The western tip of Cornwall is an area which Chris and I seem to bounce back to again and again – most recently heading there for our engagement shoot in February, and then for a short minimoon after our wedding in May. It’s a stunning corner of the world: wild coastline, dazzling light, historic St Michael’s Mount, and pretty harbour towns (St Ives, Porthleven, Penzance, Mousehole) brimming with restaurants, shops and galleries.
Here’s a round-up of my favourite spots from all our recent visits…
Chapel House Penzance (Chapel Street, Penzance)
We spent the first night of our minimoon at this light-filled B&B, which sits in a Georgian townhouse in the heart of Penzance. The rooms are beautifully furnished with a mix of antiques and Scandinavian pieces, the atmosphere is relaxed, and there are two lovely lounges where you can sprawl out with a book. Read my full review here.
Artist Residence (Chapel Street, Penzance)
Artist Residence sits just a few doors up from Chapel House and makes another wonderful Penzance base. We stayed there in February (see more here) and loved the eclectic bedrooms, the comfy fire-lit lounge-bar, and the delicious food in the laid-back restaurant.
Trevose Harbour House (22 The Warren, St Ives)
This chic little B&B is my favourite option in St Ives. The six bedrooms are decorated in crisp blues and whites, with restored mid-century furniture and eye-catching fabrics; those on the top floor have harbour views. Breakfast is delicious (smoothies, homemade granola, smoked salmon with potato scones), and it’s adults-only so very peaceful. Owners Angela and Olivier also rent out a studio apartment just down the road, should you prefer to self-cater.
The Oyster Catcher (The Wharf, Mousehole)
This 17th-century net loft was transformed into a self-catering cottage by photographer Paul Massey, and its sophisticated interiors have featured on the pages of numerous design magazines. It’s decorated in soothing whites and taupes, with wood-panelled walls, exposed beams and coastal touches such as lampshades made from old fishing baskets. There are two double bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom with a claw-foot tub. Best of all, it sits right on the harbour, gazing out over bobbing fishing boats to the open sea beyond.
Fallen Angel (Millpool, Mousehole)
This is a brand-new opening so I haven’t seen it in person, but my-oh-my does it look beautiful! Perched on the hillside above the harbour, it’s a contemporary couples’ hideaway constructed from granite, timber and rubber cladding, with floor-to-ceiling windows and views over Mounts Bay. Inside are patterned Spanish tiles, a sleek timber kitchen, a suspended wood-burner and a decadent zinc bathtub; outside, a decked terrace and a sub-tropical garden with a firepit.
Eat and drink at:
2 Fore Street (2 Fore Street, Mousehole)
This harbourfront bistro is open for lunch, dinner and drinks, and everything we sampled – Newlyn crab and parmesan soufflé, grilled lemon sole with basil mayonnaise, chocolate delice with pistachio ice cream – was delicious. The décor is simple and stylish, with tongue-and-groove panelling, soft duck-egg blues and coastal art, and there’s a sunny courtyard garden to the rear.
Rockpool (The Parade, Mousehole)
This low concrete cabin doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s well worth a visit. Perched right on the shore on the edge of Mousehole, it serves light lunches, teas, coffees and cocktails (the crab salad is particularly tasty), as well as hosting occasional tapas nights in summer. The terrace has spectacular sea views.
The Cornish Barn (Chapel Street, Penzance)
Artist Residence’s restaurant specialises in cured meat and seafood, much of it smoked on site. We’ve eaten there twice, feasting on the likes of pulled pork with oak-smoked cheddar and pickled apple, juicy prawns with lemon and garlic, and smokey chargrilled steaks. Make time for cocktails by the wood-burner in the lounge-bar before or after your meal – my top tip is the ‘Cornish Bramble’ (a mix of gin, blackberry liquer and cranberry juice).
The Tolcarne Inn (Newlyn, Penzance)
Set just back from the largest fishing port in England, this cosy pub is run by Michelin-starred chef Ben Tunnicliffe. It’s friendly and relaxed, with open fires, mismatched tables and a delicious range of local seafood. We spent an entire afternoon there as a storm raged outside, munching our way through moules marinière, fish and chips and dark chocolate tart with peanut-butter ice cream – perfect.
Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar (The Bridge, New Road, Newlyn)
Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar is just around the corner from the Tolcarne Inn, but it’s a completely different kettle of fish. As the name suggests, its focus is also seafood – but here it comes in the form of small tapas-style plates, served on high tables flanked by ‘Tolix’ chairs. It’s tiny and you can’t book in advance, but it really is worth any wait for a table.
St Ives Bakery (52 Fore Stree, St Ives)
I challenge anyone not to walk past this independently owned bakery without nipping inside for a treat. Even if you’re not tempted by the window-ful of meringues, scones and pastries, you won’t be able to resist the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from within. It also sells hand-crimped Cornish pasties that are ideal for picnics on one of St Ives’ three beaches.
Porthmeor Beach Cafe (Porthmeor Beach, St Ives)
Located just below the Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach Cafe is a laid-back surfers’ hangout with shaded seating booths spread along an outdoor deck. The menu encompasses breakfast, tapas and all sorts of inventive cocktails, and the views are incredible – particularly if you get there for sunset.
Porthminster Café (Porthminster Beach, St Ives)
Set right on the sand of Porthminster Beach, this restaurant occupies a whitewashed pavilion and a sheltered deck, both candlelit after dark. It’s relaxed but sophisticated, and the menu focuses on Mediterranean and Asian seafood – crispy fried squid with a white miso dressing, monfkish curry, Cornish crab linguine. There are tasty vegetarian dishes, too.
Origin Coffee Roasters (Harbour Head, Porthleven)
Porthleven has become a bit of a foodie hub, and this contemporary harbourside coffee shop – run by Cornwall-based roastery Origin – is my favourite of its many delis and cafés. There are speciality coffees and single-origin espressos to have in or take away, as well as matcha tea and a selection of tempting cakes.
Rick Stein Porthleven (Mount Pleasant, Porthleven)
Celebrity chef Rick Stein owns numerous Cornish restaurants, but this is his only outpost in the far west of the county. It sits in a former warehouse by Porthleven Harbour, with soaring rafters, whitewashed walls, statement lighting, a wood-burner, a breezy mezzanine dining area and a rooftop terrace. Many of the dishes are influenced by Rick’s TV travels – we feasted on delicious fish goujons in a spiced Indian chickpea batter, and a creamy Goan fish curry.
No 56 (14 Chapel St, Penzance)
This is one of those shops where you’ll want to buy everything on display. Run by former fashion designer Carole Elsworth, it’s stocked with a beautifully curated range of ceramics and home accessories from Cornwall and further afield, all showcasing simple design, natural materials and muted colours. There’s a selection of skincare and stationery, too.
Port of Call (9 Market Place, St Ives)
Port of Call was set up by brother-and-sister team James and Kate Deseta, who wanted to bring minimalist design to St Ives and who also run nearby clothing shop Academy & Co. It stocks stationery, independent magazines, travel books, houseplants and home accessories, including beautiful cushions from Ondine and tableware from Ferm Living.
Plumbline (2 Barnoon Hill, St Ives)
Located opposite the Barbara Hepworth Museum (see below), Plumbline sells glassware, ceramics and other crafts handpicked by owner Deborah for their beauty and usefulness. There are Japanese-influenced vases from France-based potter Patricia Ribet, jugs and tumblers from London glassblower Jochen Holz and much, much more – it’s a truly inspiring place to browse.
Be inspired by:
The Jubilee Pool (The Promenade, Penzance)
Jutting out into the sea, Penzance’s open-air Art Deco pool is one of the few remaining saltwater lidos in Europe. It was first built in the 1930s and totally refurbished last year, with as many original details as possible being preserved. There’s also a smaller pool for children, and a cafe for post-swim drinks and snacks.
Located on the western side of the Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove is spectacular. Its white sand is dotted with jagged rock formations and caves, and cliffs tower overhead. At low tide there are two beaches, with plenty of sheltered spots for swimming. There’s also a cafe for drinks and sandwiches.
With its pristine sand and sparkling turquoise water, Porthcurno looks like it should be in the Mediterranean, not the UK. High cliffs shelter it from the wind; there are also steps that twist up to the open-air Minack Theatre, built into the rocks above.
Porthcurno is neighboured by another beach, Pedn Vounder, which is even more beautiful but much less crowded (it’s a scramble down to it, to say the least). At low tide you can wander along the sand between the two, but do check the tide timetable carefully or you could end up stranded.
Porthgwarra beach, just along the coast from Porthcurno, is beautiful in a different sort of way. It’s not huge, and there’s little in the way of sand to laze on, but it’s enclosed by dramatic cliffs laced with man-made tunnels where smugglers used to hide their hoards. It’s also a great place to spot seals, who often bask on the rocks and play in the shallows. There’s a pretty little cafe at the top of the steep slope leading down to the beach.
Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden (Barnoon Hill, St Ives)
The studio where renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth lived from 1949 until her death in 1975 is now a wonderful museum dedicated to her work. The garden is particularly beautiful – a peaceful haven hidden by palms and high walls, with rambling greenhouses, vine-strewn potting sheds and elegant bronzes dotted among the trees.
Sennen Cove’s vast sweep of sand is beautiful whatever the weather – we’ve enjoyed picnics in blazing sunshine, and bracing walks along a mist-shrouded shore. If you fancy some food, Ben Tunnicliffe (see above) has another restaurant here; there’s also a takeaway hatch serving delicious crab sandwiches.
Walk along the wild cliffs around Godrevy Point, to the east of St Ives, and you’ll spot a colony of 30 or so grey seals far below. We saw adults lazing on the beach at low tide, while pups frolicked in the waves nearby. There’s a beautiful lighthouse to admire, too.
Most photography by Abi Dare; images of The Oyster Catcher by Paul Massey