If you’re looking for Cornish beauty, St Ives barely requires the hard sell from us. (But we’ll do it anyway). Numerous artists have gravitated to this coastal town in north-west Cornwall because of its gorgeous light, including Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Alfred Wallis and Mark Rothko. They’ve all done St Ives proud. Hepworth arrived here days before the Second World War broke out, and stayed for the rest of her life creating sculptures inspired by the natural landscape, while Russian-born Naum Gabo, who arrived around the same time as Hepworth, influenced the British artists around him at the time while taking his own inspiration from this romanticised backdrop. Basically, there’s a lot to support the argument that St Ives is prettier and more inspiring than most other towns, and staying here, you’ll soon see why.
But where should you stay in order to picture the very best of sunset vistas, and the most perfect dawns and dusks? Well, for artistic inspiration and a nice vista of your own, we’d recommend seeking out a property with a coastal view. But also, where's best to stay if you want to explore St Ives’s best beaches and surf, and its cosy cafés, galleries and jumble of narrow streets? To help you decide, our team of creatively attuned travel experts here at Plum Guide have curated this expert guide to where to stay in St Ives, one of Cornwall’s most aesthetically pleasing enclaves. They’ll put you right where the action is, so you’re all set to explore all of what beautiful St Ives has to offer.
Beach in St Ives, Cornwall, UK
Beach bums are spoilt for choice when it comes to where to stay in St Ives. The town isn't short on golden sandy beaches with twinkling blue waters, but the main ones are Harbour Beach, Porthgwidden, Porthminster - and Porthmeor Beach. The latter is considered the best in St Ives - and one of the top swathes of sand in Cornwall. The beach itself is loved by sunbathers, swimmers and surfers - in fact there's a St Ives Surf School outpost on Porthmeor Beach, so it's ideal for a lesson.
But Porthmeor Beach is also well loved by the artists whose studios overlook it. The grade II listed studios are probably the most significant in Britain: previous artists who've worked in these sea-facing spaces include Julius Olsson, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Francis Bacon. And then of course there’s Cornwall’s most famous art institution, Tate St Ives, housed in an all-white former gasworks on the beachfront. Its curves and clean lines are an artwork in themselves, and the gallery celebrates all the artists who've made this area great. All in all, a stay in one of the beach homes or old fishing cottages here is a good idea.
St Ives Harbour
Boats on the water in front of terraced buildings in St Ives, Cornwall, UK
St Ives is still a working port town, so the harbour is where a lot of the bustle and action happens - but its thick walls give it a pleasantly sheltered beach (with white sand, of course) when the tide goes out. This makes it even more of a picturesque spot to watch the local fishing fleet bring back their hauls of mackerel and bass (pasty in hand: optional but advised). Admire the late 18th-century Smeatons Pier - and if the tide’s right in, you can walk round from here to the ‘secret' Bamaluz Beach. Head back for a wander up Wharf Road, which runs along the harbour, where you’ll find ice cream shops, cafés, little galleries and good old fashioned pubs. When looking for where to stay in St Ives, you could do a lot worse than staying in one of the whitewashed cottages on the narrow, cobbled streets around here.
Here’s where Cornwall’s art star Barbara Hepworth had her studio - and if it was good enough for Babs, it’s good enough for us. Trewyn studios are now the Barbara Hepworth Museum - another Tate marvel in the area. Take a walk around the museum and sculpture garden to explore some of Hepworth’s best work. Staying at Barnoon Hill allows you to sit in a quieter part of town, but within very easy reach of the action - with Porthmeor and the harbour on either side, and with Porthgwidden and Porthminster beaches to the north and south, respectively.