6 Reasons Why You Must Visit St. Ives

St. Ives is known as one of Cornwall’s most famous destinations. It’s won multiple awards for its beaches and for being a great family holiday spot. All this makes it hugely popular – and perhaps for an introvert/socially anxious traveler, not a seemingly attractive option. But! I am here to tell you, St. Ives is worth the hype. There are at least 6 reasons why you must visit St. Ives, including its beauty, fantastic beaches, cute shops, and wonderful gallery.

That being said, if big crowds aren’t your thing, I would not recommend going in the height of tourist season – June to September, according to my new St. Ives friend Claire, is a bit brutal. The crowds are intense; everyone wants to be at the harbour, and in the shops and restaurants.

When I was in the town though, it was mid-November, there were absolutely no crowds, but all the restaurants, pubs, and shops were open and happy to have visitors. Claire told us that her favourite time in St. Ives is actually February to March, because it is crisp, cool, and sunny, with almost no crowds of tourists at all. So if the idea of hoards of people freaks you out a little, don’t fret, but perhaps choose a shoulder season to visit instead. (This is the case in loads of places. The pier at Brighton was way easier to manage without the crowds – check it out!)

Let’s dive in! Here are 6 reasons why you must visit St. Ives, Cornwall:

It has a great modern art museum

The cafe at the Tate, St. Ives

Most art aficionados are familiar with the Tate in London. But did you know there is a Tate cousin right here in little old St. Ives? I can attest to this, and it really is lovely. The building itself is beautiful, with rounded walls and all the windows focused on the view out to sea, bringing the ocean into the building. On the top floor is the cafe and shop, a perfect place to look over the town and hopefully spot a rainbow. And the art includes some of the masters, including Picasso and Pollock. We escaped the rain and fled into the Tate, and what a great choice for a hideaway.

Visit the Tate website here

Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10:00-4:20

Cost: £7.50-£12.50, free for children under 18

The (fully functional) harbour is really lovely

St Ives working harbour

I have heard some say that the St. Ives harbour is one of the most beautiful in the UK, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment. Even more impressive is that it continues to be a true working harbour; it isn’t just there for show! You can walk out to the lighthouse on the point and watch the boats come in. Or, enjoy your ice cream on a bench while watching the fishermen work – and make sure a seagull doesn’t steal your snacks!

There are so many gorgeous, white-sand beaches

White sand beaches in St. Ives

Really. So, so many. As we were on the train leaving St. Ives, we saw EVEN. MORE. BEACHES. If you’re a beach-lover, this is the place to be. The dogs were happily frolicking, and the absolutely bonkers athletes were out in the water with (and without…) their wetsuits, swimming and surfing. I stood on the shore shivering just watching them, but this is clearly a water sport paradise. I can imagine in the summer the sand would just be covered in families, but in November, it was lovely and calm, with usually only the dogs enjoying running free on the sand.

Looking for a place to stay in Cornwall? Check out The Alverton in Truro, a boutique hotel in a former convent!

Sweet shops and sweeter shopkeepers

St. Ives Bookshop
St. Ives Bookshop

St. Ives has quite clearly embraced the tourists, but the little independent shops haven’t lost their charm. From postcards to art, crafts to bath and body products, you could find something for everyone on your list and then some. We particularly enjoyed St. Ives Co. right on the harbourfront, and had a lovely chat with the shopkeeper, Claire, who was keen to give us the inside scoop on St. Ives! Go check it out if you get a chance, and say hi to Claire, from me.

You get great views from St. Ives Head and St. Nicholas Chapel

Rachel looking out from St Nicolas Chapel

Any headland will often yield lovely views, but the scenery in St. Ives is just fantastic, so heading up the hill to St. Ives head is truly worth it. You also get a great perspective on the whole area; you can see behind you, back to the main beach and the Tate Gallery, and ahead of you to the harbour. The history on St. Nicholas Chapel is well worth learning – check out the poster at the bottom of the hill for details.

St. Ives Connects to the South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path, St. Ives

The South West Coast Path is Cornwall’s answer to Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail, or Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Many miles of trail circling the coast connect all through Cornwall to allow you to walk round the whole peninsula. Different communities link up to different parts of the trail, and you can access part of the trail from St. Ives – in fact, right around St. Ives Head! It’s a great way to connect your travels to other parts of Cornwall. I’ve ticked off parts of the South West Coast Path in Maenporth, Falmouth, St. Ives, and Plymouth, and it just really adds something special to a trip to follow the coastal path when you can.

With 6 reasons you must visit St. Ives, and zero reasons not to, surely the choice has been made! Have you been to St. Ives? What would you add to this list?

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