If you’re planning your summer holiday and intend to remain in the UK, look no further than The Cabin in St Ives. I stayed here last summer through Boutique Retreats and it really is the ultimate in (relatively) affordable luxury. Nestled on the side of a cliff and overlooking an almost secret beach, this beautiful 1920’s bolthole offers a real escape from the daily grind. Read on to hear all about The Cabin and what to do in bustling St Ives.
We arrived in St Ives on a sunny Monday afternoon, crumpled and tired after the train journey from London. Our cab driver dropped us off and we dragged our case over a railway line and onto a tiny lane, wide enough only to walk in single file. Brambles brushed our skin as we picked our way along the sun dappled path, inhaling the fresh, clean scent of eucalyptus and gazing at the canopy of tree tops overhead. We ventured further into this shady wilderness and, just as we were starting to wonder whether we’d taken a wrong turn, we saw it. Down below, perching on the cliff edge was our home for the week. A tiny timber beach hut surrounded by wooden decking and overlooking a vast expanse of sea, sand and sky. We slipped through a little wooden gate, down a flight of steps and into a secluded paradise.
Our first morning found us waking to the sound of birdsong after being lulled into a restful night’s sleep by the soothing melody of breaking waves. We threw open the doors and let the salty air rush in, then ferried our breakfast outside to enjoy the warmth of the morning sun. The views across the deserted sands below were breathtaking and we felt our shoulders soften as our bodies unwound and our minds adjusted to a slower pace of life. In the distance, hazy in the heat, stood the lighthouse that inspired Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name and we watched seagulls swooping and dipping around it as waves broke against the surrounding rocks. If there was anywhere more perfect I’d certainly never seen it.
Bellies full, we clambered through the rugged terrain overlooking the beach and made our way across the sands and towards the ocean. Floating in the water and watching the light reflect on the ripples, life in London seemed a thousand years ago.
Overhead the cabin awaited our return, its storm-weathered cladding peering out from the almost tropical greenery around it. The unassuming simplicity of this little dwelling with its salt encrusted windows and whitewashed floorboards put me in mind of simpler times, when families would spend their holidays at the water’s edge just swimming, playing board games and toasting crumpets over camp fires. Although equipped with Wi-Fi and all the technology you could need, somehow I suddenly wasn’t interested in checking my Twitter feed or flicking through television channels and just wanted to soak up as much of this idyllic haven as possible.
While blissfully cut off from the masses, The Cabin is actually only minutes on the train from St Ives with its pretty cottages and winding cobbled streets. On our first trip it was easy to see why the location is so popular with artists; there’s something beautiful everywhere you look and the light really does seem to have an almost ethereal quality. Should you ever tire of the scenery you can entertain yourself by browsing the independent stores and art galleries (including The Tate), feasting on warm pasties or taking a boat out for a spot of mackerel fishing. Then, of course, there’s the essential cream tea. Madeleine’s Tea Room is probably the best if you’re looking for a traditional Cornish experience. It’s bursting with distressed furniture and the scones are served on vintage china making the entire process feel very quaint and indulgent. It does get busy, though, and service can be slow so try to drop by early in the day if your appetite’s up to it. If not, you could always grab an ice cream from Moomaid of Zennor. Having visited countless times (purely in the name of research, you understand), I can confirm this is the best I’ve tried in Cornwall – or elsewhere for that matter.
For more substantial nourishment, a must-visit is the Portminster Cafe where you can dine by the shore and watch the sun slowly sink into the sea. As night falls, candles create a romantic glow and snug blankets are available to ward off the evening chill. The food is top quality and we shared a plate of the most succulent scallops, followed by fish and chips for me and pasta for the husband, who continues to rave about his meal to this very day.
If you fancy venturing slightly further afield check out nearby Mousehole, ‘The loveliest village in England’ according to Dylan Thomas. Here you can wander the tiny lanes, peek into traditional cottages and enjoy a lazy drink on the lawn at the Old Coastguard Hotel. Be warned, though; pretty as Mousehole is it’s very small so don’t expect to spend an entire day exploring its attractions.
So, onto the practical stuff: While more than big enough for two, The Cabin is compact. The bed is tucked away on a mezzanine accessible only by a steep wooden ladder and the kitchen is a simple galley with a microwave and electric hobs but no oven. The bathroom is clean and modern with a shower, sink, loo and bidet and there’s a utility room where you can store all your belongings out of sight. A sleek grey sofa offers more than enough space to stretch out after a long day of clifftop walks and a table for two provides a cosy space to eat if the weather prevents you from dining al fresco.
Basic though it may seem, part of The Cabin’s charm is its small size and simplicity and this doesn’t prevent it from carrying a sense of old fashioned luxury and providing all you could want for a boutique getaway. The exterior is stunning and a lot of thought has been put into the interior where there’s evidence of attention to detail everywhere you look, from the wide selection of novels to the fluffy rugs swathing the floorboards.
Outside there’s a chimnea for warming bare toes and a shower where you can rinse the saltwater off your skin after a morning dip. There’s also a wooden table and a bench for laying back and watching the night sky.
In my opinion, UK holidays don’t come better than this (and I am incredibly fussy when it comes to accommodation). While not exactly cheap at just over £1000 for a week in the summer, trust me, the price is worth it. The sense of wellbeing we felt long after the break and the memories we have to look back on made it worth every penny and we plan to return again next year for more of the same. So if you haven’t booked anything yet and you’re looking for something special – perhaps as a place to propose or even a honeymoon destination – I’d definitely recommend giving this a try. I promise you won’t regret it.