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Picture postcard seaside resort

The popular Cornish holiday resort of St Ives is a haven for artists and art lovers and famous for its beaches. Stacey Barnfield reports.

Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, Cornwall
Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives has sculpted a name for itself as a hotspot for contemporary British art.

This Cornish destination, which in recent years has twice been named Best UK Seaside Town, is a renowned international hub for artists and art lovers, thanks to its famous light.

A 2010 BBC documentary about the area claimed that ‘‘for a few dazzling years this place was as famous as Paris, as exciting as New York and infinitely more progressive than London’’. High praise, indeed.

The town’s creative heritage dates back to the 1920s when a small group of painters led by fisherman and artist Alfred Wallis created an artists’ colony.

St Ives’ reputation was cemented in 1939 when sculptor Barbara Hepworth settled in the town with her artist husband Ben Nicholson and their young family at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Hepworth lived and worked in Trewyn studios from 1949 until her death in 1975.

Following her wish to establish her home and studio as a museum of her work, Trewyn Studio and much of Hepworth’s work was given to the nation and placed in the care of the gallery Tate St Ives.

The giant bronzes now on public display in the Sculpture Garden are seen in the environment for which they were created, and most are in the positions in which Hepworth placed them.

Tate St Ives opened in 1993 to celebrate the history and legacy of the St Ives Modernists and sits on a prime spot overlooking Porthmeor Beach. Exhibitions include major figures in British and international modern and contemporary art.

The gallery has just completed a four-month building project to create new galleries sunk into the coastal hillside. It has reopened for the launch of its Summer 2014 exhibition, International Exchanges: Modern Art.

In recent weeks the celebrated Penwith Gallery has reopened after a two-month refurbishment project. The newly-refurbished space now includes a new studio gallery, sculpture garden and café, continuing the gallery’s past role as a community hub.

Celebrated Tate St Ives artist-in-residence Linder reopened the revamped gallery saying: “The Penwith Gallery is a dream of a space. Its impeccable art historical pedigree, from 1961 onwards, as the home of the Penwith Society with Hepworth, Leach and Nicholson at the helm, has created an international legacy.”

Tate St Ives and the Penwith Gallery are must-sees for any art lover visiting South-West Cornwall, something my family and I did earlier this year.

We stayed at the award-winning Sail Lofts self-catering apartments and cottages a stone’s throw from Porthmeor Beach.

The accommodation’s contemporary open-plan apartments provided a wonderful base from which to explore the town, be that for galleries or traditional seaside pleasures.

It has a real five-star feel about it, for home comforts, interior styling and a useful concierge service on hand to help guests.

They can even call on a pool of gourmet chefs who can rustle up everything from a picnic hamper to a five course dinner party in your apartment. They will even clean and wash up afterwards. If that’s not enough to soothe away the stresses and strains of civilian life you can indulge in a relaxing beauty treatment or massage at the on-site Ocean Spa.

We enjoyed breakfast in bed, delivered to the door by one of the Sail Lofts team during a showery Saturday morning.

But to discover what really gives it the edge you need to walk through its courtyard, turn left and take a few more strides to one of the nicest sandy beaches in the area.

And another bonus for art lovers staying here is that it is a corporate partner to Tate St Ives which means guests can get in to the gallery for free.

St Ives food options are plentiful and well worth a try is the fab Porthgwidden Beach Cafe.

It has a lovely atmosphere and is a winner of numerous awards for its sustainable, delicious food.

The living area of the Sail Lofts 'Zennor' apartment in St Ives, Cornwall
The living area of the Sail Lofts 'Zennor' apartment in St Ives, Cornwall
 

Fact File

Stacey Barnfield was a guest of The Sail Lofts, Studio 7, Porthmeor Road, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1GB. Telephone: 01736 799175. www.thesaillofts.co.uk . Email: info@thesaillofts.co.uk . Guide Price: Low season £359 - £1,025 per week; Mid season £479 - £2,499 per week; High season £999 - £3,599 per week; Winter short breaks from £269 in a 1-bedroom apartment, £349 in a 2-bedroom apartment, £479 in a 3/4 bedroom apartment.

* Tate St Ives: www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives

* Penwith Gallery: www.penwithgallery.com

* Porthgwidden Beach Cafe: www.porthgwiddencafe.co.uk

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