see the boat out of the water as long as it is not on a mission. There is also frequent practice runs and "wash days" when it is taken out and launched via its own slipway, something which attracts the crowds in the harbour and is a fascinating sight since various antennaes and things on the boat have to be folded up to get it into action mode, and it is taken into the water by its own caterpillar vehicle. Next to the boat hall itself is a shop where you can support RNLI through buying useful souvenirs.

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    • Sailing and Boating

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    Porthmeor Beach

    by Sjalen Updated Jul 30, 2010

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    Porthmeor is the biggest of the St Ives beaches and also the one most suitable for surfing since it is facing outwards towards the wild Atlantic and the waves here can get quite forceful. Due to this and its north facing position, the water is also quite cool and wetsuits are worn by most. I personally had problems standing upright one day at quite shallow stretches so this is for people who can swim and knows to go with the flow without panicking so to speak, there are also suddenly appearing little holes in the sand and if you put your foot on those at the same time as a wave breaks, you will notice.

    During the summer season, there are lifeguards here all day long and you can see where they think it is safe to swim by their red and yellow flags and this is where families surf with childrens body boards and such. They also put up black flags for the more experienced surfers where the rest of us do well to stay away if we don't want to be run over by the fast and furious. The positioning of these of course vary depending on wind direction and weather patterns for the day, and the surf this gives. Red flags are for the places where you shouldn't swim at all but that's only there on extreme days and for instance with specific tide. You notice a big difference in high and low tide on this beach and the life guards move their flags accordingly of course.

    This is our favourite beach in St Ives since it is wild and scenic and with the ever changing Cornish weather you also get some great pictures here such as the one on my intro page. It is also a favourite since my daughter has discovered surfing here, first with body board (easily bought in several places in town) and then with a real board. At the right side of the beach towards St Nicholas Chapel in the distance is a reef where at low tide you can see the top of the remaining boiler from a wrecked ship. Even when the tide is high you have quite a lot of beach to walk on here so there is no risk of getting cut off as such, but still be aware of the incoming tide. By the roadside near Tate Gallery at the back is a toilet block where you can get changed if you do not belong to those lucky enough to have rented a beach hut by the surf school which is also back here and where you can rent wetsuits and book lessons (our daughter loved her lessons here with qualified instructors and this is something we should have given her already at the start). Up here you also find a café at beach level, selling fresh juices, other drinks, snacks and beach toys, and with a small restaurant at street level above it (see tip).

    Surfers Looking towards St Nicholas Chapel Lifeguards surf too you know!
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    • Family Travel
    • Surfing
    • Beaches

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    Porthminster Beach

    by Sjalen Updated Apr 8, 2010

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    Porthminster is perhaps the most famous beach in St Ives since it is the one featuring in most tourist brochures and also the one closest to the railway station. In fact, it is so close that you see it the minute St Ives appears in front of you on the train. A lot calmer waves here than at Porthmeor means that surfing here is only done by small children on body boards and not particularly fast. Most families just picnic, swim and play games here and the cheerful beach is perhaps the one looking mostly like you imagine a holiday beach to look. There is also often entertainment for children in high season, as well as boat rental. A shop selling beach games and toys can also assist you with pumping up inflatable things and they rent out parasols. At the town end you will find a café selling snacks and ice cream whilst further on there is a famous restaurant where booking is a must if you want to secure a table (see tip). If you don't manage to book, this also has a fast food option at beach level downstairs with fish & chips, pasties and the like. Behind the beach is an adventure golf course and as already said, all this is just a couple of minutes stroll from the train. At Porthminster it is also possible to start/end a scenic hike through the green hills along the railway line to or from Hayle.

    Beach shop View back towards the harbour
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    • Beaches
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    St Ives Museum

    by Sjalen Updated Apr 8, 2010

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    An interesting town museum given the size of this small town - it has had its fair share of adventure and that's whats shown here in the form of exhibitions on tin mining, flash floods and not least wrecked ships and huge oil spills. Naturally, there are a lot of ships models and such in this old boathouse but there is also room for St Ives during WWII, old style clothes and St Ives social life throughout times, a mineral collection and some old automatic models on mining where 20p will show you things in action. There is a bit on the railways in western Cornwall and on craftmanship in town. Since it is all run by volunteers and in an old boathouse, the house has not been adapted to wheelchair users and you need to climb stairs to get in (see photo). There are also no toilet facilities for visitors and the museum is small but with a lot of information so you may want to notice this (nearest public ones are by the pier). On the other hand, it costs next to nothing to get in and children can buy various themed leaflets with questions to look for answers to so it is a good place to keep them busy for a rainy hour too.

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    • Sailing and Boating

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    Geevor Tin Mine - A World Heritage

    by Sjalen Updated Apr 9, 2010

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    Not in St Ives but in Pendeen on the way to St Just and Land's End, this is still very much a "must see" and easily done even by bus (those to Land's End stop here but there is also the detour via Penzance in low season). Cornwall is well known for its tin mining and traces of it are everywhere in the landscape so it would be a shame to miss all this local history just because you want to surf all day. These days Cornish mining even has World Heritage status.
    Geevor opened in 1909 after merging with other mines around it, and was one of the biggest employers on the whole Penwith peninsula until it finally closed in 1991 when the international tin price had fallen too much for politicians to want to save it. Luckily, it was possible to open the mine to visitors instead a few years later and it has since become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. We decided to spend one of the rainy days here and were not disappointed. The bus that took us here also offered a return ticket including entrance to the mine and off we went.

    To start with, there is a general mining exhibition in the entrance building but we were eager to see the underground part first whilst there were only a few visitors. We therefore skimmed this and went on to the Mill where you get to wander through a set course on your own along the machinery where minerals where shaken and sorted. At the end, you end up in the area where the underground tours start (and where kids can also do some mineral panning) and you don a hard hat and protective coat before entering a 17th century mine shaft with a former miner as your guide. This part was smaller than I expected coming from a mining country myself, but it was fun to walk through what was older than things I've come across at home in Sweden. If you are claustrophobic you might want to consider it twice but don't worry in general, I'm a big lass and I could climb through it all though low and narrow. Afterwards, it was fascinating to see how swallows had made the mine their home and the guide pointed out nests and we got to see ancient parents flying in and out of it with food before we returned uphill to the rest of the mine. In future, it is hoped that more modern sections of the mine will be opened to the public (there are sections going underneath the Atlantic nearby and all sorts) but so far a lack of funds have stopped the security and comfort work needed for this to happen. Let's see if a bit of Lottery money and regional development aid can do it eventually.

    The Victory Shaft is perhaps the most visible thing on the site and seen from the road and here you can see the waiting room where miners would await their turn to go down the mine, perhaps with cup of tea. The rainy day certainly added to the atmosphere. When we had looked at it as well as rooms for rescue operations and first aid, tool repairs and such, we entered the most moving part which is The Dry. This is where workers signed in, got changed and washed, and what is so moving is that things have been left like they were, as if the workers are all just on a tea break. Lockers with stickers, coats on doors and the peculiar green soap in the spartan showers all add to a feeling of sadness that this was all left to die. You can write messages to the mining guides in a book here and many have done which shows how moving it all is. The walls are also full of boards with schedules for dynamite jobs down certain shafts and things and it brings it all home somehow...

    After this, we needed a bit of cheering up and went for the excellent Mineral museum that has been created next door and which has the story on what is actually mined in Cornwall but also elsewhere. You get to study all kinds of rocks with mineral and then come to rooms with information on society in general around the Cornish mines. What the tin was used for, what women and children did in the villages and for the mines...excellent stuff and it also had a hands on section for children and a film showing the mine in action. When we had exhausted ourselves, we meandered back to the entrance via the huge machinery running it all, and ended up outside in the very good souvenir shop and restaurant. We never tried the food since we had a bus back to catch, but it looked nice and the shop was full of useful things that you actually WANT to buy, including literature on Cornwall.

    Mining by the Atlantic Ocean - entrance view Victory Shaft
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    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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