Destinations UK

Why We Love St Ives In the Winter

St Ives in the Winter

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.

The Beaches

St Ives Town and Beaches

Enjoying the views of St Ives and its beaches

 

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.

St Ives Beaches

A bit cold for swimming in the sea

 

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.

Porthminster Beach Huts

The Porthminster beach huts

 

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

The Streets of St Ives

The streets of St Ives

 

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

Barbara Hepworth at the Tate St Ives

A Barbara Hepworth sculpture at the Tate St Ives

 

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.

Cornish Seal Sanctuary

The rescued seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek

 

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.

Ghost Story Walk

A ghost story walk around the streets of St Ives

 

Where We Stayed
The Morwenstow Apartments

Luxury apartments overlooking Porthminster beach, St Ives

 

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?

Why we love visiting the seaside town of St Ives in Cornwall, England

Why We Love St Ives In the Winter – Pin For Later

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Sally
    February 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Fantastic write up of your trip – I’d never really thought of visiting St Ives before but I definitely think it looks like a great place, even in the winter!

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      February 8, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      We loved our trip, we were surprised how much there was to do this time of year.

  • Reply
    Isabell Whitenstall
    February 6, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to St. Ives. It is one of my favourite places to visit. I must have visited about 40 times but have not been for the past 3 years as it is 500 miles from where I live and I find the journey tiring now.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      February 8, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      It is quite a drive but out of season, the roads were relatively quiet. Hope you get a chance to visit again, as we mentioned, we loved the place.

  • Reply
    Danila Caputo
    February 10, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Sometimes beaches in the summer can be SO crowded and I know something about it because I live not too far away from the Amalfi Coast! Cornwall is on our bucket list, but I never considered visiting in Winter! Great idea! You’re right, the streets of St Ives definitely offer the best experience when they aren’t overcrowded, it’s a completely different feel!

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      February 10, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Agree, seaside towns and beaches in the winter do have a completely different feel. We loved our stay and highly recommend visiting out of season.

  • Reply
    Anu
    February 10, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Aww, that seal almost feels like talking to you. I would love to visit the Seal Sanctuary. I have heard about so many ghost walks but never got a chance to go on one. Were you scared? I am sure the stories must have been amusing and entertaining.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      February 10, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      The ghost walk made for a great evening, especially with the full moon. The seal was saying ‘Give me more fish!’

  • Reply
    Rhonda Albom
    February 10, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    We often deliberately miss famous beaches because of how crowded and alike they seem to be. It would have been interesting to visit a cold beach. I love those multicoloured boat doors. Those seals are absolutely adorable. When I was younger I used to work at a seal rescue centre.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      February 11, 2018 at 9:13 am

      The seal rescue centre was a great day out, most of the staff were volunteers. It was great walking across the sand to the town and there were only a handful of people on the entire beach.

  • Reply
    Jenn and Ed Coleman
    February 10, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    On the subject of seven wives… We literally were on a boat today with a man from Nantucket leading a swim with the manatee tour. Moving on.
    We love beach towns in the winter. We used to live in San Diego and some of the most beautiful months were in the dead of winter. The surf was up and the beaches were empty. You could see the real beauty of the place without being distracted by the throngs of people. It seemed like all the shop keepers were happier to meet you and you could feel the warmth of the people too. I love the picture of the color beach doors and playful seals. St Ives looks like a beautiful winter destination.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      February 11, 2018 at 9:15 am

      “Man from Nantucket” yep, moving on. We had a great couple of days and it was nice without the crowds, we were pleasantly surprised by how many places were open.

  • Reply
    Natasha
    February 11, 2018 at 10:02 am

    You’re right about beaches usually being overcrowded and full of touts trying to sell you something. St. Ives looks great and that seal photo is adorable. I’ve never been on a ghost walk but it sounds exciting especially with your photo showing a perfectly dramatic night sky that seems like an ideal backdrop for one.

  • Reply
    Medha Verma
    February 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    The beach looks fantastic although, like you said, its too cold in the winter to go swimming. The colourful doors of the beach huts are pretty cool though. I also love the idea of a ghost story walk around the isolated streets at night! I have never done anything like that but would love to! I love seals so visiting the corniche seal sanctuary also sounds like a great thing to do in St Ives!

  • Reply
    Indrani
    February 11, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    I too am guilty of ignoring the best places around my city. The seal is too cute and seems almost ready to interact. The beach doors look perfect as instagrammable pics. 🙂 I am keen about those ghost tours.

  • Reply
    Efthimis Kragaris
    February 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    St Ives looks great even during winter! The people seem to be doing a great job in the seal sanctuary and I would really love to go there and see these adorable creatures!

  • Reply
    Fiona Maclean
    February 11, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    St Ives is unmistakeably Cornish isn’t it? I love winter beaches too – so much quieter. Great photography

  • Reply
    Meg Jerrard
    February 13, 2018 at 12:03 am

    St Ives does sounds like a beautiful spot to visit in winter! We love walking the beach, obviously not swimming it would probably be too cold at that time of year,but there’s something about being by the ocean that it so relaxing. And I love that you can explore town with the ease of not having to hustle against crazy crowds. The rescued seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary are so beautiful!

  • Reply
    Siddhartha
    February 13, 2018 at 4:40 am

    With so much to do and see, clearly St Ives is a great destination for both winters and summers! I agree with you on the beaches, though of late I am getting more comfortable with crowds on the beach…swimming with so many around isn’t fun though!

    My fav part was actually the streets there 🙂

  • Reply
    Agness of eTramping
    February 14, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    St Ives seems spectacular in every season of the year and in winter it seems astonishing, Mr and Mrs W. How many days would you recommend staying there to see all the highlights?

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