St Ives and South West Coastal Paths
The Wide Atlantic
St Ives is one of my favourite places in the UK.
It's almost as if this part of England belongs to another land. The quality of the light, the colours of the sea and the beaches which look as if they have been taken from the Caribbean.
I particularly enjoy the architecture of the old town, the stone cottages and the narrow cobbled streets that lead down to the harbours and the ever present sea.
St Ives has a mild maritime climate, the South West Peninsula has clean, fresh south westerly breezes much of the time with plenty of sunshine at all times of the year.
This is the most southerly and westerly part of the country, resembling an extended leg stretching out into the wide Atlantic with a big toe dabbling in the Celtic Sea at St.Ives.
St.Ives is famous for so many things. A once thriving fishing industry, now in decline but still evident, a haven for Artists from the 19th Century and now there is a Tate Gallery, the Bernard Leach pottery, Barbara Hepworth sculpture gardens and a thriving artists colony still in existence.
And, of course, tourism. With the advent of the railways in the late 19thCentury, Victorian holiday makers flocked to the town which expanded to accommodate the many visitors.
Each afternoon or evening, on returning to the hotel overlooking the Celtic Sea, there is time to relax, explore St.Ives, visit the local galleries, shops and museums all of which adds variety and contrast to this refreshing and invigorating holiday.
My favourite is the Barbara Hepworth's sculpture gardens, an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the bustling seaside town.
Rugged Cliffs and Sandy Coves
I think St. Ives makes the perfect base for a coastal walking holiday all of which are local to the town.
All walks are tailored to meet the ability of the group. There are Grade 4 which are the shorter walks of about 6 to 7 miles each. There are Grade 7 walks for the more energetic group member which will follow similar coastal footpaths, but over longer distances, 9 to 11 miles each.
Transport is arranged to deliver the groups to the start and collect the groups at the end and there is usually plenty of time for refreshments at the end of each walk .
I remember how pleased our group was after a hot walk on the cliffs near Bottalack Mines to find an open and welcoming Inn at Pendeen. It was good to sit and reflect upon our walk whilst waiting for our transport to arrive.
Walks are mainly on the South West Coast footpaths and there are opportunities to visit some small picturesque Cornish fishing villages and experience expansive coastal views. An abundance of wildlife in both sea and air that is ever present.
Small sandy coves offer perfect picnic spots and a chance to swim in the clean blue waters around.
The really good thing about this holiday is the fact that the walks are paced to ensure each group member is comfortable and able to enjoy the experience. The contrasting scenery makes this holiday a delight. From rugged cliff tops and open moorland to sheltered bays and coves , there is variety throughout the day.
Although the Grade 4 walks are of 6-7 miles , the footpaths climb up to clifftops and down to sea level , sometimes several times in one walk.
Wayfaring and Wildlife
One of my favourite memories is the walk from the ancient village of Zennor towards St. Ives , where we spotted families of seals in the waters below , basking on the rocks and seemingly unconcerned at our presence. Our group were entranced by their antics . A perfect place to rest , watch and refresh.
And I remember on the cliffs near Lands End we were lucky enough to see a pair of Choughs, the Cornish Emblem , which have recently returned to this part of the world after an absence of 40 years.
I had been describing them to a couple in our group minutes before two flew overhead.
Naturally, I made out it was an arranged part of the holiday experience!
Nick Unstead, Walking Tour Leader - May 2020