The Beaches of St. Ives

Porthminster Beach

The Beaches of St. Ives

I have to confess that I’m not one for lying around on a beach, but I also have to confess that I do like seeing them, and with all this good weather around at the moment it seems as good a time as any to mention a few.

St. Ives is one of those places that is blessed with some lovely sandy beaches, but for this article I’m excluding the large expanses of sand at Carbis Bay and Hayle and just concentrating on the town beaches.

There’s not a lot that can be written about them except to say that they are all ideal for just lying around on, and taking a casual dip every so often into the shallow turquoise sea; perfect for kids and sun-worshippers alike, weather permitting of course.

Consequently, this post is mainly a pictorial one to show where the beaches are and what they look like.

Porthminster
Porthminster

If you arrive in St. Ives by way of the scenic St Ives Bay Railway Line the first thing that you’ll see, apart from the platform, is Porthminster Beach. It’s a great introduction to the town because it gives people an idea on what to expect from St. Ives.

Porthminster gets its name from the minster that was here up until the 15th century, and is a sheltered beach of golden sands that stretch for almost half a mile.

It’s great for families, because not only is it safe for bathing, but also has facilities such as a café, restaurant and beach huts

It’s an easy walk into the town, but if you’re feeling a bit more energetic there’s a cliff top walk back to Carbis Bay as well.

From Porthminster, ‘The Warren’ leads round to The Harbour and its beach, which as you might imagine, can get busy at times, especially when the tide comes in and restricts the amount of sand left for people to sit on. For someone like me, I prefer it when the tide’s out and there aren’t so many people around. At these times, it can look almost perfect.

Harbour Beach with the tide in
Harbour Beach with the tide out

If you want to find somewhere quieter it’s worth making your way around to Porthgwidden which sits under ‘The Island’. This is the smallest of the town’s bays and a veritable suntrap where you can come and soak up the sun all day without too much interference. There’s also a café here that will keep you topped up with any refreshments you may need.

Porthgwidden
Porthgwidden

On the other side of ‘The Island’ is Porthmeor, the largest of St Ives four beaches.

All these Porths can be a bit confusing and I’d like to be able to tell you how to remember which one’s which – but I can’t. What I can tell you though is the meaning of the word ‘Porth’, and in this context it means ‘Bay’.

Porthmeor is the only one of the town’s beaches not enjoying the protection of St. Ives Bay. Whereas the other three beaches are idea for sunbathing and swimming, Porthmeor is better suited to surfing.

The waves that travel across the Atlantic hit this side of the Cornish coast producing some good surfing conditions, and as a consequence, facilities here cater for those who enjoy the sport including a surf school.

Porthmeor
Porthmeor
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If you prefer walking to surfing then you can take the short walk around to Carrick Du. This greenstone outcrop resembles a man’s head and is often referred to as such. There are no facilities here but if you return to the beach there’s a beach café half way along. It tends to cater for a younger crowd but if that isn’t quite your scene then behind it the Tate St Ives has a very nice café with a terrace overlooking the beach below. Although there is a charge to enter the Gallery there is no charge to visit the café or shop.

Carrick Du
Carrick Du
Man's Head
Man's Head

In a nutshell then, St Ives has four beaches – Porthminster is best for families, the Harbour for convenience, Porthgwidden for seclusion and Porthmeor for surfing; in other words, a beach for everyone – apart from me that is.

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16 thoughts on “The Beaches of St. Ives

  1. toonsarah

    I’m another who prefers the coast in winter – would St Ives be good for an off-season break or does everything pretty much shut down? I’m thinking galleries, restaurants etc – I know the beaches would still be there 😉

    Reply
    1. Malc Post author

      Not everything shuts down in St Ives for winter that’s for sure. If you had something specific in mind it would obviously pay to check the opening times. If there’s one thing I would recommend though if you were staying for any length of time, is to have use of your own transport. The coastline around the Penwith peninsula is great at any time of year.

      Reply
    1. Malcolm Post author

      I don’t suppose they would compete too well against some of those wonderful beaches you have in Australia Albert, but St Ives still has a distinctly Cornish feel to it I’m pleased to say. Thanks for passing by.

      Reply
  2. Alli Templeton

    Ah brilliant, Malcolm, so this is St Ives! And very beautiful it is too judging by your amazing photos. I hadn’t realised there were four beaches, each with something different to offer the visitor. It’d have to be Porthgwidden for me for the seclusion. I’m the same as you – couldn’t abide the idea of lying on a beach for hours – that’s not me at all. I’d rather walk and enjoy some space and scenery, and get a sense of the place’s history. Carrick Du looks lovely, and the man’s head is really worth seeing. It looks quite poignant with his lonely figure gazing out over the sea like some guardian of the coast. So is that the Island we were talking about the other day when I sent you the Longest John’s film? It’s nice to put them in a bit more context, so your post is particularly well timed. It’d be wonderful to see them sing there. Thanks for sharing another gem of our coastline that has to be seen. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Malcolm Post author

      Thanks for your comments as always Alli. The Island is indeed the one we were talking about, but it’s not an island in the true sense of the word (not these days at least). I may follow this post up with some more on St Ives which will include a bit more info about ‘the island’.
      Cornwall is popular in the summer for obvious reasons, but I think you would prefer it out of season. I certainly do.

      Reply
      1. Alli Templeton

        Absolutely I would – I prefer everywhere out of season, even castles! So much more atmosphere. When it’s the holiday season and good weather I usually head deep into forests or seek out the more secluded places for just that reason. I’d love to know more about the ‘island’, so looking forward to your further post about St Ives. I kind of feel I’ve got a vested interest in it now… 🙂

        Reply
            1. Malcolm Post author

              It’s certainly no pressure Alli. I enjoy putting these blogs together, and it makes it all the more worthwhile if somebody actually looks at them – but I don’t want to any pressure on you either LOL.

              Reply
              1. Alli Templeton

                No worries there, Malcolm, I really do love reading your blog, and I’m always pleased to see a notification of your posts arrive in my inbox – in many ways you’re a kindred spirit, and that’s quite rare these days. So keep ’em coming… 🙂

                Reply
                1. Malcolm Post author

                  Thank you so much for those kind words – and ‘kindred spirit’ is a great description of how I think we both seem to see the world. Rest assured I’ll keep ’em coming Alli 🙂

                  Reply
  3. Stuart Templeton

    Well that was a stroll down memory lane – I spent a lot of my holidays in that area when I was young as my Grandparents lived near mounts bay. St Ives was always a good destination and I remember those beaches well. The town too with it’s winding back streets. There used to be a very good model shop my Grandfather would take me too. I always used to like Porthmeor in the winter, when the storms and bad weather would beat up the coast a bit – it was very dramatic to watch.

    Another great post Malc – thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Malcolm Post author

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who prefers the coast in wintertime. It can be so atmospheric. I’ve got plenty more snippets to put together to take you back down memory lane when I get round to them. Thanks for taking a look Stuart and your nice comments too. They’re always appreciated.

      Reply
      1. Stuart Templeton

        Thanks Malcolm! I do prefer a lot of places in the winter, as you said – it’s far more atmospheric. I love the sight of a dramatic sea beating up the coast line, AND the noise come to think of it.
        Looking forward to reading more! 😀

        Reply

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