St Ives (c) Lewis Clarke
St Ives (c) Lewis Clarke

St. Ives successfully brings together multiple traditions as a fishing port, seaside resort, and artist colony. The area is blessed with superb coastal scenery and sandy beaches which draw the "spade and bucket brigade" by the thousands. Also drawn, this time by the mild climate and wonderful Cornish light, are artists of every description. St. Ives has a proud history as a centre of art, particularly avante-garde and abstract art, a fact recognise by the establishment here of the Tate St. Ives, a branch of the Tate Gallery of London. Nearby is the studio where sculptress Barbara Hepworth worked, and a sculpture garden of her own design is open to visitors.

The sea at St. Ives is a startling sight to first time visitors; it is gloriously clear, almost tropical; you would be forgiven for thinking you had been magically transported to a lagoon in the South Pacific. The whole of West Cornwall is blessed with excellent sandy beaches, and St. Ives is no exception. Porthmeor is good for surfing at most times, but for quieter relaxation St. Ives harbour itself offers a clean stretch of golden sand. Other well-visited beaches are at Porthminster, Carbis Bay, and Porthkidney.

For centuries life at St. Ives revolved around the harbour, and most natives were involved in fishing. The old part of the town, near the harbour, is a maze of winding, narrow streets and cobbled alleys, but everywhere you turn you willl see the flowers which have garned St. Ives sevaral international awards and numerous "Britain in Bloom" honours. Public gardens and parks showcase blooms of every description, and make St. Ives come alive with colour at almost any time of year.

Throughout St. Ives you will see many works of art by Barbara Hepworth, donated by the sculptress to her adopted town. For contemporary artists, visit Back Road West, otherwise known as "Downalong", where artist's studios line the road. At Norway Square the St. Ives School of Painting holds outdoor lessons in the summer, and there are regular exhibitions of art.

Attractions to visit include the St. Ives Museum, where you can explore the early history of the area, and Smeaton's Pier, built in 1770. At the beginning of the pier is St. Leonard's Chapel, where fishermen would pause to pray before setting out to sea. They paid the chapel friar in fish! Also popular with local sailors was St. Nicholas' Chapel, used by fishermen since the 16th century, but also used by "preventive men" to keep a close watch out for smugglers.

The oldest church in St. Ives is the parish church, which was begun in 1434 and boasts one of the tallest towers in Cornwall. The church bears an unusual dedication to a trio of saints; Andrew, Peter, and Ia. The latter was an Irish priestess who is said to have converted the area to Christianity in the 5th century. She reputedly embarked upon her mission by crossing the Irish Sea in a leaf!

St. Ives website

About St. Ives
Address: St Ives, Cornwall, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location map
OS: SW517 404
Photo Credit: Lewis Clarke, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden - 0.1 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Tate St Ives - 0.3 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Towednack Church - 2.4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary - 3.3 miles (Family Attraction) Heritage Rating

Zennor, St Senara's Church - 4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Chysauster Ancient Village - 4.4 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Ludgvan, St Paul's Church - 4.6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

St Michael's Mount - 6.4 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

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Nearest Tourist Information Centre ('as the crow flies')

St Ives
Information Centre
The Guildhall
St Ives
TR26 2DS
Tel: 01736 796297