We’ve been to a number of ‘famous’ beaches and coastlines around the world and have often been underwhelmed. They have turned out to be expensive, crowded and inhabited by overtanned men wearing budgie smugglers, but what they do have in common, is the sun. A warm climate is a definite plus when it comes to beaches.
However, when it comes down to sheer natural beauty and dramatic scenery sometimes the best beaches and coastlines can be found closer to home. Also, if you want to avoid the crowds and experience the sea at its stormy best then the winter is the time to go. Just don’t forget your waterproofs and leave the budgie smugglers at home.
We love the West Wales coast but this winter we decided to visit Cornwall and in particular, St Ives (please, no jokes about seven wives!) We had a great trip and this is why we fell in love with St Ives in the winter.
St Ives has four beaches Porthmeor, Porthgwidden, Harbour beach and Porthminster. What we enjoyed was an early morning walk along Porthminster beach and at low tide, you could walk all the way to the harbour and the lifeboat station. Then sitting outside a cafe with coffee and the smell of fresh pasties floating on the breeze, yes cornish pasties at 8:30 in the morning.
Portminster beach is a blue flag beach and is safe for swimming although being January we and only a few degrees above freezing we declined to give it a go. There is also a great place to eat on the beach, Porthminster Beach Cafe. It is open for breakfast and lunch during the winter and also late on the weekends.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t see anyone swimming but there were plenty of surfers in the water at Porthmeor beach which is where many of the surf schools are based.
The Town – Shopping And Eating
During the peak summer months, the narrow St Ives streets can be crammed full, but winter offers a perfect time to explore and ramble without being herded by the crowds. You could really explore the old streets and passageways in your own time.
What was unexpected and a pleasant surprise were the number of pubs, shops and restaurants which were open during the ‘off’ season. Even on a Sunday night, there was still a choice of restaurants and pubs serving food (in our town, it is easier to find the Holy Grail on a Sunday night rather than a place serving food!)
The Tate Gallery
Overlooking the picturesque Porthmeor Beach, the Tate Gallery exhibits modern art and specialises in the work of local artists from the St Ives area including Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis.
As well as the gallery space, the Tate has a top floor cafe with spectacular views over St Ives and Porthmeor Beach. The gallery is open throughout the winter months, Tuesdays to Sundays.
Trips And Tours
The seal watching trips do not run during the winter months but looking at the state of the sea, it’s not really a bad thing. We wouldn’t fancy being stuck on a small boat rocking from side to side, especially with a stomach full of Cornish pasties.
What is definitely worth a visit is the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek. The sanctuary and rescue centre is situated about 40-minutes drive from St Ives. Over 50 seals a year are rescued from probable death following periods of stormy weather. The sanctuary then treats and rehabilitate the seal pups before releasing them back into the sea.
Watch our vlog as we feed the seals on the Breakfast with the Seals Experience.
The sanctuary is also home to older seals who have been too badly injured to be returned to the wild and Sea Lions which have been used as performing animals in other aquariums and parks.
Due to the bad weather we’ve been having this winter, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is experiencing it’s highest number of stranded pups.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is open 7 days a week, except Christmas Day.
Another attraction which we highly recommend is Shanty Baba’s Lantern Ghost Storywalk around the spooky streets of St Ives. Storyteller Shanty Baba leads you through old St Ives reciting stories of ghosts, plague and the darker side of St Ives. Once the rain blew over, we had a perfectly spooky night for our ghost walk. A full moon broke through the clouds and the wind whistled down the narrow lanes.
Watch our highlights from Shanty Baba’s Lantern Ghost Storywalk.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in the Morwenstow Apartments on the cliffs overlooking Porthminster beach and St Ives town. As well as the fantastic views, the luxury apartments were less than 10-minutes from the beach and only a 15-minutes walk to the town. Although walking back up the hill required a bit more effort but did help to burn off dinner.
It was great to spend an afternoon relaxing in the warm lounge while looking out over the windswept beach and the Atlantic Ocean swell.
See more of the Morwenstow Apartments, St Ives, and read more about the Island Time apartment we stayed in on Mrs W’s blog The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover. You can book this apartment with Classic Cottages.
We had a great time visiting St Ives during the winter and we fell in love with the town.
Is there a hidden gem where you love to visit during the ‘off peak’ season?