Most of the time you go on holiday, the journey is simply something you need to do to get to an exciting attraction or beautiful landscape. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to visiting the world-famous seaside town of St Ives. Visiting by rail, the journey takes you along some of the most beautiful and picturesque scenery Cornwall has to offer. Packed full of great sights, the 12 minute journey from St Erth is as much an attraction as the town at the end of the line.
The short trip has been included on lists of great Railway journeys in many publications, including The Telegraph and The Guardian. So what makes the train journey from St Erth to St Ives so memorable?
A great coastal ride
The St Ives branch line allows you to take in the best of classic Cornish landscapes: imposing cliffs, golden beaches, unspoiled countryside and tropical-looking waters. In the space of a few minutes, you get to see a large section of West Cornwall, taking in some of the best views on offer.
The journey takes you past the Hayle Estuary, through the beautiful Lelant Saltings. This area of salt marsh, where the train skims across tracks barely above the water, is a collection of pools and turf in which the sky is often reflected as clearly as in a mirror and Herons gather to stand idly on one leg. The Hayle Estuary, a wide expanse of water, sits in the background, glistening in the sunlight.
Towards the end of the journey you are taken through Carbis Bay, a beautiful crescent of white sand in a wide arcing bay protected by large fingers of rock covered in bright vegetation. The town itself is an appealing collection of white buildings, nested on the hill facing out across the beautiful water towards the horizon.
The journey trundles on, the rails hugging the coast to provide a feast of rocks, water, and sand on one side and vibrant greenery on the other side. Arriving in St Ives, the train passes between Porthminster beach on the town’s south side, and several clusters of large houses nestled on the side of a tree-lined hill. From the station you can get straight down to the beach, walk into town, or take a footpath to Carbis Bay or along to Lands End.
An historically important journey
It was the construction of the railway in 1877 that really transformed St Ives into the popular tourist destination that it is today. Before the construction of the new line getting to St Ives was difficult and so visitors went elsewhere. The sudden ease of access created a boom in visitors, and also brought crowds of artists to the town, who were now able to capture the dramatic landscapes and transport their large canvases back to London for exhibition.
Without the train line, the St Ives of today could be a very different place indeed.