Cornish beaches: Porthmeor

One of four spectacular white sand beaches in St Ives, Porthmeor is the southern-most beach protected by the ‘island’ (which is not an island) with St Nicholas Chapel on top and opposite the Tate Modern art museum. The area is famous for the loft studios still used by the many artists which St Ives draws here.

I have climbed up the island many times for the views over St Ives and St Ives Bay, but never walked in the opposite direction along the coastal path towards Zennor.

One sunny, though cool, November day we managed to get a parking spot in the Porthmeor car park, the nearest one to the art museum and usually totally full, and decided to take a stroll along the cliffs in the other direction to get a different view of the beach. It was low tide too, so this gives you a good idea of how big this beach is when the tide is out.

There is a lovely seating area among some dramatic rocks overlooking the beach and if you climb a little higher you get a wonderful view of the net lofts which separate Porthmeor from the harbour and the Hayle beaches in the distance stretching for the full three miles. You can even see Carn Brea in the background.

The rocks along this Atlantic coastline are decorated in lichens varying from the deep egg-yolk yellow to white and pale cream crustose and the very pale grey-green leafy  lichens.

And if you are a lot more nimble than I am you could clamber down to a very pretty exposed patch of sand an amongst the rock pools. You need to keep an eye on the tide though.

The beach is very popular among families in summer as it is easily accessible and in winter local surfers enjoy the waves. There is a lovely restaurant right on the beach that serves tapas as well as breakfast and lunch menus.

An historical burial ground is set on an exposed hillside overlooking Porthmeor beach, with views towards The Island and St Nicholas Chapel.  Barnoon Cemetery was laid out in 1857.  There are two chapels of rest, arranged back to back, like mirror images of each other, each with a small bell-cote holding a single bell.

The cemetery is worth visiting for much more than the superb views; it is crammed with fascinating Victorian tombs and ornately carved gravestones and includes the burial place of Stephen Curnow, aged 32, who lost his life when the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912.

Dogs are welcome on this beach except between the Sunday before Easter and 30 September when a seasonal dog ban is in place.

And as I have mentioned previously, St Ives is extremely busy during any of the school holidays so parking can be very difficult. Use the Park ‘n Ride above the town or better still take the train in from St Erth or Lelant Saltings.


  1. Anabel Marsh says:

    When we were in St Ives we went up to the chapel, but didn’t walk the other way either. Missed a trick, obviously! We did have dinner in the restaurant one night though.

    1. Heyjude says:

      There are lovely views from the chapel and especially at sunset. The beach cafés are some of our favourites in Cornwall.

  2. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I know where you were until the high picture with the slither of grass with a bench on the left!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’d never been up there before, it is a lovely spot to sit and watch the waves.

  3. What a beautiful area you’ve chosen to put down roots, Jude. You make living there sound so idyllic. 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Sadly I rarely go into St Ives Sylvia, it is usually very busy. I do need to explore that churchyard though, and another visit to the Tate. And maybe a meal in one of the beach cafés before it becomes too crowded.

  4. restlessjo says:

    Lovely little church, and what a fabulous bit of water, Jude. I could be happy there. 🙂 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      It’s a lovely spot. A shame it is so busy for most of the year.

      1. restlessjo says:

        Hard to keep the good stuff to yourself. 🙂

        1. Heyjude says:

          That would be selfish. Wouldn’t it?

  5. Wow, you had glorious weather for this day out, Jude. If we have to die, I can’t think of a nicer place to be laid to rest than that little cemetery – what a view.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Sunny, but a chilly wind Carol, which seems to have prevailed all winter.

  6. beetleypete says:

    Jude, I just got this reply, from James Curnow, in Australia.

    “Thanks, Pete! This is quite interesting.

    The Curnow’s are indeed all from Cornwall. Over here the name is
    relatively common in the state of Victoria. There seem to be a lot to come
    from Bendigo and Ballarat, two relatively small cities a couple of hours
    drive from Melbourne.

    My partner Marsha just had her DNA test done by I might
    consider doing the same soon.”

    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      Actually my window bloke is a Curnow – I wonder if it is a variation on the word Kernow which means Cornwall in Cornish. A lot of Cornish men emigrated to Australia to the mines there when the industry collapsed here.

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