Virginia Woolf’s St Ives

“It was a windy, noisy, fishy, vociferous, narrow-streeted town; the colour of a mussel or a limpet; like a bunch of rough shellfish clustered on a grey wall together.”

St Ives Harbour

“There were then days of pure enjoyment – I conceive them at St Ives most readily”

Porthminster Beach

From the garden of Talland House (above Porthminster Beach) where the Stephens family stayed for up to three months a year the children (Stella, Vanessa, Thoby, Virginia and Adrian) had multiple lookout points where they could watch ships cross the bay, the sea change colour, and the fishing fleet retuning at night. In the distance was the lighthouse, “a stark tower on a bare rock”, as Virginia described it in her book ‘To the Lighthouse’.

Godrevy Lighthouse

She reimagined the light, the sea, Talland House, the town and a boat trip to Godrevy throughout her writing career.

“Nothing that we had as children was quite so important to us as our summer in Cornwall”

Source: St Ives Archive / Photos my own


  1. That’s a great description you start with, and your photograph illustrates it beautifully. The only sibling I had heard of was Vanessa – interesting to know there were three others.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I believe Stella was a half sister.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for the photo. Since I had recently rereread(read for the third time) “To The Lighthouse,” it helped to see the actual spot. My grandfather was forever regaling us with the riddle about “going to St Ives.” I remember trying hard to do the math.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I haven’t even read the book which is not about this particular location even if she uses this lighthouse. The St Ives riddle is fun.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        You can skip the book and just enjoy the lighthouse.

  3. It would have been such a lovely treat for those children to holiday at the beach every year.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I know. Imagine having 2 – 3 months here on holiday.

  4. Ann Mackay says:

    I love St Ives – it felt like a really special place to visit and I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live there… 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’d hate living there. The nicest part is close to the harbour and they are pretty much all holiday lets now. Most locals avoid the town completely between Easter and October! We are less than 3 miles away and rarely go into the place.

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        I guess it must get completely mobbed – better to be somewhere quieter.

  5. Cathy says:

    Really interesting to read this, Jude, and see the locations referred to

Comments are closed.