Sunday 19 April 2015

Down by the sea

Planning a weekend in Cornwall in springtime is a gamble with the weather. 
The start of day one was bright enough to appreciate the rugged prettiness of the north coast and its fishing villages.

Port Isaac was all rocky cliffs, colourful fishing boats and wheeling gulls. But it seems that not much fishing is done any more, outside of the tourist season. This quaint little harbour on the beach looks more like a static film set - which it is in fact, for the TV series Doc Martin. (I confess I'm a fan and always charmed by the scenes of this place in the series).

Out of season in early spring the streets were empty here, as in most of the other Cornwall towns I saw. Thoroughly gentrified and second-homed, the crowds descend in summer, clogging the narrow lanes winding down to coastal villages and depart abruptly in the autumn. Making this a perfect time of year to visit ...

Just a little further along the coast, nestled on an estuary, is Padstow, famous for chef Rick Stein's collection of restaurants, hotels and foodie shops.

Padstow was another dying Cornish fishing village before Stein arrived and pretty much single-handedly convinced the British that the fish in their own waters was worth eating, and in so doing revived the fishing industry here. 

This is an actual working harbour now, and the seafood at Stein's restaurant is truly fabulous, as I discovered.

St Ives is a lot further down the north coast, towards the end of the pointy finger of western Cornwall. And by this time it was turning pretty wet and grey and I had to use my imagination to picture the 'brilliant' light that has attracted artists to St Ives since Turner and Whistler.

By the standards of where I come from the beach front is no great shakes, but it's easy to see how lovely it could be here on a summer's day

and the Tate St Ives is right here, its striking architecture making full use of the view over Porthmeor beach. 

From the Tate it was a short wander through wet streets and empty holiday cottages to the Barbara Hepworth museum

for a wet walk around her sculpture garden and the studio where she worked, looking exactly as if she'd just finished working for the day.

Port Isaac, Padstow & St Ives, Cornwall, April 2015


  1. Karen, may I send you lots and lots of thanks for this beautiful collection of photographs and your insightful commentary, too. I've long wished to visit Cornwall, yet it's distance away from my usual UK landing point has always seemed to keep it just a that little too far away.

    The places you've shown us are amongst those that I've yearned to visit and so...this post really was very much appreciated.

    I completely agree with you about the value of visiting a particular place "off" its most popular season.



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