Seven Reasons to Visit St. Ives

View of Porthminster beach, St Ives

© Shutterstock

Porthminster Beach, St Ives

View of Porthminster beach, St Ives

© Shutterstock

The light

The glowing and ever changing luminescence of the sea and sky is incomparable. It is like a constantly revolving kaleidoscope ranging from cerulean through jade to aquamarine, even Caribbean blue. Utterly mesmerising and you don't have to leave your deck chair to appreciate it.

St Ives School of Painting

No wonder, the special quality of light has drawn painters since J.M.W. Turner to St Ives. The extension of the Great Western Railway to West Cornwall in the late 1800s, made the remote town more accessible and even more appealing. Pioneering artists such as Ben Nicholson and Dame Barbara Hepworth were drawn to the town and achieved international prominence.

From the early 1940s a new group of artists arrived and were inspired to use the shapes, forms and colours of the West Cornwall landscape as a source for much of their work. Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Peter Lanyon together with the pioneering  potter, Bernard Leach, put St. Ives' name on the map for modern and abstract developments in British art.


With vast expanses of fine white sand, the beaches of West Cornwall really do resemble the Caribbean, except the temperature of the sea is, at best, bracing. St. Ives is flanked by Porthminster and Porthmeor beaches, both of which have superb sea-front restaurants with soaring gorse and flower-covered cliffs behind. Arrive early and you may have a beach to yourself.

The Tate St. Ives

Opened in 1993 on the site of a former gasworks overlooking Porthmeor Beach and the Atlantic Ocean, the gallery exhibits the Tate collection of art from the St. Ives School and contemporary exhibitions. The exterior reflects the natural forms of the coastline and, in reference to the history of ceramicists in St Ives, the building is clad in ceramic tiles with blue and green glazes that capture the ever-changing Cornish weather and blend into the hues of the sea. The roof terrace cafe has stunning views and a good menu.

Barbara Hepworth garden

Barbara Hepworth set up her studio in the heart of St. Ives, where it is now the most delightful intimate museum and sculpture garden with more than 20 sculptures laid in position by Hepworth herself. The garden was designed with the help of a friend, composer Priaulx Rainier. The artist’s summer house and greenhouse containing her collection of cacti alongside sculptures and some original furniture is a lovely place for peaceful contemplation.

Leach Pottery

The Leach Pottery Museum, the original home and work place of revered potter Bernard Leach, is a must-visit for ceramics fans. To gain a better insight into how potters work, visit the clay room, the throwing room with kick wheels and Japanese climbing kiln. Many of the most revered British potters trained here and the shop sells the works of Leach Potters and individual makers.

Art shopping

Kitsch souvenirs aside, St. Ives is a good place for would-be art collectors. The Porthminster Gallery has a superb collection of contemporary potters working locally, including Charlotte Jones whose handmade ceramics with thrown bases are made from local clays, based on her observations of the local landscape and natural objects. 


The Restaurant at Porthminster Beach Cafe

A sea-facing 1930s beach house serving up Cornish fare, fished in the next bay, foraged or picked from their garden. The Dover Sole is most impressive, prepared en papillote with samphire, and don't miss the succulent grilled lobster caught in neighbouring Porthmeor Bay.

Source Kitchen

A Georgian bow-fronted restaurant in The Digey serves up delicious sharing plates like pulled Cornish lamb with feta and samphire and Cornish new potatoes bathed in seaweed butter.

Porthmeor Beach Cafe

Literally right on the beach with the option of outdoor cabin seating (complete with heating) and a hint of Asian inspiration mixed with ultra-local produce in memorable dishes such as hake with clams and mussels.