St Ives, UK

A Slow Travel Guide To St. Ives, Cornwall

July 06, 2019

A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall

Cornwall has been on my list of places to visit for years but the extortionate price has made it prohibitive. Vacationing in the UK is often often more expensive compared to catching a flight to another country; as terrible as that is for the environment, I can't blame people for choosing the cheaper option (myself included). Holidays in the UK need to become much more affordable without resorting to camping or holiday villages but that's a conversation for another day. We sidestepped the issue by inviting friends on holiday with us. We split the cost of the AirBnB and car rental making the vacation a whole lot more affordable and eco-friendly.

I grew up by the seaside and being able to see the sea from my bedroom window and drinking wine on the beach at night is something I became very much used to; the novelty has long since rubbed off. However, my partner has been a city dweller his entire life, witnessing his excitement over experiencing these things for the first time is a joy. It brings the magic back.

This holiday was about kickstarting summer; we lucked out with the weather, it was beautifully sunny all week and we brought the sunshine back with us too! It's my birthday month (happy Cancer season everyone!) and we'd planned a bunch of outdoor summer activities including ticking a couple of places to visit off my bucket list. This is my first-trip guide to visiting St. Ives and Cornwall in general; where to stay, what to do, and my favourite places to eat and drink.

A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall
A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall

Where To Stay

We rented a two bedroom apartment called The Loft in the centre of St. Ives. It was nestled on a winding little street above a deli. Minimally styled with exposed brickwork, Scandi-inspired furniture, and film decor; the apartment had been recently renovated without robbing it of its period features. There was plenty of room for the four of us with a lovely open plan kitchen and living area. Everything we needed was within a very short walking distance making it easy to navigate the town and find our way to the beaches, harbour, restaurant, and galleries.

Visiting Cornwall isn't cheap but renting an AirBnB instead of a hotel, hiring a car instead of paying for flights, and splitting the cost between four made the week much more budget-friendly. Booking a holiday in late June early July means you can avoid the summer crowds; the streets are quieter (as are the beaches) and the weather is just as good. The Tiny Carpark is an affordable place to park (£12 for 24-hours) and we never had any trouble getting a spot.

A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall
A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall

What To Do

St. Ives is so small, there's not an awful lot to keep you occupied for more than a day; unless, of course, you really enjoy looking at the sea. While the winding streets are a joy to get lost in, there's little else to do except head to the beach with a bottle (or two) of wine, which we did most nights. You might, of course, feel differently; perhaps I just prefer a more adventurous holiday. We spent most of our time elsewhere. Despite the limited activities, there are a few things I recommend doing before exploring outside of the tiny town.

St. Ives is home to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden and Tate Gallery, both of which I highly recommend paying a visit. If your vacation falls on the right week, there's a couple of markets to look out for too: the Farmer's Market and Craft Fair, where you can pick up locally grown produce and handmade goods. Wandering the streets was fun, it's something I recommend doing wherever you go. On the first or maybe second day we wandered a fair bit, discovering St. Nicholas Chapel and scouting out the best beach to relax on.

St Michael's Mount is only a 30 minute drive away, easily visited in a morning or afternoon giving you the rest of the day for other things. It's a small tidal island and a civil parish with a man-made causeway. You can take a risk and wade across the causeway like my friends did or wait for low tide, alternatively you can hop on a boat (it only costs £2). After a long steep climb to the top, there's a garden and castle to explore with a huge lawn to picnic on and enjoy the sun. It's owned by the National Trust so if you have a pass remember to take it; the entry fee is £16 per adult otherwise.

An hour's drive from St. Ives is the Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan, which was the entire reason for the trip for me at least. It's one of those places I've dreamed of visiting for years. Eden Project is a global garden housed in tropical biomes containing the world's largest indoor rainforest. The Lost Gardens of Heligan are 200 acres of rediscovered gardens. It lay abandoned and "forgotten" for hundreds of years before being restored to its former glory. If you know you're going to visit both, you can purchase a combined ticket at a discounted price, and the Advance pass will give you unlimited entry to Eden for a year. I don't recommend attempting to visit both in one day though; we spent an entire day at the Eden Project alone!

A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall
A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall

Where To Eat

Cornwall is known for its pasties and quite a few St. Ives bakeries have vegan-friendly options. I'm not super keen on them but out of the two I tried, my favourite was from Warren's Bakery. If you have a sweet tooth, I've heard The Yellow Canary Cafe has a pasty with a sweet apple and blackcurrant filling and other vegan treats too I believe. I sorely regret not tasting a sweet pasty!

If you're a vegan looking for ice cream you're going to miss out. There's nothing like the disappointment of seeing a sign advertising vegan ice cream only to find out it's sorbet. I had to wait until I visited the Eden Project to get my mint chocolate ice cream fix (it was worth it!) If you're staying in St. Ives, try the dark chocolate sorbet from Willy Waller's. It's delicious and, if I closed my eyes, I could just about convince myself it was ice cream...

For dinner, I recommend The Rum & Crab Shack. As with most St. Ives restaurants, vegan options are limited but the 'tofish and chips' was excellent and I'd eat it all again. Aside from The Bean Inn, an entirely vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant, most places serve up burgers and chips for their vegan patrons. I ate a decent Moving Mountains burger at Hub (it was a little heavy on the sauce though) and if I'd had more time I would have liked to have tried the Blas Burgerworks menu, which has a few different options.

While we had drinks with our evening meal, we didn't really hang out in any bars or cafes so I don't have any recommendations on that front. Instead, we preferred to head to the beach with a bottle of wine from Johns - The Liquor Cellar. It had a great range of both red and white wines, beers, ciders, and spirits.

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A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall A Guide To Visiting St Ives Cornwall

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