As I Was Going to St Ives: A Coastal Caper
St Ives to Lelant
I walk down onto Carbis Bay, abandon my footwear, feel the sand between my toes and indulge in a refreshing paddle before popping over the railway bridge
- Acres of golden sands
- Ancient granite Cornish crosses shimmer in the early morning light
- From here it’s a hop and a skip into beautiful St Ives itself
I rise with the sun and make a pilgrimage to a church that has twice surrendered to the sands to begin my walk along the stunning coastline towards St Ives.
The church of St Uny in Lelant (turn down past The Badger Inn) offers a green haven to leave my car whilst I indulge in a coastline caper taking in acres of golden sands and aquamarine waters that I believe must be one of the best coastal walks in the country.
Ancient granite Cornish crosses shimmer in the early morning light of the graveyard at a holy site believed to date back to the 6th Century and named after an Irish saint.
I make time to pop down to the sandy beach along a tree-lined path that is straight out of a children’s storybook. The beach is similarly enchanting, with children already up and flying kites and the gently lapping waters of St Ives Bay. Look to your right and out across the Hayle Estuary to the headland and you can catch a glimpse of Godrevy Lighthouse, thought to be the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s novel, To The Lighthouse. At low tide the ponds of the Saltings are known for an abundance of wildlife including egrets and oystercatchers and I watch gulls circling and gamboling on the early morning thermals.
Tearing myself away from this halcyon spot, I make my way up through the golf course to begin a delightful four-mile walk that’s easy enough for even the most reluctant walker.
An alternative path from here will take you along an ancient pilgrimage route. This 13-mile trek is thought to have been trodden by hundreds of missionaries from Ireland and Wales who abandoned their boats and walked the last stretch to St Michael’s Mount at Marazion on the south coast, rather than risk the wrath of the seas around Land’s End. The path is the beginning of the St Michael’s Way, part of a network of European routes leading all the way to the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain.
But today St Ives is calling, as she has called many artists over the years, and I will not say no. It’s a bright morning and, although I see no signs of bigamy afoot on this occasion, there are plenty of dog walkers to greet me as I wend my merry way towards St Ives. You won’t need a map to follow the route as it curls its way along the coastline – just keep the wonderful views of the sea on your right and the picturesque railway branch line on your left and you can’t go far wrong. The path leads me along the edge of the cliffs and past bohemian artist’s studios and residences nestled in the trees. At low tide there are tantalizing opportunities to drop down onto the beaches beneath – look for the old miner’s steps that will take you down onto sweeping Porth Kidney Sands.
“As I was going to St Ives I met a man with seven wives.” (Old English rhyme)
I walk down onto Carbis Bay, abandon my footwear, feel the sand between my toes and indulge in a refreshing paddle before popping over the railway bridge (see if you can spot the little two carriage train) and the final hump of land. There are one or two darling picnic spots here if you fancy bringing your own food or, like me, go down onto Porthminster Beach for a well-earned breakfast at the award-winning café. I opt for poached free-range eggs on toasted sour dough bread. Yum.
From here it’s a hop and a skip into beautiful St Ives itself where I watch the lifeboatmen doing morning training before whiling away the rest of the day exploring backstreet boutiques and galleries, indulging in an ice cream (do watch out for the seagulls who will pinch anything!) and even spot a little grey seal bobbing in the harbour.
I choose to walk back, but if you’re feeling a little tired there’s the option of taking a bus to the Badger Inn to enjoy a hot chocolate or some locally brewed ale; or you can take a train ride along the picturesque St Ives Bay line, alighting at Lelant Saltings. Why resist a homemade Cornish cream tea in the garden of the Old Station House tearooms here before the short walk back to your car.
If you're staying in St Ives, you can walk in the opposite direction, with the option of hopping on the bus or train at Lelant to get back to your cottage. Whichever way you do it, the views never cease to take my breath away, making this an all-time favourite Cornish coastal caper.
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