Most people have childhood memories of going to a beach, building sandcastles and eating ice-creams and fish and chips by the sea. If you fancy re-igniting your memories and starting some new ones for your family then head to the beautiful beaches of St Ives in Cornwall.
Beautiful beaches abound
There are a number of coastal resorts in Cornwall but St Ives is one of the most popular, being voted the “Seaside town of the Year” by Guardian readers. St Ives is nestled on the northern Cornish coast that keeps its traditional fishing roots but blends them seamlessly with modernity. It is somewhere that will be able to entertain the whole family whether you want relaxation or adventure.
One of a major attraction with any coastal resort is the beach. St Ives has various beautiful sand beaches all of which are close to the town centre. St Ives Harbour beach is sheltered due to its proximity to the harbour and has sand even at high tide. Its central location is ideal if you want to combine being at the beach to being close to shops and eateries. If sitting watching the boats come into or leave the harbour isn’t enough you could always embark on a boat tour.
Water sports from passive to active
Porthemor beach is also very popular. If you fancy taking your four legged friend on holiday then Porthemor is ideal as it is dog friendly for part of the year and allows plenty of opportunities for long walks. If you fancy venturing beyond the sand and into the surf then there are life guards on hand throughout the summer. Perhaps a little paddle isn’t enough and you fancy doing some water sports? Surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and coasteering are all on offer at St Ives.
Cornwall is renowned for its surfing and with lessons ranging from a beginner’s taster session to advanced classes you will have every opportunity to catch a wave. Sea Kayaking is a fun alternative to surfing and you’re likely to spot local wildlife such as seals, dolphins and sea birds. Some companies may even take snorkels so you can explore the clear waters fully. Paddle boarding is increasing in popularity thanks to celebrities such as Pierce Brosnan and Rihanna who have been snapped completing the activity. Coasteering will appeal to adrenaline junkies everywhere as it combines climbing rocks, jumping into the sea and swimming into and exploring caves and gullies.
Culture from theatre to art galleries
If you can drag yourself away from the beach and all the fantastic water sports on offer, there are a variety of activities in St Ives town itself. If you fancy an evening activity (whatever the weather) there is a quaint little cinema or alternatively see what plays are showing at St Ives Theatre. If the weather is good you could visit The Minack Theatre which is one of the most famous outdoor theatres in the UK and well worth a visit.
If museums or art galleries are where your interests lie then you may be surprised to learn that there is a Tate Gallery at St Ives. As well as showcasing a variety of modern art it also houses the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Due to its popularity the gallery is being extended in 2014 so even more works of art can be brought to visitors. The St Ives museum will help you better understand the local area with exhibitions on local subjects such as mining and boat building. The museum has excellent reviews so is worth a visit if you want to better understand the local culture.
People watching and cafe life
To complete your relaxation you could enjoy a relaxing drink in one of the various cafes or book a table at one of the beachfront restaurants like the Porthmeor Beach cafe and watch the stunning sunsets that the area is famous for.
St Ives truly does cater for everyone as all these options are available without even getting in your car. If you want a relaxed beach holiday with the perfect blend of activities and culture then you really need look no further. St Ives will provide a memorable holiday for everyone involved and give memories to cherish in years to come.
This article was brought to you by Aspects Holidays who provide self-catering accommodation throughout Cornwall and have a large selection of stunning properties in St Ives ranging from traditional cottages to modern beach front apartments.
Photo Credits: St Ives harbour by RStacker, St Ives beach by UncleBucko, Sea kayaking by www.stivessurfschool.co.uk , The Minack Theatre by Martin Hartland, Barbara Hepworth Museum by Matt Brown, Porthmeor Beach Cafe by David Bleasdale
More things to see in Devon and Cornwall
Primroses and Daffodils – a spring weekend in North Devon with Premier Cottages – video
Is this the perfect sea view? Our luxury weekend at St Mawes in Cornwall – video
Take an Autumn break in Cornwall – Coastal walks, surfing and you might see a basking shark
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
Beautiful, wild, green North Devon. This corner of the south-west epitomises unspoiled rural England, with narrow lanes and high hedgerows, country walks and a rugged coastline dotted with fishing villages. This was where I was headed with friends, for a relaxing weekend with fresh air, woodland walks and a sight of the sea.
Our home for the weekend was Beech Tree Cottage available through Premier Cottages, set in the leafy grounds of an old Rectory, where the six estate cottages of Penhaven Country Cottages had been renovated to make holiday homes. Our cottage overlooked farmland on one side and gardens on the other and we learned that the Rectory had formerly been a country house hotel but was now awaiting planning permission for further renovatation of the main building and other holiday cottages. The small village of Parkham where the cottage was located had an impressive church, a farm shop open on weekdays and the 13th century Bell Inn just a short walk up the lane. The setting was the best of rural Devon, with banks of primroses and daffodils outside our bedroom window and plenty of muddy woodland walks from the front door.
I hope you enjoy the video below about our cottage stay in North Devon with Premier Cottages
Settling into Beech Cottage
Arriving after work on a Friday night, we left our coats and walking boots in the tiled lobby area inside the front door and unloaded the bags of food and belongings onto the practical oak floor of the hall. It didn’t take long to settle in to our cottage which was well equipped with everything that you could need for a country break. The good sized sitting room had comfy sofas and a brown shaggy rug in front of the stone fireplace that was just meant to have a wood-burning stove to complete the country feel. There was a purple colour theme going on with a velvet easy chair and purple lightshades, an oak coffee table and sideboard and a flat screen TV in one corner.
We loved the large kitchen with cream painted cupboards, cheerful multi-coloured tiles, a terracotta tiled floor and a large wooden table with plenty of space for cooking and dining. The cupboards contained the usual sets of cutlery and crockery, all the saucepans and oven dishes you might need and there was a dishwasher, microwave, fridge and freezer – in short all the conveniences you’d expect at home. Gone are the days when cottage owners leave behind their second best household belongings and as Premier Cottages specialises in 4 and 5 star independently owned cottages, we knew that everything would be of a reliably high standard.
Upstairs Guy and I bagged the master bedroom, which had its own en suite shower room and was furnished in a primrose yellow and leaf green colour scheme that echoed the spring flowers and woodland outside the window. Our friends settled into the second bedroom with twin beds that could be pushed together to make a double with a grey and cream colour scheme while the third single bed room had a warm red scheme with red velour throw and patterned curtains. Throughout the bedrooms the furniture was solid oak wardrobes and chests of drawers and the second bathroom upstairs had a jacuzzi feature as well as a shower above the bath.
Saturday morning – a visit to Clovelly
On Saturday morning we awoke to birdsong and while the others were surfacing with strong coffee, I had a wander around the Rectory gardens where spring was in full flower with bushes of camelias and wild rhododendrons. Taking up one of the recommendations in the book of useful information left in the cottage, we made a plan to head for the nearby village of Clovelly with the hope of a nice long walk along the cliff tops and a pub lunch.
Clovelly is one of those timeless fishing villages you find in many parts of Devon and Cornwall, where the old whitewashed cottages tumble down the steep hillside to the harbour at the bottom. The village is privately owned by the Clovelly Estate and is now run as a tourist attraction, so you leave your car in the car park at the top of the hill and enter through the visitor centre, paying an admission fee of £6.75 to visit the village, which is partly a living museum, partly a thriving village community. It was raining lightly as we arrived and the narrow cobbled lane leading down to the harbour was slippery and steep, so we walked down gingerly, admiring the pretty cottages and flowers around every doorway and window. The street is too steep for any vehicles, so donkeys have traditionally been used to transport the necessities of life into the village, although plastic sledges are more commonly used these days and we saw some at the top of the hill waiting to be put to use by the residents.
Down to the harbour at Clovelly
Reaching the small harbour and pebble beach at the bottom of the hill, we could see lobster pots and a few fishing boats in what was once a thriving fishing port, where the fleets of boats would go out to fish for herring and mackerel. The small harbour was sheltered by the protective arm of a thick stone sea wall that we walked along and then stood for a while sheltering from the rain under the eves of the Red Lion Inn, on the quayside.
Walking halfway back up the hill on the single street known as “Up-Along, Down-Along” we found The Fisherman’s Cottage which is open to the public as a fascinating reminder of how families in Clovelly lived in the past. We looked into the tiny parlour where a family would crowd around the fire and squeezed into the small bedrooms where the bed took up most of the space, while the young men working for the family would sleep up in the attic with the fishing nets. On the walls of the cottage were old photographs and reminders of how dangerous an occupation it was to be a fisherman, with newspaper cuttings from 1821 telling the story of a terrible storm when 40 fishing boats and 31 souls were lost, all from Clovelly.
The Fisherman’s Cottage at Clovelly
The Fisherman’s Cottage led into another small museum in the house of Victorian writer Charles Kingsley, who lived in Clovelly as a child and later returned as an adult, writing the novel Westward Ho! in the village. In his study, you can see a model of the author, working at his desk and hear a recording of one of his famous poems, recited by actor and local resident Joss Ackland, about the dangerous lives of the fishermen who sailed from Clovelly harbour. The poem was later set to music as a folk ballard and you can hear a recording of Joan Baez singing The Three Fishers here.
Three fishers went sailing out into the West,
Out into the West as the sun went down;
Each thought on the woman who lov’d him the best;
And the children stood watching them out of the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And there’s little to earn, and many to keep,
Though the harbor bar be moaning.
A walk along the cliff from Clovelly
We took lunch at the New Inn and then decided that our long cliff walk was overdue, so we started along the footpath at the top of the village towards Mouthmill Cove. The path lead us through fields and then skirted the cliff edge, guarded by twisted shrubs and trees clothed with ivy with only the acid yellow gorse adding a flash of colour. We passed the intricately carved Angels Wings shelter with a bench underneath and the faces of angels and angels wings carved into the roof. We learned that it had been built in 1826 by Sir James Hamlyn Williams so he could look across the bay to where his daughter lived at Youlston although now the view was somewhat masked by the trees and brambles.
We followed the muddy woodland path, beside ivy and holy trees covered with bright green lichen, an indicator of both the purity of the air and the moistness of the climate. At the look-out point above Mouthmill Cove we stood on the balcony of the beautiful wooden summerhouse overlooking the beach with large grey boulders and stones and gazed over the rugged cliffs and wild sea views. On the return walk the sky was grey and misty, although a little sun was peeping through. The trees on this stretch of open heathland were strangely bare and twisted as if it was all they could do to stay standing against the harsh winds and storms coming off the sea.
Spring flowers blooming at Clovelly Court
Finally we followed the path back up to Clovelly Court, where the church was surrounded by swathes of daffodils and the wild quince was in bloom trained on the wall of the kitchen garden. We took a look around the beautiful old parish church of All Saints, and then walked back up the road to the carpark and drove the short distance back to the cottage in time for tea. On the recommendation of our friend who had stayed in the area before, we had booked a table at The Hoops Inn for dinner that evening, where we had an excellent pub meal with friendly service.
On Sunday morning, I was keen to explore the woods that are owned by the Penhaven Estate, as the cottage information book told us that we were welcome to walk there. We set off from the cottages along the Rectory drive, through some gates marked Private and skirted along a steep wooded area with a road at the bottom and field at the top. The air was damp with a sprinkling of drizzle and you could see why there was so much moss on the tree trunks clothed with ivy. We passed large wild rhodedendron bushes and the floor of the woods were covered with bluebell leaves which would be making a sea of blue in just a couple of weeks, although my friend Julia corrected me that these were harebells, smaller and more delicate. On our return, we had planned a Sunday lunch at the Bell Inn in the village but finding that it was already fully booked we stopped on the way home at the Merry Harriers Garden Centre for their excellent carvery, with all the roast meat you could eat.
It was a relaxing break but all too short to really explore this wild and unspoilt part of Devon. Next time I’ll walk along some of the other coastal beaches such as Peppercombe beach, take a boat across the the island of Lundy to see the wildlife, or visit the villages of Lynton and Lynmouth connected by a cliff railway. Until next time…
Penhaven Country Cottages is ideal for…
- Those who want a relaxing break in beautiful Devon countryside with the coastline and beaches in easy reach.
- Families and groups of friends, who want to rent cottages close together but still have their own space.
- Children who can run around safely on the quiet lanes and in the Rectory grounds
But you should be aware that….
- You will need your car to get around, as the location is very rural and the nearest shop is a short drive away.
- The mobile phone signal is poor in and around the cottages and when we were there the wifi was very weak, although the owner told us there had been a problem with it which had now been sorted out.
Heather and friends stayed at Penhaven Cottages in North Devon through Premier Cottages who specialise in self-catering luxury holidays and short breaks throughout the UK and Ireland. Premier Cottages brings together a collection of independently owned holiday cottages which have all been awarded 4 or 5 star status, and their quality cottages have won numerous tourism awards for excellence. We stayed at Beech Tree Cottage, one of the six cottages sleeping 2-5 people available through Penhaven Country Cottages, in the village of Parkham, near Bideford in North Devon. Many thanks to Premier Cottages and Penhaven Country Cottages for hosting our weekend stay.
More things to do in Devon
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Walking through the door of our luxury holiday house of Stargazers in St Mawes, I felt the Wow! factor as if I’d been given a rather expensive but delightful present. Wow! St Mawes certainly had more than its fair share of Cornish charm, with the pubs overlooking the sea, pretty cottages climbing up the hillside and the lighthouse twinkling across the estuary at St Anthony’s Head. Wow! From the front door we were drawn straight towards the huge expanse of windows with stunning views across the bay. Wow! Every one of the four bedrooms felt like walking into a luxury hotel suite, each with its own bathroom and gorgeous, colourful furnishing.
Stargazers in one of five luxury holiday homes available to rent through St Mawes Retreats and it didn’t take long for us to settle into the good life. After a tiring week at work in Bristol, we told ourselves, this was no more than we deserved! In the Master Bedroom, the huge bed even swallowed up my six foot husband and was piled with silk cushions in lime, crimson and fuschia overblown roses on a crisp white cotton pique duvet. In front of the window were two leather recliners separated by a coffee table of glass on a base of tangled driftwood, the perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee and take in the view.
I hope you enjoy the video below from our stay at Stargazers with St Mawes Retreats and feel free to subscibe to my YouTube channel below
Love was in the air as we snuggled into the bed to watch a George Clooney movie on the flat screen TV on the wall – well at least it was spelled out in big wooden letters L-O-V-E on the cream painted chest of drawers. Even the recliner cushions with motifs like “You rock my boat” , “Love is all you need”, and “Sail away with me” were guaranteed to make those of us who’ve been married 25 years giggle like teenagers again.
We had a bathtime soak in deep, oval bath, liberally doused with the Cath Collins orange flower bath oil, while contemplating the sparkly border tiles, his and hers sinks and huge walk in shower. I fell asleep with the St Anthony’s Head lighthouse winking at us across the bay and woke up with the sky tinged a little pink with just enough blue to make a pair of sailor’s trousers. The passing St Mawes ferry on its way to Falmouth looked like a blue painted toy boat and was followed in hot pursuit by a Cornish rowing skiff out for training. And all this before I’d even got out of bed!
It didn’t feel quite right with just me and Guy rattling around in a house that demanded to be shared, to be filled with friends, with chatter and good food. But on Saturday morning, our friends joined us with their teenage daughters and the house started to feel alive, as we all shared the pleasure of our luxurious holiday house.
Our friends chose the pink bedroom with a deep magenta velvet headboard, pretty crystal bedside lights and curtains covered with oversized pink and purple peonies. The bedroom faced the back of the house looking out on a little gravelled space with a bank planted with shrubs and its own modern bathroom with brown and white stone tiles and sparkly lighting around the mirror.
The girls loved their teenage pad upstairs, under the eves with four beds which was decorated with purple crushed velvet, spangly curtains and silver sequin cushions on the bed. They were thrilled to have their own TV, bathroom across the landing and a little balcony where they could look out on the sea view. The best bit, however, was that they had their own floor to get away from the grownups and make as much noise as they liked.
While we ladies were feeling that we’d stepped into the pages of a glossy magazine, the husbands were more interested in the number of flat screen TVs around the house. Guy even went around and counted them; there were seven in all, one for each bedroom, two in the sitting area and one in the kitchen. For someone who barely watches TV, I found the amount of electronic gadgetry slightly baffling. We lost count of the number of guns to control it all and mysterious voices wafted from the kitchen ceiling until we worked out how to switch off the radio.
Even more exciting for the menfolk was the wood-burning stove in the centre of the living room, which demanded to be stoked up, although fortunately no manly displays of wood-chopping were required. Once Guy had worked out that there were three recliners built into the large bank of leather sofas, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to prize him away from the weekend papers, the TV or that stove.
As if one huge living room was not enough, there was a second sitting area beyond, with cream covered sofas and so many cushions on the sofa that there was barely room to sit down, although of course the teenagers didn’t stand on ceremony and threw them all on the floor to make themselves comfortable. All around the house were lovely art-works, my favourite being all the driftwood sculptures and the ink drawings of boxing hares, although I wasn’t too bothered by the strange, sculptural metal discs.
All the living areas looked out onto the beautifully landscaped garden, with shrubs, grasses and spiky plants. There were paved areas where you could sit on wicker loungers and soak up the sun, with paths among the foliage where children might play hide in seek. Just below the house, although out of sight was Hotel Tresanton, a luxury hotel that I definitely want to visit for afternoon tea or lunch on the terrace when I come back to St Mawes in summer.
By late morning I was concerned that I’d never prize the crew out of the house, so I rallied everyone for the walk down into St Mawes. Even though it was 5 minutes down the road, we had to stop for a good look around the Waterside Gallery with beautiful Cornish glass and a wooden seagull sculture that bobbed up and down from the ceiling. We skirted the row of pretty cottages, while the girls ducked down onto the beach and kicked around in the pebbles and seaweed.
At the harbour we checked the times of the ferry, in case we fancied a trip across to Falmouth later and as it was nearing lunchtime bought ourselves a hot, peppery Cornish Pasty from the little bakery shop. Along the sea wall, we attracted the attentions of the seagulls who perched hopefully nearby, thinking that they might get a few forgotten crusts. We peered into the window of the St Mawes skiff club, set in what was once the village garage with vintage petrol pumps outside. Where the cars were worked on, we could see the large Cornish rowing boats that are used these days for sport and racing in local competitions.
We could have easily settled into one of the many pubs and cafes along the sea front but I was keen to see the pretty church at St Just in Roseland, which was one of the suggestions in the helpful guide left by St Mawes Retreats. We retraced our steps past St Mawes Castle, built as a coastal fortification by Henry VIII with the matching Pendennis Castle on the other side of the estuary above Falmouth. We traced the coastal path across fields that became increasingly muddy, and as the girls were becoming tired our friends turned back while we continued until we reached the creek and traditional boatyard with the church of St Just beyond.
This 13th century church has the most picturesque setting and is set in tropical gardens backed by palm trees with an ancient well bubbling into the creek. We walked back up the path that was lined by carved granite tablets carved with verses from the bible and at the car park unexpectedly found our friends who had fetched the car and driven back to save us from a muddy walk home.
Although there seemed to be endless eating-out opportunities in St Mawes, we decided that we really did need to test out the enormous kitchen back at Stargazers, although it felt like you needed a text book just to work out how to use the microwave. The granite covered island was a sociable space to gather with a glass of wine while you were cooking up a storm and the dining room table felt large enough to feed the 5000, or at least 12 of them. The next day we found two potatoes that had gone missing from our meal, and joked that the oven was so big you could lose your dinner in it!
On Sunday morning we emerged sleepy from each of the luxurious bedrooms and gathered around the kitchen work stations for our our frothy hot coffee, croissants, eggs and bacon. Once again, it was touch and go whether we would get out to explore anything else, as Guy was busy perfecting the Sunday morning art of doing nothing (which he’s very good at).
However, that winking lighthouse across the bay was calling us, so we decided to take a look at St Anthony’s Lighthouse. In summer ferries can take you across the water from St Mawes but we drove around the bay and left our car in the National Trust car park (£2 honesty box). All around were old military fortification and we walked down through the pine trees, to the white lighthouse which is as complete a version of a lighthouse as you could find. It was even used as the setting for the childrens’ TV show, Fraggle Rock which I had never heard of, but the girls told me all about the puppets living in the caves.
We could get as far as the gate to the lighthouse which has a cottage that you can rent, and watched the birds on the rocks and even saw some seals bobbing in the water. A few kayakers paddled up to the rocks to spot for seals, and snippets of their conversation with mentions of “Fraggle Rock” drifted up to us. Turning back up the path we walked until we reached the sandy beach that we had spotted from the lighthouse and scrambled down beside the stream, over the slippery, barnacle encrusted rocks to get to the sand. I love walking on beaches in low season with that feeling of freedom that you get in Cornwall in winter, the freshness and wide open skies.
Returning back to Stargazers it was time to pack up our things and leave the house for the next lucky people to come and enjoy the fabulous views and sea air. The sign in the hall says “Relax, it doesn’t get any better than this!’ and how right it was.
We all agreed that Stargazers was a wonderful place to stay at any time of year, and even if you never get out of the house (which is tempting) there’s always something happening out there on the water. St Mawes Retreats have done a fabulous job in creating the perfect luxury holiday home that you’ll want to come back to time after time. I’d come back again just for the breathtaking view, to sit in the garden and watch the boats go by and breathe in the magic of Cornwall and St Mawes.
Stargazers in St Mawes is available to rent through St Mawes Retreats and sleeps 10 people in 4 bedrooms. It is one of 5 luxury holiday homes offered by the company, sleeping between 4 and 12 people, all of which are beautifully furnished in contemporary style with all the luxury and attention to detail you could wish for. Four of the properties are in St Mawes with one in Fowey. Short breaks at Stargazers start at £650 for 4 people or £995 for 10 people. For more details and bookings do check the St Mawes Retreats Website.
Our thanks to St Mawes Retreats for hosting our weekend stay at Stargazers.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey