Last weekend Chris and I popped down to St Ives for what we expected to be a lovely, cosy autumnal break by the sea. It was certainly lovely, though anything but autumnal: rather than blustery winds and crashing waves, we were greeted by balmy sunshine, spotless blue skies and gin-clear turquoise seas.
Huddled on a beach-fringed headland near the tip of Cornwall, St Ives is one of my favourite UK spots. It’s long been popular with artists and writers, who flock here to make the most of the dazzling coastal light, and there are galleries galore along its winding cobbled lanes. Beneath, boats, jostle for space in the mast-filled harbour.
Our base was the Boskerris Hotel, perched on the cliffs just outside town. It was an idyllic spot to soak up the unexpected second summer, with sweeping views across the bay to Godrevy lighthouse in one direction and the harbour in the other.
We only had one full day to explore, so we made the most of it. We wandered along the coastal path into town, dipped our toes in the sea, and challenged each other to pick out our dream holiday homes from the jumble of whitewashed, blue-shuttered cottages. We feasted on tapas and fresh mussels at the famous Porthmeor and Porthminster Beach Cafés (the former a laid-back surfers’ hangout, the latter a smarter candlelit affair). And we munched on meringue-topped cupcakes from the delicious-smelling St Ives Bakery.
Sadly the town’s outpost of the Tate Modern was closed for refurbishment, but we spent a lovely hour pottering around the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, where the renowned sculptor lived from 1949 until her death in 1975. It’s a beautifully peaceful haven hidden within high walls in the centre of town, with rambling greenhouses, vine-strewn potting sheds and elegant bronzes dotted among the trees.
Later, we watched the tide roll in and out as the crisp afternoon sun gave way to the soft, golden glow of evening, and we were treated to an acrobatic display from the harbour’s resident seal, who took great delight in showing off his moves to the crowd assembled on the quayside.
We saw more seals the next day, when we headed to the wild cliffs of Godrevy Point before embarking on the long drive home. Below us on the sand was a colony of 30 or so grey seals, some basking on the beach, others frolicking in the shallows. I was surprised by their call – a mournful song which echoed around the high-sided coves (I wonder if this is what lies behind some old fishermen’s tales of spirits from the deep?).
It was an unforgettable end to our trip, and it only made dragging ourselves back to Bristol all the more difficult…
All photography by Abi Dare