Living in Cornwall we’re never very far from a good day out. Whenever visitors descend upon us we really enjoy showing them our favourite haunts, St Ives being one. There are lots of places to go that don’t have to cost the earth. Most people are aware that a holiday in Cornwall, even if you opt for self-catering will cost as much if not more than a package to Spain, Turkey or Greece. Recently my sister in law arrived and asked to visit St. Ives which was perfect. Weather was cool but sunny and the hordes were yet to arrive.
We drove from Newlyn to Lelant Saltings, which takes around twenty minutes and there we parked the car – £2.50 for the day. This is where you can board the coastal train, providing possibly one of the most spectacular scenic coastal routes in Europe. The train will cost you £4.00 return – reduced rate if you have a rail card. Picking up the train at this point is such a sensible thing to do. If you’ve never visited St. Ives before, parking in the town is not only a nightmare but can also be hugely expensive. The train runs every twenty minutes so you never have to wait long and if you do you can sit on a bench overlooking the Lelant Saltings, a wide tidal inlet and home to an interesting variety of a birds both wading and flying. Bird lovers bring your binoculars.
If the day is clear try and get a seat on the train on the seaward side heading into St. Ives, camera at the ready and be prepared for some breath-taking views. I’ve been taking this trip for over thirty years and still get a buzz every time I step on the train and marvel at the deep blue of the Atlantic and the pristine white of the sandy beaches. The short trip as the little train chuggs along in a half circle around the bay is quite magical.
On this trip we got off the train one stop before St. Ives, at Carbis Bay. A cup of coffee at the Carbis Bay Hotel seemed like a good idea before we set off on our coastal walk to St Ives. The Carbis Bay Hotel sits high above the sandy beach and the old beachside cafe has been replaced with a rather posh looking wooden building offering bistro style lunches. It had probably been eighteen months since we last visited the hotel for coffee, which was always served on a tray and cost no more than £2.00 per person, which I considered a bargain. I noticed that the Carbis Bay Hotel has been under ‘new management’ for a while and many changes have taken place; I should have been on full alert. Our three Americanos cost us £3.50 each; even with the two very nice crunchy biscuits to accompany them I thought that a tad extortionate. But, I suppose someone has to pay for all the new enhancements. Having lived in Conrnwall for ten years I’ve sampled more coffee in more establishments than I care to remember. At today’s prices £1.90 for a ‘proper’ cup of coffee is probably the cheapest you will pay and £2.60 getting up to the dearest. So if I baulk at £3.50 forgive me. Myself and my hubby had a few days in London last month and I don’t recall paying anywhere near that for a coffee … anywhere!
When I’d got over the shock of the price of the coffee we headed off on the coastal pathway accessed at the side of the hotel. There is a bit of a steep incline to get going on the path but people of all ages seem to manage to get up there, even some with walking sticks, so don’t be put off. Once you negotiate a fairly narrow dirt pathway everything opens up and the next twenty minutes will take you along a wide leafy lane with some of the most expensive coastal houses in the area winking at you through lush vegetation on either side. I absolutely love that walk, if only to look longingly at the stunning houses where I’ll probably never live.
Getting into St. Ives the pathway is downward and again not beyond most people. When you reach Porthminster Beach you are walking on the flat. I’d booked ahead for our lunch at The Seafood Cafe, Fore Street. It looks new and trendy with wooden floors and mood lighting. Considering the time of year it was very busy. We’d read about the restaurant when it first opened a couple of years ago but thought it a little pricey. They have a wide selection of local fish in a chiller cabinet from salmon and turbot to prawns and you can choose your fish which they will then cook to order. The menu does offer good old fish and chips with mushy peas, lightly battered fish and hand cut chips, that’s what all three of us ordered. With two bottles of elderflower press juice and a sparkling water our bill came to just under £30.00. Perfect! Great service, gorgeous food.
After lunch we took a stroll through the back streets over to Porthmeor Beach.
St. Ives has been one of the most popular Cornish towns for visitors for many years, which is why we tend to avoid it during the busy summer period. Today as we walked through the cobbled back streets I was pleased to see that even pre-season business is brisk for all the shops both established and new. Chic boutiques, surf shops and a whole variety of eating places seem to be thriving, which is great news. We bought a small bag of home made fudge from one of the many sweet emporiums and sat by the harbour, taking our chances with the seagulls, and ate our dessert while watching the boats bobbing on the deepest blue sea.
St. Ives is one of the best known, best loved haunts of artists the world over and you can spend hours in the galleries just looking. From painting to pottery to knitting, St Ives has it all. For art lovers you’ll be pleased to hear that the Tate St. Ives, overlooking Porthmear Beach has just re-opened after a very expensive make over.
After doing a great deal of pottering in the various art studios we made our way back up to the train station, stopping along the way for a cup of tea at a harbour side café. Sister in law was absolutely delighted with the day and agreed that St Ives was even better than she remembered from back in 1969 when she’d paid her first visit.