Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – England chapter Bath and Southwest England has to say about St. Ives:
“The largest town beaches are Porthmeor and Porthminster, both of which have sand and space aplenty. Between them juts the grassy promontory known as the Island, topped by the tiny pre-14th-century Chapel of St Nicholas. On the peninsula’s east side is the little cove of Porthgwidden, often a good place to escape the crowds.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We knew that there were several bands of bad weather crossing in from the Atlantic and it was inevitable that some would affect us in this cosy part of southern England. After clear blue skies on our first day in St. Ives, we awoke to rain obliterating the lovely view of the town out our large living-room windows. We could no longer see the horizon, it was just various shades of grey between the sky and the sea.
We thought we might be forced to stay inside for the whole day, and I set about editing my photos, uploading them to my travel journal, and doing some of the personal writing I like to add for more descriptions of the places we visit.
However, in the early afternoon, the skies began to brighten and by 2:00pm be made the decision to head back into town and do some more exploring. We stopped for a light lunch at a lovely Thai restaurant on Wharf Road, choosing a table near the windows on the second floor so we could admire the harbour stretched out before us.
Before setting off to wander some of the residential back streets, we paid a visit to the old-world style St. Ives Museum. It was a treasure trove of all things nautical, filled with dozens of large wood and glass display cases that were crammed with memorabilia that families had donated to the museum, often in recognition of ancestors that had lived, worked and died in the town.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photos in the museum, which was rather strange because it wasn’t like they had postcards, posters of books to sell in order to raise funds to keep the museum afloat. After paying the small admission fee, we were handed a little sheet of paper with the poem about St. Ives on it.
I smiled when I saw that they had placed 50 cats and 4 kittens in various showcases in the museum as a Treasure Hunt for the young and old alike. I don’t imagine too many people bring children into the museum, but if they did, there’d definitely be something to keep them interested.
In the end, we spent a surprising amount of time pouring over some of the maritime exhibits – especially the ones about the two times disaster had struck when a lifeboat was trying to rescue stranded passengers and crew from floundering shipwrecks. In both cases, members of the life-saving teams had lost their lives attempting to save others at sea It clearly devastated St. Ives, as all the men were residents and their families had lost their men.
Back out in the sunshine, we dusted the cobwebs off our shoulders (not really) and began to head towards Porthmeor Beach, taking a few of the different back streets to get there. Along the way we couldn’t help but notice that dozens of the former residences had been converted into guesthouses and home-stays. I got a kick out of taking photos of the doors and their decorative touches.
We eventually made our way out onto the road above Porthmeor Beach, just as the last of the heavy clouds were clearing from the skies. We ducked into the Tate St. Ives, an offshoot of the famous art gallery in London. I’ve created a separate journal entry to describe our visit to the Tate. We were inside for just over an hour, and when we came outside again, we were met with warm sunshine for the balance of the day.
It was so beautiful that I suggested to Anil that we walk around the headland to the right of the broad beach. I could see a number of people sitting on benches there and others walking their dogs. I didn’t really expect him to agree, but he did readily, so off we went. When we reached the path that led off from just behind the St. Ives Museum, I asked a local person if it was possible to walk right round, and she said yes, through there was a slightly steep area on the far side.
That did not deter us, as we wanted to get some exercise after being confined to the apartment all morning. We also knew that the following day’s weather forecast was exceedingly grim, a tropical storm Callum was heading our way, with heavy rains and high winds predicted. There was some chance that the storm would swing north of Cornwall, but we were sure to get the tail end of it in any case.
It ended up being a lovely walk in the late afternoon, and we rounded St. Ives Head to see the black rocks below us and the high above we could see St. Nicholas’s Chapel, a place of worship for centuries past. It was used as a lookout by revenue officers during the 18th century and from 1879 onwards, as a store by the War Office. Today, it’s often rented out as a wedding venue.
A short stroll further on, we spotted the Coastwatch station high up on the rocky heights. We had come to the steep part of the path, but it wasn’t difficult as the footing was good and a staircase had been constructed where it would have been slippery in wet weather. I was struck by the sight of the sod growing up and over the lichen-covered rocks along the right side of the path. It looked like some green monster attempting to draw the stone into its mouth.
When we reached the highest level of the Head, we discovered another little beach tucked into the headland. This was Porthgwidden, the third of St. Ives’s lovely beaches. Apparently, it’s considered a good place to escape the crowds during the busy summer months. Unless one was a local, or one studied the maps, you’d never know it even existed.
We found ourselves back at the harbour, set ablaze by the last rays of the evening sun. It would soon be dark, but what surprised us most was that the tide was in and for the first time, we saw that the sea flooded with the harbour with water and the boats were all bobbling to and fro. I took a photo looking out towards the end of the breakwater, but I didn’t notice until I studied the photo later, that the construction crane had been removed and I could have walked over and taken the close-up shot of the lighthouse that I had been prevented from taking the previous day.
It was time to call it a day and make our way back to our apartment. We still had that series of steep staircases to climb, but they did get easier each time we negotiated them. We planned on picking up some light groceries to prepare a simple meal, but when we passed an inviting-looking Mexican restaurant along the way, we were tempted by the thought of fajitas and margaritas, so we entered and had a delightful meal.
The change in the weather from morning to afternoon to evening had been our first surprise, but finding a Mexican restaurant along the backstreets of St. Ives had been an even greater surprise. We were well-fueled for our climb to our cosy nest on the cliffs above the town, and we slept like babies in our comfy bed.