St. Ives takes its name from St. La, the daughter of an Irish chieftain.
She was said to have sailed across to Cornwall in the middle of the 5th Century on just a leaf; having missed the boat carrying other saints. It’s an interesting tale, to say the least.
A brief history of St. Ives
St. Ives built its wealth on pilchard fishing, and trading slate and minerals. In 1770, the harbour of St. Ives was improved by the construction of a pier by John Smeaton and this (among other things) helped to protect the town from storm-blown sand which had caused issues in earlier years gone by.
As the railway arrived in 1877, tourism soon turned St. Ives into a popular holiday resort. This was nudged along by the local Knill Ceremony, which takes place every five years on St. James’ Day. This ceremony has been happening for over 200 years. The Knill Ceremony begins with a parade around St. Ives, followed by a march to a monument which stands high above the town and is known as “Knill’s Steeple” by locals. A fiddler leads the procession, followed by girls dressed in white. They dance around the Steeple for 15 minutes before the assembly gathered there sings the hymn “All people that on earth do dwell”.
The people of St. Ives do this Ceremony in honour of John Knill, an old Mayor of St. Ives from the 18th century. He was present at the very first one in 1801, and was a man loved by all.
What to do and where to go
Having mentioned Saint La, it seems fitting to mention that there is a Parish Church dedicated to her in St. Ives. It’s a lovely church in the very heart of St. Ives that has stained glass windows and hand-carved medieval oak bench ends fitted onto Victorian pews. If there is anywhere appropriate to hear Saint La’s story, it’s right here.
St. Ives has a wonderful scenic railroad tour that traverses across the Bay line. You can park up at the entrance and take the train past the golden sands of Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay before arriving in St. Ives. Great for a day trip, if you’re not planning on staying in the area.
You may not know this, but St. Ives is a resort that boasts five beaches and a harbour. One such beach is St. Ives Bay, which has a long stretch of sand (not rocks!) and ocean; and is very popular in the summer months.
Where to stay
The Olive Branch is an early 20th century townhouse with country-style rooms and sea views. Dining in-house will put you right next to an elegant fireplace while you’re served delicious meals.
The unique 27 The Terrace, is a guesthouse with a purpose. This B&B is run out of a early 19th century Georgian house, and offers bay views with modern décor.
For a stylish and chic but rustic set of accommodations, try Primrose Valley Hotel. Beach views are plentiful, and the hotel has striking colouration.