IT’S many years since I first visited St Ives and my overriding memory is of crowded streets and pasty shops — in short, it was the place to be on a summer’s day.

However, a return visit recently, out of high season, revealed an altogether quieter place, oozing with charm and bursting at the cobbles with artisan shops and arty enclaves.

As ever, the escape to Cornwall is a delight — it always feels like a proper, old-fashioned holiday destination, where the skies are bluer and the pace of life a little more relaxed.

We arrived at the end of a mini-heatwave, so everyone informed us, and spent a couple of days enjoying the kind of weather that can only be described as living in the centre of a cloud. Mizzle was the watchword. But no matter — St Ives has so much to offer, it wouldn’t matter if it were hailing or shining.

Our accommodation for the weekend was the smart and chic holiday complex Una St Ives. A quick word of warning here – if you put the postcode in the sat nav you may well find yourself in the middle of a not exactly salubrious housing estate. Don’t panic – head back to the main road and keep going in the direction you were going or, like us, call reception and they will guide you safely in!

Set on the edge of the town in Carbis Bay, it has the feel of living in a brand new, executive dream home suburb, where life is just, well, perfect.

Our house boasted a gleaming white interior, with luxurious soft furnishings of rugs and cushions giving the place a hint of opulence. There were two double bedrooms, a fancy, all mod cons kitchen, spacious dining table and sparklingly stylish bathroom.

It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t let a dog into, for fear of muddy paw prints ruining the perfection — and yet Una St Ives welcomes four-legged companions. Brilliantly, dog bowls are provided and (I must get one of these at home) a small mat sits beneath them designed to catch all that kibble and detritus dogs have a habit of spreading around the floor as they eat.

The complex has a restaurant, open daily from 10am to 3pm, and a spa offering jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, pool and a range of treatments to help you shed the stresses of day to day life. If you were so inclined, you wouldn’t ever need to leave the place and could just enjoy a thoroughly chilled out and pampered time.

The reception area is looked after by cheerful, helpful staff and you can pop along to request help organising a taxi, a day trip, riding lessons or simply glean some advice on what to do while you’re there.

The whole resort prides itself on its environmentally-friendly approach, with recycling, reduced light pollution, and planting designed to encourage wildlife all top of its agenda.

Having admired the facilities and keen to make the most of our time, we decided to head into St Ives for a mooch about. And St Ives, it turns out, is perfect for mooching.

The idyllic winding streets are full of interesting shops, specialising in arts, crafts, fancy shoes, bespoke goods and gifts. In fact, we struggled to find a regular newsagents to pick up a newspaper!

One such shop is Sweetlime, a beautiful little Aladdin’s Cave of curiosities, from jewellery to bowls to accessories to cushions, all inspired by owner Elspeth J Walker’s travels in India. You can while a way a surprising amount of time gazing at the colourful delights, which take tribal vibrancy and are given a modern twist... and you could easily part with a small fortune. Dogs are allowed in-store but watch out for those wagging tails… After a thorough window-shopping session, it was time for lunch and we headed to the Castle Inn in Fore Street, which proudly proclaims itself the only real ale pub in the town.

I’m more of a shiraz girl than a real ale one, but well, it would have been rude not to join in. I put myself in the hands of the friendly landlord when it came to choice and a delightfully malty brew appeared, which was most enjoyable, I must say.

The pub is a proper, traditional establishment, all dark wooden tables, stone floors and chattering locals.

Foodwise, I went for the homemade steak and kidney pie while my companion went for the seaside classic of fish and chips.  The dog went for a combination of both, depending on which bits we were too full to finish.  We all found the food delicious, homemade and filling – just what you need ahead of an afternoon of sightseeing.  A word to other dog owners though – if yours is a bony hound, like ours, you may want to take along something comfy for him to lie on, for while Wolsey was delighted with his dining experience he was less impressed by the flagstone flooring and refused to sit down through the entire meal!

Our afternoon was a slightly more intellectual affair. My travelling companion had spotted a sign for the Leach Pottery and became most animated – apparently Bernard Leach is one of his heroes.  So we headed up the hill to the pottery in Higher Stennack and admired works not just by Leach — who is apparently regarded as ‘the Father of British studio pottery’ — but by current art students.  It’s well worth a visit and there’s the opportunity to buy various works as well.

Worn out by shopping, eating and looking at ceramics – it’s tiring being on holiday – we headed back to base to loll around in our super posh house and watch a bit of TV on the enormous screen.

My cohort headed off for a swim and a sauna – I was too lazy to move from the enormous and comfortable corner sofa – and returned steamed and refreshed in time for dinner.

Our evening meal was to be found back in town at the Cellar Bistro in Fore Street.  As you’d expect from somewhere called Cellar Bistro this is a downstairs affair, lit with moody lighting and furnished in deep, soothing colours.  And it was packed — clearly the place to be on a Saturday night.

I had the potted ham hock with homemade piccalilli and crusty bread followed by a deliciously moist and flavoursome chicken supreme.

My pal had lovely, light calamari followed by the herb-crusted hake which was accompanied by peas and new potatoes.

The food was delicious, the atmosphere buzzing and the service spot on and I’d thoroughly recommend a visit, although you should probably book ahead to be sure of a table.

Of course, the deal with taking a dog on holiday is that between the lovely meals out, the lounging around in luxury and the obligatory doses of shopping and culture, there’s a little furry face staring eagerly at you until you finally succumb to a walk.

And walking the dog is a pleasure in St Ives. It is surrounded by dog friendly beaches where the hound can really stretch his legs and have a good run while the humans soak up the stunning views and peace and quiet. In summer, you’ll need to check which beaches allow dogs, however, as many clamp down during high season.

On our final morning, having said goodbye to our lovely home, we set off south in search of new dog-friendly beach opportunities.

As well as Bernard Leach, my friend has a fascination with Aleister Crowley, occultist, poet, ceremonial magician and all-round rather unusual chap.

Crowley is reputed to have had links with Zennor, just a few miles down the coast from St Ives so we decided to take a look.  A tiny settlement in the middle of nowhere with a panoramic view of the coast, the village was quiet, with a few locals emerging from the Sunday morning church service.

“Do you know how we can get down to the sea?” we rolled down the window and asked one of them.

“The sea?” he said, as though he’d never heard of it, even though there it was, in every direction you looked. “What do you want it for?”

“To walk the dog,” we said.

“Oh no,” he said. “You’ll need to go back to St Ives for that.”

So, it seems, whatever the time of year, St Ives is the place to be. And I’d have to say, I agree.


  • Gill stayed at Una St Ives in Carbis Bay. For more information and to book a stay at Una St Ives, visit A one bedroom house for three nights starts at £308.
  • For an easy guide to the town, with suggestions for things to do and places to eat and stay, visit  
  • For more information about shopping and dining, visit; and 
  • For art and culture, visit the Leach Pottery ( or The Tate Gallery (