When it comes to a Winter weekend away the British seaside isn't probably what first springs to mind. However, following an off-season trip to St Ives we beg to differ. In fact, you can enjoy all this arty town has to offer minus the crowded beaches, screaming children and restaurant queues.
Situated on the North Cornish coast, St Ives has been a popular spot with artists since the early 20th Century but found itself truly on map when the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson fell in love with the wide vistas and sparkling light in the 1940s. When the sun shines and you squint a little you could confuse the turquoise water, endless stretches of white sand and towering palm trees to be the Caribbean, not Cornwall.
While many art fans make a pilgrimage to the town for the buzzing selection of galleries and the Tate (expanded and reopened this Autumn), the town is also bursting with foodie options and shops to peruse. Plus, if you strike lucky with the weather, miles and miles of beautiful coastal paths to stroll up and down.
Where to stay
Carbis Bay Hotel
A quintessential seaside hotel steeped in history, the Carbis Bay Hotel was designed by famed architect Silvanus Trevail at the end of the 19th Century and counts Virginia Woolf amongst famous past guests. Rooms have been given a fresh update with classic interiors, marshmallow-soft beds and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries but it's the superb beachside location and stunning seaside views that make this place special.
Rooms from £270 per night including breakfast.
The Gannet Inn
A short stomp (or a trip on the delightful tiny train - a novelty in itself) from St Ives, this cosy bolt-hole makes the perfect base for exploring the town and surrounding beaches. Rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, with a number offering seaside views, while the homely lounge complete with roaring fires provides a great spot for enjoying a G&T and a game of the scrabble when the weather turns in.
Rooms from £160 per night including breakfast.
What to do
Visit the newly reopened Tate gallery
Following a four year renovation, the St Ives Tate reopened this autumn bigger and better than ever. Showcasing a permanent collection of work inspired by the local area from big name artists including Ben Nicholson and Piet Mondrian, the new extension provides space for a rotating roster of contemporary exhibitions starting with sculptor Rebecca Warren. Beautifully lit throughout, you're never far from a view of the sea, most impressively seen from the rooftop cafe.
Explore the art trail
Art enthusiasts should also make time for the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and ensure they explore the extensive selection of smaller galleries. When wandering the cobbled streets you will greeted with galleries showcasing both traditional and modern work at every turn - our favourites include the Porthminster Gallery and Belgrave St Ives.
Have a massage (and soak up the view) at the C Bay Spa
There is something instantly calming about looking out at the horizon and at the C Bay Spa this is a possibility wherever you choose to be. Whether you’re splashing about in the pool, slumping in a lounger or enjoying the sauna and jacuzzi, the beautiful blue waters will never be out of sight. The treatment rooms are inspired by their location and use Voya and Aromatherapy Associates products alongside a holistic-inspired treatment menu. If you try one treatment make it ‘Head in the Clouds’ - a deeply relaxing massage for tension riddled neck and shoulders.
Walking the coastal path
Blow away the cobwebs and work up an appetite for that pasty by taking a walk along the picture-perfect coastal past. Either head north towards Hayle or south towards Zennor - it’s well signposted but the beauty of the coastal path means you can never really get lost.
Where to eat
Porthmeor Beach Cafe
Despite the beachside location this is no sandwiches and scones affair but a menu of sophisticated small plates with a focus on locally sourced ingredients, including freshly caught fish and seafood. With an extensive wine and cocktail menu, on a sunny day you could easily while away a whole afternoon here on their pretty terrace.
Offering an extensive menu of burgers, tacos and craft beer, this casual joint on the harbour front is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Order the fish burger with St Ives mackerel and you certainly won’t regret it.
St Ives Bakery
You will spot this place a mile off thanks to the overflowing piles of millennial pink meringues and gooey brownies that line the window. Grab a coffee and cake and enjoy on the beach. Stives-cornwall.co.uk
How to get there
St Ives has it own rail station which can be accessed via St Erth where trains run to London and beyond. The nearest airport is situated in Newquay.