Our stay in St Ives was a short one but we managed to eat very well and sample two radically different places to stay.
The Pedn Olva – A secret hotel with glorious views
When the local taxi pulled up in front of the Pedn Olva,the driver had to point out the entrance. At street level it’s hard to believe there is a hotel here at all. But wander to the side and white tiers of rooms and terraces reach over the rocks beside Porthminster Beach like a beached cruise ship. The hotel is named for its prime site on the rocky cliffs between Porthminster Beach and St Ives Harbour. Pedn Olva means lookout on the rocks and almost all the rooms “look out” on sea views from the natural pier of granite boulders that divides the harbor from the beach.
The rooms have a contemporary seaside vibe, in shades of cream, grey and aqua, with pristine white tiled ensuite bathrooms. All the rooms have access to either private or shared terraces. Mine, a small double, was compact but cosy, comfortably equipped with everything I needed. The view of St Ives Harbour when I arrived – a wide expanse of sand, dotted with little beached boats – changed to glittering moonlit water by bed time when the tide turned. In the opposite direction spreads the sandy expanse of Porthminster beach, one of St Ives’ prettiest; its shallow aqua water tempting even on a drizzly September morning.
A beach and a pool
The 30-room hotel, owned by Cornish brewer St Austell, includes two family rooms for three and two for four. There’s a heated outdoor pool, perched above the beach and a comfortable restaurant (see below)with beach views. Rooms, in season, start at £225 for twin or double rooms with breakfast. The hotel is open year round with substantially lower prices in spring and autumn when the weather is still enjoyably mild.
The room location, near the top terrace of the hotel’s bar, was a bit problematic. Only an unlocked gate separated its semi-private terrace (shared with two other rooms) from the bar’s public terrace. Although there was a large sign indicating that this area was private, several groups of people simply pushed the sign aside and came through to settle right outside my window. It was a bit drizzly during my stay so the intruders did not stay for long, but I imagine that in warm, summer weather this could be a problem. Request a room with a Porthminster Beach view to be safe.
Please click main picture below to see clear views of full gallery.
- The Pedn Olva Hotel, West Porthminster Beach, St Ives, TR26 2EA
- N.B: The hotel promotes itself as pet friendly but, since pets cannot be left alone in the rooms and are not permitted on the beaches in the summer months, we would not recommend either the hotel or the resort for vacations with dogs.
- See what other visitors think and book The Pedn Olva on TripAdvisor
The Lifeboat Inn – In the heart of the action
You cannot get more central in St Ives than the Lifeboat Inn. This former fish cellar and salt house is a square-built, two-story granite pub on Wharf Road (essentially St Ives’ sea wall) near the center of the harbour. Acquired by St Austell in the 1960s, it has five boutique hotel rooms and two self-catering apartments. Rooms are decorated to reflect the village’s seafaring and fishing past with dark blue walls, light wood furniture and accessories, a work table and cabinet decorated with quirky bits and bobs, and vintage prints on the walls. Despite the nod to “ye olde” decor, there was nothing old fashioned about my compact room in the original granite building. It had the obligatory wide screen telly, free wifi, plenty of outlets for my chargers and a huge glass shower in a fresh, white tiled bathroom, oddly across a small privately enclosed hallway from my room.
Most of the publicity photos for this inn show sunshine filled rooms facing the harbour. Nice if you can get one. Sadly, my room in the original building, had an outside entrance, off an alley and up a short but very steep little stairway. My view was limited to the blank stone wall of the building across the alley.
For night owls only
If you are an early to bed type, this may not be the place for you. Until about 11p.m. the pounding bass of live music shook the room. I’m a night bird so I wasn’t bothered – and earplugs are thoughfully placed on the bedside table – but it is something to think about. That said, it was a cosy and comfortable room for a night or two. Rooms in season, with generous breakfasts included, hover at about £200 a night but you can enjoy a mid-winter break for less than half of that. We never had a chance to sample a meal at the Lifeboat Inn but other visitors had good things to say about the fish and chips and family meals.
A clue to the most entertaining feature of the Lifeboat Inn is contained in its name. It is right across the street from the RNLI Lifeboat Station and, if you are lucky, you might get to watch the crew of volunteers, making the boat shipshape and putting her to bed in the boatshed.
- The Lifeboat Inn ,Wharf Road, St Ives, TR26 1LF
- Like its sister hotel, The Pedn Olva, The Lifeboat Inn is dog-friendly in a limited way.
- See what other travelers think and book the Lifeboat Inn on TripAdvisor
…And Dining Out in St Ives
A blast from the past – My dinner at the Pedn Olva was a bit like stepping back into the 20th century – in the best possible way. There was no post millennial faddishness in my dinner of local scallops followed by beef brisket – no foams, no dots of sauces, no little black pudding caps on the scallops. The chef’s comfortingly old fashioned way with scallops saw tiny, sweet Newlyn scallops presented on the half shell in a garlicky butter, with buttery crumbs and a sliver of crispy pancetta. The slab of slow roasted beef brisket, accompanied by braised fennel and served on a bed of creamy mash, was enough to serve four. I barely made a dent in it. That and a glass of red wine ( from a good selection available by the glass) came to about £40.There was no extra charge for the fortuitous view of the full moon’s dancing reflections off Portminster Beach. Location: The Pedn Olva Hotel, as above, reservations recommended – 01736 796222 .
Two more tasty choices
Porthminster Beach Café sits between the beach and its own lush kitchen garden. It’s a wonderful setting for a seafood meal, imaginatively prepared from locally sourced and foraged ingredients. (Don’t worry, meat eaters and vegetarians are catered for too). The atmosphere is bright and casual, with sunlight and seaviews flooding through large plate glass windows that open onto a terrace for warm weather dining.
The restaurant wins kudos for its food and its sustainability credentials. If you’d like to know where the local seafood comes from, you can probably just ask because most of it is hauled from from St Ives Bay or supplied by day boats operating out of Newlyn, Looe and Mevagissy. The shellfish and oysters come from nearby Cornish rivers and estuaries. My seafood linguine was liberally laced with mussels, Cornish crab, giant prawns and langoustines. (And it was so good that, oops, I forgot to photograph my supper, so you’ll just have to imagine it.) Herbs, vegetables and fruit come from the garden that a kitchen apprentice developed on waste ground behind the café and from foraging. The Porthminster G&T, for example, lists sea buckthorn among its ingredients. Location – Porthminster Beach, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2EB. Reservations recommended – 01736 795352
The Cornish Bakery – Well, it wouldn’t be a proper visit to Cornwall without trying a fresh, locally-made Cornish pasty now would it? My cab driver tried to give me directions to his favorite “best” place to try one but I got lost in the maze of twisting lanes and never found it. As luck would have it, a stumbled upon this award-winning shop, one of several along Fore Street, St Ives’ main commercial street.
If you’ve coming uninitiated to the concept of a Cornish pasty, it’s a sort of fat, D-shaped turnover with crimped edges, served hot and usually filled with a savory filling – traditionally meat and veg but these days also vegetarian. Cornish tradition has it that Cornish tin miners carried pasties down the mines for their packed lunches, using the crimped edge as a handle. The crust would have been discarded because it was too tough to eat. And you pronounce pasty with a short “a” as in apple, ask or even as.
The Cornish Bakery serves French pastries, croissants, hot dishes, salads and sweets (takeaway or eat in) but the star offerings are the pasties. And they come in a multitude of flavors – bacon, leek and cheese; beef and stilton; pork, apple and cornish cider; Thai chicken, cheese and onion, vegetable, spicy chickpea and potato, sweet potato and feta, smoked haddock; apple, rhubarb and custard, and “The Award-Winning Traditional”. That’s the one I chose – filled with beef, potatoes, onions and turnips – called swedes everywhere in England except Cornwall. It was easy to understand why this chunky, peppery version won awards. Though I doubt that a Cornish miner of old could have carried this one in his pocket as his packed lunch – the pastry was far too tender and flaky for that. Location: 9 Fore Street, St Ives and about 5o branches all over England’s southwest with outliers as far afield as Scotland and Gibraltar.
More practical ideas for your visit to St Ives
While staying in St Ives, I was hosted by Visit Cornwall but all opinions are my own.