Hotels in St Ives, United Kingdom
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St Ives: an artists' haven
Visit St Ives on the Cornish coast near Penzance and admire the vivid pastel hues radiating from its picturesque harbour that have drawn artists to it since the 19th century. It is little wonder that this quaint ancient fishing village is known as The Jewell in Cornwall's Crown and has become an epicentre for contemporary art.
The coastline around St Ives is amongst the finest in the UK with its golden sandy beaches and secret coves. Whether for leisurely walks or boat-trips or more active pursuits such as surfing and kayaking, the stunning scenery will no doubt enchant you.
An artistic history shrouded in myth
St Ives got its name from an Irish princess and missionary, St Ia. As legend has it, Ia sailed from the Emerald Island to Cornwall in the 5th century on nothing more than a leaf. She then went on to found an Oratory on the spot where the current 15th century church of St Ia stands today. The town, however, only really began to flourish in the middle ages thanks to thriving fishing and mining industries. The peak of St Ives' success didn't come until the 19th century, when worldwide demand for its pilchards (sardines) as well as the tin and copper extracted from the nearby mines reached its peak.
St Ives at this time was also becoming a magnet for British artists, such as Turner and Henry Moore. However, it was the opening of the Great Western Railway in 1877 that attracted them in droves. Not only could artists from far and wide now discover the delights of the harbour for themselves, so could regular tourists. The newly branded Cornish Riviera was born.
A centre for modern day art
One thing that will strike you when you visit today is the amount of private galleries and resident artists there are around St Ives' harbour. Hotels, restaurants and cafes even adorn numerous works on their walls. You simply couldn't escape the art if you wanted to, and it is pretty doubtful you would want to in any case.
The town became a haven for artists in the 20th century, and there are galleries dedicated to two of its leading lights: Barbara Hepworth and Bernard Leach. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Gardens is located where the artist lived from 1949 until her death in 1975 and contains many of her bronze, wood and stone creations. St Ia's Church also boasts a Hepworth original of The Madonna and Child.
The biggest testimony to the importance of art in St Ives though has to be the creation of the Tate Gallery in 1993 – only one of two outside of the capital.
Escape to St Ives
If you're planning a trip to St Ives or simply looking out for some late deals, you have a whole host of hotels and independent B&Bs to choose from in the town. Independently run bed and breakfasts are very popular, as are caravans and luxury country residences or even castles.
St Ives is a six-hour drive from London or three hours by car from Bristol; though, you don't need a car to enjoy this fascinating seaside resort. You can catch the train right into the heart of the town and there is even a branch leading to the villages and beaches along the coast, such as Carbis Bay. You can also find a charming hotel, B&B or self-catering accommodation here within walking distance of the beach.
If you are staying in one of the many guesthouses or hotels in St Ives itself, you can relax in the pavement cafes and restaurants serving traditional Cornish fare and fresh seafood, or enjoy some Cornish Scrumpy in the local pubs. You can also explore the wealth of independent boutiques and high street chains which fill Tregena Place, Fore Street and High Street.
There are many ways of exploring and admiring the craggy Cornish coast from St Ives. You could wander out along the famous St Michael's Way towards Penzance, created for those making the pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostale in North West Spain. Alternatively, you could complete a leg of the incredible 630-mile-long South West Coastal Path towards Hale or Pendeen.
A view from the sea on a boat trip would also give you a different perspective – you may even catch a glimpse of a passing porpoise or dolphin or maybe even a shark or a whale while you're at it! However, to really get up close and personal with the coast, there's no better way than Coasteering. This ever more popular activity enables you to, with the help of a qualified instructor, traverse rocks, wade through its rock-pools, swim through the sea waters and explore caves.
If all of that sounds a bit much, you can just unwind on one of the many beaches and coves that surround St Ives. These include the Blue Flag Portmeor Beach, with its resident surfing school, the calmer Porthminster Beach, with its half a mile of golden sands, or the sandy cove or Porthgwidden.
So whether you visit for a couple of nights in a hotel to get away from it all, or plan an extended stay with the family in self-catering or in a campsite, St Ives and its coastline is packed with activities to keep you amused.