The Great British Bucket List: St Ives

Who needs the Med? (Getty Images)
Who needs the Med? (Getty Images)

If the thought of swapping a sun-drenched, far-flung destination for a potentially rain-soaked staycation isn't quite sparking the usual pre-holiday excitement, then it's worth checking out the latest of our Great British Bucket List destinations: St Ives.

Here, the crystal clear waters of the gently shelving bays are a rival for any beachside alcove in the Mediterranean, although granted the water is somewhat chillier. 

From its cute little cobbled streets lined with pastel-hued cottages and trinket-filled shops, to spectacular scenic walks and Insta-impressive restaurants, St Ives is a magical seaside resort in Cornwall with a bucketful of charm.

Whether you're rock-pooling in hidden coves or joining the locals for a pint of Cornish ale in one of the UK's oldest pubs, there are some pretty convincing reasons to add St Ives to your must-visit list right now...

The beaches rival the Med

Forget St Tropez, the golden beaches of St Ives are enough to rival any Mediterranean seaside destination. On the northern region of the town, you'll find the wide spread of Porthmeor Beach. 

Despite being an urban beach, the water quality is amazing and the sea swell is also great for surfers. There is also a range of lovely outdoor cafés and restaurants where you can linger over a seafood lunch. 

Wider and normally less crowded, Porthminster beach, located next to the train station, is also a great for bagging a spot.  

Meanwhile, heading out east from the main town, you'll find sandy beaches dotted around St Ives bay. 

Take a trip to the inexplicably named Mexico Towans beach which is situated near the middle of Hayle's famous "3 miles of golden sand". This particular patch of beach is backed by amazing sand dunes, covered in thick marram grass. There's also cafe on top of the dunes, to quench your thirst after the slog back up to the car park at the top. 

Read more: Best family-friendly European beaches revealed

Amazing coastal scenery at Porthmeor Cove on the walk to Zennor. (Getty Images)
Amazing coastal scenery at Porthmeor Cove on the walk to Zennor. (Getty Images)

It's great place for foodies

As well as the views, the Cornish seaside destination also boasts a thriving food scene and caters for all tastes. 

If you want dinner with a sea view, the long-standing Porthminster Beach Café porthminstercafe.co.uk has a terrace with panoramic views overlooking the beach. 

Don't let the name put you off, as it's a modern bistro with beach café, serving up delicious plates of crispy lemon sole and entire platters of freshly-caught fruits de mer.

If the staycation crowds get a little too much, take a trip out towards Hayle where you'll find Lula Shack, which has all the Ibiza vibes with its festoon lighting and actual sand floor. 

New to the Cornish food scene and located on the edge of the beach overlooking Hayle Harbour, this relaxed shack has an extensive menu focussed on locally-sourced seafood and ribs. Overlooking the estuary, you can chow down on a tasty bite while watching the paddle boarders pootle past. 

Read more: The Great British Bucket List: Brighton

The buzzing harbour at St Ives is the perfect place to people watch. (Getty Images)
The buzzing harbour at St Ives is the perfect place to people watch. (Getty Images)

There's no better place to enjoy a drink

As well as enjoying picture postcard views of the harbour, the Sloop Inn is reputed to date back as far as 1312, making it one of the oldest pubs in the UK. 

The inn was a popular haunt for artists in the Victorian era, but now offers the perfect spot to enjoy a pint of pale ale and people watching. 

You might also want to bag a table at the Pilchard's Press, a tiny bar in an old stone-walled cellar which is believed to be Cornwall's first micro-pub.

Easy to miss, being located up a cobbled side-alley off the harbourside, the teeny bar is well worth seeking out. Enjoy an ale or a gin from the mainly local suppliers and if you're really lucky, you might catch the local Sea Shanty band belting out a tune. 

For sunset sundowners it's worth trotting down to grab a seat at the outdoor bar of the Boskerris Hotel, on the hillside location overlooking the water of Barrepta Cove. 

It's sleek deck area with glass-fronted balcony is an ideal aperitif spot.

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The narrow cobbled streets of St Ives are lined with honey hued houses. (Getty Images)
The narrow cobbled streets of St Ives are lined with honey hued houses. (Getty Images)

The walks are incredible

With miles of well-marked trails, take-your-breath-away views and picture-perfect countryside St Ives is a great place to get your walk on. 

Start your stomp at at Worvas Hill on top of which sits Knill’s Monument. Built in 1782 by the then-mayor John Knill who planned to make the building his mausoleum, nowadays you can take in the incredible vistas from the monument’s viewpoint.

Watch: Tom Cruise's superyacht leaves St Ives and cruises up to Newquay. 

Slightly more adventurous is a one-way walk to St Ives along the beaches from Lelant to take in the amazing beachside expanse of Porthkidney Sands, Carbis Bay and Porthminster Beach. 

Treat yourself to a pint and a pasty in town before getting the train or bus (sometimes open-topped) back to where you started. 

If you're feeling adventurous and aren't afraid of a good hike you can take a scenic trip from St Ives all the way up to Zennor. Along the climb, you can take in the ruins of Clodgy Point, an old leper hospital, enjoy the views of the charming Seal Island, and catch your breath taking in Trig point’s oceanic vista.

The seven mile hike is pretty challenging, so pack your walking boots, so an ice cold beer and a crab sarnie at the Tinners Arms in Zennor is thoroughly deserved. You'll probably want to take the bus or a taxi back though. 

Tate Gallery, in St Ives, is one of only four Tate galleries in the UK. (Getty Images)
Tate Gallery, in St Ives, is one of only four Tate galleries in the UK. (Getty Images)

It's a great place to take in some art

The Tate gallery, one of only four Tate galleries in the UK, at the top of Porthmeor beach is an absolute must for art-lovers whilst staying in St Ives, but it gets booked up pretty quickly so it's worth getting tickets in advance.

 For a more understated cultural day trip, head for the Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden. The gardens are so peaceful and secluded it's easy to forget you're actually just yards from one of the busiest streets in the town.

Insider tip: You can buy a joint Tate/Barbara Hepworth Museum ticket and save enough money for a flat white on the walk between the two. Or treat yourself to lunch at the Tate cafe, which enjoys one of the best views in town. 

If you feel inspired to hone your own artistic talents, book a course at the St Ives School of Painting schoolofpainting.co.uk. A short stomp from the Tate on Porthmeor Beach, it runs taster workshops perfect for those wanting to get creative on their vacation. 

Sunset on the beach at Marazion with St Michaels Mount in the distance. (Getty Images)
Sunset on the beach at Marazion with St Michaels Mount in the distance. (Getty Images)

It's culture central

Park in the pretty village of Marazion and, if the tide is out, you can walk across the causeway to St Michaels Mount. 

At high tide you can hop on one of the many motor boats that putter back and forth from the mainland. Take in the medieval castle and sub-tropical gardens in a truly special setting. 

For a cultured trip, take a drive around the bay to Hayle and out the other side along the coast to Gwithian and on to Godrevy Lighthouse. 

You can park your car at the National Trust car park and amble along the beach towards the lighthouse where, if you cut across Godrevy Head, you will be able to view a colony of grey seals who reside on the small sheltered cove below.

Right by the car park the Godrevy Cafe is a great place to enjoy lunch al fresco, too.

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