I’ve been traveling a lot this year. I’ve only been in London for one full week since April, splitting the rest of them between home and away or just abroad completely. Don’t get me wrong; I love to travel and I’ve been to some amazing places in the last few months. But sometimes I want to stay a bit closer to home, and recently that has meant an amazing weekend break in St Ives, Cornwall.
I was offered a weekend trip from Villas.com in conjunction with the #InstantParadise competition I wrote about a few weeks ago. The lovely seaside town of St Ives seemed just the place to relax and experience one of their properties. To that end, my boyfriend and I hopped on the sleeper train from London to Penzance on Friday night and woke up to a beautiful sunrise in the Cornish countryside.
Now that we’re here, I can’t keep my eyes off the misty fields as the long rays of morning sunshine lift the sleepy heads of sweet little sheep in their pastures. Changing at St Erth for the train to St Ives, we wind around the waterfront as the sun teases gold out of sandy beaches and illuminates turquoise blue water in the sea. It’s suddenly so tropical that I have to remind myself I’m in England.
We arrive in St Ives just after 8 in the morning and can’t believe our luck with the weather. It’s a good omen for the rest of our time in Cornwall, which turns out to be one of the best weekend trips I’ve taken in England.
Like any good weekend break, this one starts with great food. We head down to the beach and have breakfast by the waves at Porthminister Beach Cafe. The meal is great, and the cafe lives up to the reputation St Ives has gained over the years as one of Cornwall’s major foodie hubs.
Along the waterfront in the town center, we explore more of the best cafes and restaurants in St Ives. We have a sinfully good Cornish cream tea at a stylish cafe called The Vintage Store and a good dinner on the terrace above the marina at the new Porthminister Kitchen.
Some of our best meals are over on Porthmeor Beach, where the cafe of the same name serves great small plates on terraces overlooking the sand. Everything from monkfish to chorizo wins us over, and we can’t help going back for a second round to try more.
And that’s to say nothing of the ice cream stalls and traditional Cornish pasty shops that dot St Ives with their colors and scents. It’s almost unfair to only have two days to eat here.
But we can’t indulge our taste buds the whole time we’re visiting St Ives, and when we’re not eating we’re walking.
The town is compact and easy to get around on foot, and there are mazes of little streets with pretty houses and colorful accents.
Names like Puffin Cottage and Star Gazy grace the sides of whitewashed cottages, and I could spend all day taking in the little details.
But the bigger picture is worth seeing, too, and it comes in the form of an amazing coastal trail on either side of St Ives.
We walk off some of our calories on the South West Coast Path, England’s longest long-distance footpath. It stretches for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset, and while we walk only a short stretch along the Cornish coast, we’re rewarded with spectacular cliff views and more of that impossibly turquoise water.
Back in St Ives, we spend the rest of our weekend exploring the town’s artistic treasures.
St Ives is home to a small branch of London’s famous Tate as well as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The latter is particularly exciting to visit right now because there’s an exhibition of Hepworth’s work at Tate Britain in London at the moment.
But Hepworth isn’t the only British artist to have taken up residence in St Ives. The town is quite a magnet for artists, and this weekend we’re lucky enough to be here during the annual St Ives Festival. During the two-week celebration of music and art, artists open their studios to visitors. We walk from studio to studio, talking with the artists and learning about their work in a way that brings the town’s artistic identity to life.
After all of our walking and eating, we head to our apartment in St Ives, which is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the town. As great as the views from Tregenna Castle Estate are, they lose my attention to the even more amazing gardens.
Waterfalls cascade down hills as giant ferns and colorful flowers climb up them. Walled gardens hide pretty green hedges and stone arches lead to even larger-than-life floral displays. I can’t think of a prettier place to spend my night in St Ives.
And when the night is over, I return to London glad to have discovered St Ives. I’ve traveled all over the world this year, but staying close to home in Cornwall has resulted in one of my most memorable trips.
This post is sponsored by Villas.com. If you want a weekend break in St Ives or another of the world’s great destinations, enter the #InstantParadise competition for a chance to win €10,000 from Villas.com. For more information, visit http://www.villas.com/contest.html. Villas.com has a breadth of accommodation options, and booking offers convenient filter options, a quick and straightforward process (it only took me 5 minutes!), and instant confirmation.