5 free things to do in... St Ives

Date Posted: 19/08/2014

Beach front of St Ives.

Pictured: Town Beach in St Ives (Photo credit: Adam Gibbard).

Learn about ancient traditions and walk in an artists’ paradise; St Ives in Cornwall lives up to the adage that the best things in life are free.  

1. Go creative for September

Two weeks of art, music and literature, the St Ives September Festival (13th to 27th September) celebrates St Ives’ artistic flair and boasts over 300 individual events, many of which are free.

Take a peak in the studios of working artists who will be opening their doors to the public especially for the festival, join the communal ceramic pit firing on Porthmeor Beach, or enjoy the daily poetry readings. 

2. See the light

Even the most unlikely artists should be inspired by St Ives’ light which reflects off the granite seabed to create a scenic masterpiece.

Wander through the maze of cobbled streets that hug the beautiful harbour and you will stumble upon many galleries showcasing the work of those inspired by the landscape and views.

Get caught up in the artistic vibe by settling down to create your own work of art or get your retail fix with a spot of fanciful window shopping.

3. Live the beach life

When you’ve got your pick of glorious beaches it’s pretty easy to enjoy St Ives without spending a penny.

Kick off your shoes and stroll along the white sand at Portminster Beach, join the families sitting on the harbour wall overlooking the central Harbour Beach, or relax with a view of the Tate St Ives on Porthmeor Beach.

4. Follow in literary footsteps

There’s no shortage of coastal walks in St Ives but if you only do one, make it around the spectacular St Ives Bay, taking in views of the town from Godrevy Head.

Be inspired as you gaze out towards the moody and atmospheric Godrevy Island with its beacon of hope – immortalised in Virginia Woolf’s famous novel To the Lighthouse.

Feast Monday Hurling of Silver Ball festival

Pictured: Feast Monday Hurling of Silver Ball festival, St Ives Harbour Beach at low tide(Photo credit Paul Watts Cornish Picture Library).

As you walk, keep an eye out for grey seals playing and hunting for fish in the surf, and for the pod of bottlenose dolphins often seen further offshore.

It’s also a good place to spot seabirds. Look out for guillemots, razorbills, fulmar and cormorant that all nest on the cliffs around the headland.

5. Relive an ancient tradition

Visit St Ives on 10th February and get caught up in St Ives Feast Day, an ancient tradition that celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Parish Church of St Eia in 1434 AD and offers a rare chance to watch the game of Hurling the Silver Ball, a centuries’ old form of rugby.

The mayor’s civic procession for the blessing at St Ia Well near Porthmeor Beach kicks the day off and is followed by the start of the boisterous hurling of the silver ball when participants attempt to win the ball off each other around the town.

Whoever returns the ball to the mayor on the steps of St Ives Guildhall on the stroke of midday receives a silver coin. In the afternoon, pennies are proffered from the balcony by town councillors to the waiting children on the Guildhall forecourt.

Take a ring side seat near the beach and cheer for your favourite participant, some of whom dive into the chilly sea to escape with the ball.

For more information visit www.visitcornwall.com.
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