As I was driving to St Ives…

    The road from St Just to St Ives is one of the best.

    Just 13 miles.

    Yet it ranks up there with the great stretches of Scotland’s North Coast 500, the magnificent Norwegian drives, the Dolomites, whatever the summit is called where we took mum and sis that looked out across the whole south of Lefkada.

    Just 13 miles.

    Start at St Just (end of the world, centre of the universe), pass through Pendeen, and then the glory kicks in.

    Portheras. Bojewyan, Morvah, Trevowhan, Rosemergy, Bosigran, Porthmeor, The Gurnards Head. Yes, The Gurnards Head. Boswednack, Zennor, Wicca, The Eagles Nest. By now you can see the extent of the St Ives bay. Hopefully the sun is shining, glinting off the cerulean waters, highlighting the seven beaches of the town, backed by the three miles of Gwithian’s magnificent sands. The lighthouse at Godrevy acts as full stop for all this beauty (though in truth it continues beyond).

    Just listing the hamlets had me welling up.

    As a taxi driver I cover this road regularly. I make an effort to notice something new each time.

    The ancient field systems between Treen and Zennor.

    Mine workings that we can still understand centuries after they last rung to the sound of men at toil.

    The wonderful curved window in the cottage at Porthmeor.

    Porthmeor. If ever a hamlet spoke of old Cornwall it is surely here.

    Towards Carn Galver, off the coast road.

    Even in the dark this road shines. At night the massive rocks used to create the brutal hedges around Rosemergy glow their warning. I regularly see owls perched in the wind blown hawthorns of Bosigran. Ponies and belted Galloway cattle stray across the road. A weasel makes a dash for cover.

    All this nature. Plus two rather special pubs. The Gurnard’s Head, expensive, deservedly so, and The Tinner’s. Both rammed in summer. Both essential winter destinations.

    On Friday as we crossed the moors thick fog obscured much of the Atlantic view, but only increased the joy. Your focus is drawn to the rich colours of the damp bracken and gorse. Your attention is on the immediate rather than the distant.

    Moody moors – from the same spot as above.

    13 miles. Probably 40 minutes. Some reversing. Some narrow squeezes. All too soon it’s over and the road descends into the winding streets of Cornwall’s tourist mecca, St Ives.

    Gurnards Head, Treen. An essential watering hole.

    Ayr Holiday Park.

    It’s huge. At least 100 van spaces, probably another 100 static caravans, a large camping field.

    It’s expensive.

    It’s probably hell in summer.

    But late in October it’s an absolute joy. April, before the easter holidays, can be a treat too.

    10 minutes walk into the town, through the streets, or along the coast.

    Better still, it’s on the coast path, the hard trek to Zennor starts here.

    Pitch 5 was a good one on our first visit. Pitch 11, where ArchieVan sits now, is probably even better, with slight elevation and such a wide view of the world out to sea.

    ArchieVan at Ayr. Pitch 5.

    St Ives.

    The folk who still live in the town curse the tourists they rely on.

    It’s nothing new. The rail line from St Erth was opened in 1870 and it’s been busy ever since. But not like it is today.

    It is swarming with people in summer. Progress through the streets is a frustrating procession. Changeover day sees armies of cleaners and rubbish collectors racing against the clock to prepare cottages for their next occupants. The seagulls swoop down to profit from the mayhem.

    Somehow you need to see past all this. The best way is to spot a winter weather window and swoop in, gull like, for a weekend.

    Town Beach. One of seven.


    There are so many galleries. Many sell tat (but if you like it, then you’re made up). Some show world class work. The exciting one man studio galleries have mostly been forced out by the cost of property here, but there’s plenty of good to be found.

    My cousin Paul Vibert’s gallery opposite the Guildhall was an adventure for anyone with the patience to search out a gem among the thousands canvases in disorderly piles, but sadly both Paul, and his gallery, have gone.

    My current favourite exhibition space is the Porthmeor Studios.

    Barbara Hepworth’s Studio and Garden are essential viewing for fans.

    The Tate is valuable for increasing global awareness of the town and has some interesting touring exhibitions. Fortunately it’s also cheap for locals.


    A great result of having thousands of well heeled tourists is the number of bars, pubs and restaurants supported by their generous consumption.

    Coffee shops are everywhere, not just in St Ives, wherever you go.

    Two to look for in St Ives are:

    The Yellow Canary café on Fore Street. It’s been here for years. Its prices never fail to make you wince. It’s product never fails to delight.

    For your sophisticated daily brew with no further calorific temptation head to Mount Zion. Sit outside and gaze across the town beach towards Carbis Bay.

    The Yellow Canary. A Fore Street staple.


    Now we’re talking.

    A list may be boring, so instead follow The Wanderer’s route and start your evening on Fore Street at the tiny bar called Art of Brewing.

    This outlet for the fantastic St Ives Brewing Company only seats about 10 people. It’s a shop that serves beer rather than a true pub.

    Sit in the window and watch the crowds. Look for people you know (there must be someone). Or gaze straight through Calico (the shop opposite) towards the sea, sands and towans of Gwithian Beach beyond.

    Then, relaxed by the fine ales, slide next door and buy the lovely gear you’ve had your eye on in The Common Wanderer outdoor shop.

    Two favourites for the price of one.

    Two favourites for the price of one. Common Wandered and Art of Brewing.

    While the hordes flock to The Sloop I urge you to walk the other way and dive down a bin strewed alley to seek out the hidden Pilchard Press. Great ales and several cider barrels, no food, but if you’re lucky there’ll be singing. On our Friday visit the excellent five piece Cork an Barbor were belting out Cornish favourites. The beer was good too.

    This dirty bin strewn alley leads to beer heaven. Pilchard Press.


    There are many temptations. You can spend a fortune (Ugly Butterfly), but you don’t have to.

    We (Minty) made an excellent choice, and a disappointing one.

    Let’s get the poor choice out of the way – Beer and Bird promises simple things done well. Their bar was impressively stocked, but the kitchen preformed dismally. After Amanda sent a meal back it was returned somehow worse. The team was good though though, they knew the had screwed up, and they made no excuses.

    Onto the positive. Host occupies a Victorian bank building on the corner of Tregenna Hill and Gabriel Street. It’s a cocktail bar, it has great wines, and the best pizza we’ve had in Cornwall. Anyone who knows Minty’s food tastes will know that pizza is the motivation for many a journey, though few deliver on their promise.

    Host (screenshot).

    At Host the service was great, the price not too frightening, and the team was the best in town. Congratulations Host – you’re damn good!

    St Ives in Winter.

    St Ives will always be beautiful. But the crowds detract from the joy for much of the year. Even in winter there’ll be plenty of people, and almost everything will be open.

    For the hardcore the sea is warm enough for a quick dip all year round. Porthmeor almost always has a hint of a wave to surf, and generally it’s good.

    Parking is always a bind. Consider parking at St Erth and taking the glorious baby train into town. Better still – walk one way and train it back.

    Glancing back over these photos I see a certain dilapidation. Thank God for that!

    Winter. Porthmeor.
    More winter Porthmeor.
    No relevance to the story – Goldings, March 2022.
    Still work in progress. Goldings. October 2023.
    Goldings with crows. September 2023.

    7 Replies to “As I was driving to St Ives…”

    1. As you are aware I have travelled that road., although I cannot recall the details. However I do rambert the Tinners very well, whilst I’m sure I must have been in the Gunnards I cannot remember any detail. I do remember St Ives on one particularly cold winter day. We went into a card shop to buy a couple of cheap items to stand under the blower heater near the door! But, we cannot have been as cold on that day when a certain person threw himself into the Atantic to satisfy a challenge. Now who could that be?
      Very nice content as normal and good to see Goldings progressing.

    2. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

      Oh yes. I remember that swim well.
      I didn’t jump in this time, although many did.
      Well, here’s an offer for you – come join us again and we’ll book the Tinners for dinner, or Sunday lunch.
      Cheers. KC.

    3. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Another very interesting account of Cornwall you make everything very interesting
      You are wasted being a taxi driver having said that the two combine very well
      You are a very talented travel writer
      Regards to you all💕
      Hugs to Polly dog💕

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        You made me wonder how someone can be wasted in a job – I guess if they badly dislike their job then they’re giving themselves a hard time every day, and they’re unlikely to be doing a good job.
        Driving the taxi is fun pretty much every day, the money is awful, but it makes me laugh and that’s enough.

    4. Once again my friend you have totally nailed it in one! You have a true gift with words which never fail to delight.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Cheers Keith.

    5. Hello Kelvin, you have brought back many memories of St Ives. My attempt to eat a sandwich pressed against a house wall so that the next attacking seagull would break its neck on that very wall.
      The moody picture of the moor is great: the sky like a promise.
      Happy new year to you and Minty!

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