Have you noticed that the older you get, the simpler the pleasures? With the high-heels in retirement (and ‘going out’ suggesting more tapas than tequila), now you know that there are much more organic ways to get your happiness highs: time spent amongst friends, a whiff of coffee, a gallery, a windswept beach or a fluffy white robe all able to provide the fulfilment fix nowadays.
And if the thought of getting all those at the same time flips your flapjack, get the girls over and the kettle on; it’s time to huddle around a laptop and book a luxury holiday cottage for a well-deserved winter weekend away. St Ives in Cornwall ticks all your besties’ boxes and here’s why…
St Ives on the Cornwall coast for a winter weekend with friends
Taking a UK break out-of-season is a no-brainer so far as stress-free travel goes (no passport required to cross the Tamar for starters) and, wherever home is in the UK, you can just pile in one car without the ordeal that is Summer Road Hell. For an alternative and memorable travel option, consider letting the train take the strain (to nearby St Erth and then on to the picturesque branch-line to St Ives) or maybe even flying to Newquay (low-cost flights now operate from all over the UK for the record).
Whilst the cosmopolitan allure of a European city break may appeal, you can bet your bottom Euro that what you and your girlfriends actually need is somewhere a good deal more relaxing, where the chance to walk and talk, fill up on sea air, mooch, eat, laugh like a drain and repeat is the ultimate great escape. With the unnamed sense of calm only the Cornish coast brings, you’ll instantly feel like you’re a gazillion miles away and, as streets and beaches are blissfully quieter than at any other time of year, it’s refreshing to get into the rhythm of local life without the hoards.
Where to stay: Booking your St Ives luxury holiday cottage
With you and friends all in agreement that securing “The Special Place To Stay” is the absolute top priority, it’s good to know that a company like Cherished Cottages is a perfect one-stop website for girly getaways: simple yet luxury décors, high-end comforts and second-to-none locations. And it’s not just a website. Refreshingly, the Cherished team is small and local and with all of their 34 properties in St Ives itself, they can talk you through the ins-and-outs of every option. You might want a luxury holiday cottage to sleep four or fourteen, need as central an address as possible (splinter groups will pop out at will in St Ives) or you might absolutely need a log burner, hot tub, parking space or sea view. Or all of the above of course. (You’re worth it.)
Bellair House, sleeps up to 10 , St Ives
And cost? Well, with prices already heavily discounted in low season and the fact that there’s not just one household footing the bill, it can only mean one thing: cash left in the kitty for eating, drinking and shopping with friends… bring it on!
Where to eat in St Ives
There’s a great choice of places to eat in St Ives, with many restaurants open all year round. You could kick off your evening in style with a cocktail at the über-chic HarBAR, then wander down the slope to the high-end yet relaxed Porthminster Beach Cafe.
Or there’s a menu of Mediterranean-meets-Cornish inspired dishes at the popular Porthgwidden Beach Café (clink glasses over a bottle of lovely local fizz Polgoon Seyval), tucked away in its cosy cove. Finally, at the risk of upsetting the locals for unveiling one of their lesser-known favourites, the hip Halsetown Inn is just a short drive out of town.
Credit: Cath Purchase
There is another option of course: the unbeatable pleasure of a GNI (Girls’ Night In). Make the most of your Cherished surroundings and forage in the generous welcome bag for the complimentary local delicacies. For the rest, nip into renowned foodie emporium Fore Street Deli. Old-fashioned corner shop charm can also be found at Norway Stores in the Downalong area – perfect if you need to nip out for another bottle if (when) supplies run dry.
Cherished Cottage’s Welcome Hamper
Give me coffee
Of course, multiple coffee pit-stops are high on the agenda on a girly weekend break. Caffeine comes complete with an off-the-scale coastal view at either the Porthmeor Beach Café (walk right through the café to find the surfer’s retreat: heated outdoor pods to sit in and sup) or – on the same beach – at Tate St Ives, overlooking the labyrinth of cottage rooftops towards the Island.
Where to shop in St Ives
Fore Street is St Ives’ shopping epicentre with its charming mix of high street and hipster shops plus the ubiquitous beside-the-seaside emporiums that look just like they did when you were little (fudge pantries et al). Don’t forget the art scene has also spawned a plethora of galleries here, many tucked away in the higgledy-piggledy streets of fishermen’s cottages, so do seriously consider treating yourself to an arty take-home. Seek out the Blue Bramble Gallery for its affordable art and original gifts, all supervised by the lovely resident whippet Lily.
Credit: Blue Bramble
If it’s a pre-Christmas trip, time your winter-break to take in the seasonal craft market that is Etsy Made Local. Bursting with all things hipster and artisan (not a knitted loo roll holder in sight – hoorah!) plus live music, atmospheric twinkly lights and food, it’s shuffling space only.
Credit: Emma Griffin
Things to do in St Ives: there’s something here to captivate every personality
St Ives for the cultured one
A trip away is always more fulfilling if you come back having learnt something new. So, cock the head to contemplate the abstracts at the Tate or visit Barbara Hepworth’s house and gardens, complete with her iconic sculptures. For something quaint and lesser-known, there’s an Instagrammer’s goldmine at the St Ives Museum, an old-fashioned Aladdin’s cave chock-full of maritime memorabilia.
St Ives for the fun-loving one
Whereas some coastal towns can be ghostly in winter, St Ives never sleeps. Locals come out of the woodwork for a variety of calendar fixtures from Father Christmas’s arrival by boat (you’re never too old), the dressing up and fireworks extravaganza that is New Year’s Eve on the beach, or Feast Day in Feb – a procession through town culminating in the curious tradition of the mayor hurling a silver ball over the sea-wall to scrambling school-children below.
St Ives for the wildlife and walking one (and the dog!)
Credit: Jane Sawyer
Bring your binoculars and tick off the turnstones, shags and seals in your I-Spy book (you’re never too old for that either). You can also bring a canine friend if you like – Cherished can cater for him too. Head off to the dunes at the breathtakingly secret Porthkidney Sands (beyond Carbis Bay) or towards rocky and wild Zennor, the reward a pint and crab sandwich at the Tinner’s Arms.
St Ives for the adventurous one
Brushing off the cobwebs on the coast needn’t just mean a windswept walk. Head to Porthmeor Beach for a wetsuited dip at dusk. Watching the sun set from the sea is a magically memorable moment, as is the glimmer of on-shore lights when you retreat back to base.
A Cherished Cottage for friends…
Lucy and friends (plus furry friend) stayed at 16 St Nicholas Court in Downalong in November, describing the luxury apartment as “inhabiting the bliss of a White Company catalogue”. The property sleeps six in three gorgeous bedrooms, also boasting two bathrooms, a terrace and an open plan cooking, dining and chilling area – perfect for getting together with friends. About 50 paces to the beach, it also has its own secure parking space.
Lucy is a travel content contributor writing editorial and web-posts for travel service providers. Although she specialises in France, she also writes about other favourite destinations, with St Ives firmly at the top of her list! Facebook @LucyShrimptonFranceWriter