St Ives Hotels
Situated in the lovely St Ives Bay with its harbour sheltered by the famous Smeaton’s Pier, St Ives is one of Cornwall’s best loved seaside towns, with a rich and interesting heritage that stretches back, long before the first leisure visitors arrived.
In legend, St Ives originates from the arrival of the Irish saint Ia in the 5th century. The town was a hard working fishing port for many centuries and the gorgeous old Sloop Inn, a fishing pub, is dated ‘circa 1312’, making it one of the county’s oldest. The fine stone pier was built by John Smeaton between 1767 – 70 and its octagonal lookout is part of his original design. St Ives was one of the main centres of the hugely successful pilchard fishing industry, which reached its height during the 18th and 19th centuries when hundreds of millions of fish were caught annually. The vast majority of this mighty catch was exported to Mediterranean countries such as Italy. The industry went into sharp decline during the 1920s, at a time when St Ives was already developing fast as a tourist attraction and centre for artists. Today it is a vibrant centre filled with internationally known galleries, smart shops and a diverse selection of restaurants.
Although a number of artists were well established here by the late 19th century, it was figures such as the great potter Bernard Leach, and the discovery of the Cornish artist Alfred Wallis by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood in 1928 that laid the foundations of the famous art colony. When Ben Nicholson and his sculptress wife Barbara Hepworth settled in St Ives, attracted by its special light and the wild surroundings of Penwith, many others followed. For a number of years, abstract artists such as Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, and Roger Hilton shaped a community to rival the great cosmopolitan art centres of Paris and New York.
The tradition is still very much alive through numerous high-end galleries and working artists, and the presence of Tate St Ives overlooking Porthmeor Beach. The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden nearby provides the opportunity to view her works in the lush Cornish surroundings where they were created.
From St Ives hotels you can join the wonderful South West Coast Path, which meanders straight out of the town. Head west and the scenery quickly becomes breathtaking, with the Atlantic Ocean always at your side and the cliffs and coves offering endlessly varying views. Just a few miles west of St Ives is the ancient village of Zennor with its famous little church featuring a carved mermaid and the welcoming Tinners Arms. Cross the rugged moors of the peninsula or drive right around the coast road past Land’s End and you will be able to explore the stunning beach at Porthcurno, overlooked by the unique open air Minack Theatre. A little further on you will find Newlyn and Penzance, where fishing boats and art galleries mingle and St Michaels Mount rises out of the bay.
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