As I was going to St Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?
— Traditional British nursery rhyme
Originally a fishing village, it grew up into a seaside resort, and has long attracted artists. Today it's a huddle of cottages, small alleys, and craft and gift shops, climbing the slopes above Portminster harbour (facing east into the bay) and crossing the ridge to Portmeor beach (facing north into the Atlantic). These two coastlines meet at the headland called "The Island". South of the main town and railway station, St Ives straggles into Carbis Bay.
The Tourist Information Centre is on Street-an-Pol, TR26 2DS +44 1736 796297. It's open all year round and can help with accommodation.
Cornwall Newquay Airport (NQY IATA) has flights from London (Gatwick & Stansted), Dublin, Leeds, Bradford, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff. It's about 30 miles away from St Ives by A3075 and A30, reckon 45 mins by car. Its two disadvantages are i) most flights are summer only; ii) public transport is tricky as first you have to get the bus into Newquay (last bus around 18:30), then rely on an infrequent bus or branch-line train for connections to St Ives.
Exeter Airport (EXT IATA) is further but may be a simpler option. It has more flights year-round, the airport bus runs until 22:00, and mainline trains run hourly from Exeter to Penzance, stopping at St Erth.
The nearest main line station is 1 St Erth, 4 miles south of St Ives. Most trains from London and south-west England stop here on their way to Penzance, another 10 mins down the line. From St Erth there are branch line trains, buses and taxis into St Ives.
There are direct trains to St Erth from London Paddington (8 daily, 5 hours), Exeter (8 daily, 3 hours) and Plymouth (15 daily, 2 hours). There are frequent connections to Bristol (4 hours), Birmingham (5 hours) and the north, with one direct service to Sheffield, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
An overnight sleeper train, The Night Riviera, runs between London Paddington and Penzance, stopping at St Erth. It runs Sunday to Friday from London Paddington around 23:30, reaching St Erth before 08:00 (on Sun before 09:00 Mon). The return train leaves Penzance around 21:30 (Su-F) picking up at St Erth 10 mins later, to reach London Paddington at 05:00; you can stay aboard until 07:00. Book via Great Western (www.gwr.com), with airline seats, or single or double sleeper cabins available.
Other nearby destinations along the main line, served by hourly trains from Plymouth, are Penzance (for Newlyn, Mousehole and Isles of Scilly), St Austell (for Eden Project), Par (for Newquay), and Bodmin. See National Rail for times and fares; advance booking is usually much cheaper. A Ride Cornwall Ranger is good value for local travel. It allows unlimited off-peak travel within Cornwall, and between Cornwall and Plymouth, by all trains and most buses. "Off-peak" means M-F after 09:00, and all day Sat Sun & holidays. An adult day-ticket is £13, children and concessions around £10.
The branch line train from St Erth to St Ives shuttles back & forth every 30 mins. The run takes only 12 mins, halting at Lelant Saltings (for Park & Ride) and Carbis Bay (for southside accommodation). The first train is around 07:00 and the last around 22:00 - speak to the guard if your train is late and you're likely to miss a connection. 2 St Ives station is at the south end of town.
Another link is First Kernow bus A17, which runs every 30 mins between St Ives and St Erth, taking 10-15 mins. The first bus is around 07:00 and the last at 18:30. West of St Erth, this bus continues to Penzance, Zennor, St Just (for Land's End Airport) and Boscaswell.
National Express coaches to Penzance stop at nearby St Erth. Coach NX404 runs overnight from London Victoria (8 hrs) via Heathrow Airport, Bath, Bristol Airport, Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth. NX315 runs daily along the south coast from Eastbourne via Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastbourne, Exeter and Plymouth.
First Kernow bus T1 runs every 30 mins between Penzance and Truro (1 hr 45 min), calling at St Erth, Hayle, Camborne, and Redruth. Change at Truro for Newquay, St Austell and Bodmin. Reaching Plymouth and Exeter by bus is not worth the bother, take the train.
St Ives is a 5-6 hour drive from London via M4, M5, A30 and finally A3074. It's a long way and at some point you'll need to refuel. Don't be paying motorway prices, there's supermarket petrol at (amongst others) M5 jcn 28 (Cullompton Tesco), A30 Bodmin (Asda, Launceston Rd Bodmin) and A30 Penzance (Tesco).
Parking options: Several car parks around town centre, (£3-5 per day), but they're small and those in the centre fill up very early in the day. Aim further out, eg at St Ives railway station. "The Island" car park on the headland near the leisure centre usually has spaces; it's a 10 minute walk from the harbour. Or Park and Ride at Lelant Saltings station and take the frequent train to town.
Don't attempt street parking, even with a disabled badge, unless you've checked this with the place you're visiting. The streets are so narrow and the few spaces are reserved for residents.
Walking is best for St Ives centre, where the streets are narrow and congested. Don't bring a car here, but driving makes sense for outlying accommodation and beaches at Carbis Bay, Lelant and Hayle.
For Penzance, bus A2 runs hourly via Lelant, St Erth and Marazion (for St Michael's Mount), 45 mins, from 9 am to 10 pm.
For Land's End, bus A3 runs hourly along the B3306 via St Just, Pendeen and Zennor. Or go to Penzance then take bus A1, which runs hourly via Newlyn, Lamorna and Porthcurno, one hour, from 7 am to 6 pm.
These "A"-buses, operated by First Kernow, are blue open-top double-deckers in summer. For bus travel plus rail, a good deal is the Ride Cornwall Ranger (adult £13) described above. For bus only, buy a Day Rider for £12 (child £6) from the Bus Station or from the driver on boarding - contactless bank cards accepted. Bus drivers also issue Ride Cornwall Rangers, but only for full price, go to the station for concessions.
- 1 Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach TR26 1TG, ☎ . Mar-Oct daily 10:00-17:20, Nov-Feb Tu-Su 10:00-16:20. Outpost of the Tate, majoring on Cornwall-based artists such as Alfred Wallis, Terry Frost and Barbara Hepworth. The circular modern building is a nod to the gas works which previously stood here.
As well as the combi-ticket with the Hepworth, there's £1 off admission if you show a public transport ticket to town that day, and a £15 Art Pass (valid 7 days) also gives admission to Penlee Gallery in Penzance. Adult £10.50, conc £9.40; combined with Hepworth £14.50 / £13.20.
- 2 Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Barnoon Hill TR26 1AD, ☎ . Daily 10:00-17:20. Indoor gallery, garden display and studio showcasing the work of this influential sculptor, who worked in bronze, stone, wood and more. Adult £7.70, conc £6.60; combined with Tate £14.50 / £13.20.
- 3 The Saint Ives Museum, Wheal Dream TR26 1PR, ☎ . Mar-Oct M-Sa 10:30-16:30; closed Nov-Feb. Local history exhibition, in 2-story building that has variously been a pilchard-curing factory, a chapel, laundry and cinema. Adult £3, child 50p.
- 4 Anima-Mundi, Street-an-Pol TR26 2DS, ☎ . M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Art gallery with rotating exhibitions of modern fine art and ceramics.
- Porthmeor Beach is on the north side of town facing the Atlantic. It's half a mile-long beach with firm sands, and sometimes has some good waves for surfing.
- Porthminster Beach is the sheltered, east-facing beach, more suitable for small children.
- Carbis Bay two miles south of St Ives is a great sandy sweep of beach.
- New Year's Eve Fancy Dress and Fireworks. One giant fancy dress party on the beach and in the town with fireworks at midnight.
- 1 Blas Burgerworks, The Warren, TR26 2EA, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 17:00-21:30. Convenient and cosy restaurant serving burgers, including for vegetarians.
- 2 The Bean Inn, Carbis Bay, TR26 2RT (2 miles south of St Ives), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Sa 17:30-22:30. Simple veggie fare.
Usual selection of traditional pubs and (more recently) wine bars.
- 1 The Sloop Inn, The Wharf, TR26 1LP, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sloop Inn on the harbour front is one of the town's most popular, and you are likely to make at least one friend while there as most locals get on very well with fellow drinkers.
- 2 The Legion, Higher Stennack, TR26 1DB. Another popular pub is The Legion at the bottom of the hill atop which St Ives Junior School resides. It is very similar to the Sloop, but be aware of rowdiness late at night.
Over 70 B&Bs and several nice little hotels in St Ives, more along the coast.
- Cohort Hostel, Stennack TR26 1FF (off North Terrace). Clean comfy hostel. £25.
- Coast, St Ives Rd, Carbis Bay TR26 2RT, ☎ . Friendly and totally vegetarian B&B in Carbis Bay. Rooms are small but clean and modern. B&B double £80.
- Garrack Hotel, Burthallan Lane TR26 3AA (On hill west of town, off Alexandra Rd). A family-run hotel with great views over town and sea. With restaurant, indoor pool & onsite free car parking. They also accept dogs in some rooms. Double B&B from £120.
- The Nook, Alexandra Rd TR26 1EQ, ☎ . Small family-run hotel with cozy rooms. Free wifi and affordable rates. Double B&B from £120.
- Cottage Boutique, Unit 3, Old Forge, Griggs Quay, Lelant TR27 6JG, ☎ . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. Cornwall Cottage Boutique manage some three dozen self-catering holiday cottages in St Ives. Minimum stay 7 nights. From £350 per week, ie £50 a night.
- Eleven Sea View Terrace, 11 Sea View Terr TR26 2DH, ☎ . A small hotel in a converted Edwardian seaside villa near the centre of town. Doubles from £130.
- Primrose Valley Hotel, Primrose Valley TR26 2ED (just S of rwy station), ☎ . A cozy Edwardian villa with sea views and organic breakfast from local produce. Doubles B&B from £180.
- Carbis Bay Hotel, Carbis Bay TR26 2NP, ☎ . A mid-sized luxury hotel on the beach. Has an outdoor pool and some self-catering cottages. Double B&B from £150.
- Blue Hayes Hotel, Trelyon Ave, Carbis Bay TR26 2AD (south of centre), ☎ . A small private hotel with great views and friendly staff. £250-£300 / night: fully booked thru Oct 2018.
- Boskerris Hotel, Boskerris Rd, Carbis Bay TR26 2NQ (3 miles S of St Ives, by Carbis Bay rwy station). Upscale boutique hotels with modern design, great food and lovely views of the beach. B&B doubles from £200.
- Tregena Castle Hotel, Trelyon Ave TR26 2DE (on hill 1 mile S of town), ☎ . Large smart hotel in large grounds on the hill above the town. Often has functions such as weddings. Doubles B&B from £200.
- The Sail Lofts, 7 Portmeor Rd TR26 1GB (Towards headland north of town). Luxury self-catering apartments, minimum stay 7 nights. Doubles from £200.
- Pedn Olva, West Porthminster Beach, The Warren TR26 2EA (below railway station). Comfortable modern hotel on cliff-top just south of town. Good restaurant.
By car follow signs to railway station, use station car-park to unload, descend steps to hotel. Don't try to drive into the narrow alley just in front of hotel. Hotel can reserve spaces in station car-park, £12 / day. Double B&B from £215.
Generally crime free, but don't leave valuables on display in your car, or laptops on display next to an open window. St Ives was highlighted in 2006 as a town with an abnormally high rate of AIDS/HIV infections (the town has acquired the nickname of STIves). This was later traced to a bi-sexual bouncer at a local night club. Syphilis is also present in the local population. Practice safe sex.
It's either west to Penzance, Land's End and Isles of Scilly (day-trips possible) or back east towards St Austell (for Eden Project), Plymouth and Exeter.