Cottages lining cobbled streets, ancient granite stone quays, fishing boats bobbing in the bay, the cry of gulls around the harbour and clear blue skies over golden sand beaches, these are indelible memories of St Ives, a place delightful in so many ways that generations of artists have made it their home and created a vibrant artistic focus in the life of the town.
The quaint streets are a maze of galleries, shops and lovely places to eat and drink offering authentic Cornish food experiences, with many fine seafood restaurants, as well as a range of international cuisines. Frequent winner of Britain in Bloom awards, the brilliant colour palette and spirit of St Ives lies too in its profusions of flowers and shrubs, with hanging baskets and other displays gaily decorating streets and buildings.
There are gardens open to the public throughout Cornwall, among them the centrally located Trewyn Gardens at St Ives where plantings benefit from a mild and frost-free climate enabling more exotic varieties to thrive.
Watch fishermen land their daily catch – later to turn up on your plate if you choose, find your spot on a clean, sandy beach perhaps the quiet cove at Porthgwidden, the sweeping half mile of sands at Porthminster with a scenic cliff top walk to Carbis Bay, or Blue flag Porthmeor renowned for surfing and spectacular sunsets. There are plenty of water related activities such as sailing, diving and fishing, and opportunities to spot basking seals on a boat trip around the bay.
Whether you prefer to soak up St Ives artistic heritage or dip your toes, independent studios and galleries include the Sloop Craft Market behind the Sloop Inn, the quirky pink painted Pilchard Place with its playful vibe and the largest New Millennium Gallery staging exhibitions of high quality work over three floors. There are many more displaying paintings, sculpture, jewellery, glass and ceramics.
St Ives’ importance in art terms was underlined with the arrival here in 1993 of the Tate Gallery, a prominent and beautiful building overlooking Porthmeor beach exhibiting the modern St Ives School and a changing programme of other contemporary works.
For an intimate insight into the life of a world famous artist, the Barbara Hepworth museum in Trewyn Studio, where she lived and worked, offers a carefully preserved and quiet scene where you might sense her hovering in garden or house as you browse.
If you love ceramics the Leach Pottery, established by Bernard Leach in 1920, continues production and is one of the most influential studios in the world; host to potters and students of pottery learning and honing their skills at the wheel. The pottery is open from March to end of October, seven days a week.
In mid-September the town celebrates its artistic and musical status with a two-week Festival of Music and the Arts, for which many artists open their private studios to the public and a full programme of creative events take place.
However you spend your time in this most charming of English seaside towns, you will come away with unforgettable images in your head, sketched perhaps on paper and certainly captured on camera.