Nestled somewhere in-between the departure of Storm Eunice and the arrival of Storm Franklin we arrived in St Ives. Fair to say we had some reservations about 3 nights away from home during this potentially awful weather.
We arrived at the UNA St Ives resort after a very long car journey, but within seconds knew this was a good decision. The staff were warm, the reception scented like a spa and the sounds of live music and chatter spilled over from the restaurant. The welcome boards had plenty of ideas for what to do and a light-hearted weather forecast for the days ahead…
The UNA resort is based on the edge of St Ives, handy for the meandering streets, beautiful beaches, and great places to eat, but far enough away to feel remote. For us, it isn’t a proper holiday without a one lane road up to our resort.
The award-winning resort is a combination of timber clad lodges and villas, all beautifully designed with sedum roofs, and tastefully landscaped to capture the tropical windswept paradise of the Cornwall coast.
Stepping inside, we were transported to a sanctuary from the storm raging outside. Warm, light, spacious with all the comforts of home. We were all struck by the quiet, the peace and the space. We had room to be together but separate – which is ideal when you have tweens, and perfect for a visit with the extended family – and even more important when you factor in the unpredictable British Weather.
After the long drive, the log burner was a cosy treat, and we were content to crash for the evening with food and coffee from the espresso machine. The kitchen is brilliantly equipped and smartly designed so you don’t feel cast away from the family. A handy breakfast bar allowed the smallest child to natter to me as I made dinner and the sociable dining and living space gave us a focal point to be together. There was also a beautiful outside dining space for summer months with a hot tub for soaking away the day.
We retired to bed in heavenly comfort. I never sleep well when it is windy (a long ago fear of windy nights and being burgled) yet this was the most comfortable night of restlessness I have every had. Despite being long-awake, my day was not ruined as it was such a cosy place to be.
On our first full day we took advantage of the resort. I headed over to the Spa for some long overdue me-time. I opted for a Couture Touch treatment, a combination of back, neck and shoulder massage with a relaxing facial. Snuggling into warm towels with the gentle professional touch of my therapist was the perfect cure for my sleepless night. I could genuinely have stayed all day. My skin was soothed with Elemis products and I stepped out of the spa with a refreshed body and quietened soul. We then headed over to explore the leisure facilities. My husband managed to get his exercise fix with a run in the gym and we had a swim in the beautiful pool. The set up is bright, airy and welcoming. The changing rooms are well kitted out with free lockers and plenty of changing space. There are family changing facilities and the pool has a brilliant space for young ones who want to play safely in the water and older ones who want to watch from the comfort of a jacuzzi.
In the afternoon we headed into St Ives, a beautiful meandering harbour town with great boutiques and places to eat. I could easily have spent the afternoon browsing some of my favourite brands like Seasalt, White Stuff and Joules. There were also plenty of independent stores selling beautiful pottery and homewares. We were drawn off the streets by the scent of coffee and enjoyed some amazing treats at Crafted Coffee – the warm cinnamon bun was worth the calories and set me up for the walk back up the steep hill to our parking space. Despite the gusting weather, the sky was clear and the beach was a perfect stroll away. I had no idea that St Ives, and Cornwall had such a perfect combination of arts, culture and the outdoors. We are bookish people and surfing is something I like to admire others doing. Give me a glass of wine, a comfy sofa and a great story. Thankfully, St Ives did just that with independent bookshops, great coffee and more nestled in the gaps between the beach and the harbour. We loved it.
Thoroughly worn out, we were pleased to avoid a night at the stove and headed over to the restaurant at the UNA resort. Boy, it was a treat. Stacked with local seafood and wood-fired pizzas, we were spoilt for choice. Firm favourite was the salt and pepper squid to start. My husband and I shared roasted Cornish Hake and local mackerel for mains and then the chocolate ganache for dessert. Definitely didn’t need all 3 courses, but it was too good to say no. The staff were so friendly and very happy to contend with the weird and wonderful requests of my kids who never want to eat from the children’s menu.
Day two allowed us to adventure even further into the arts scene. We headed over to Tate St Ives. Not only is it an incredible building, but it is perched on the shore overlooking turquoise waters and beautiful blonde sands. We had the chance to wander the galleries, taking advantage of the inspirational free sketchbook for the oldest and a backpack of creativity for the youngest. I could have looked at the Alfred Wallis, ‘The Hold House Port Mear Square Island’ for hours. The exhibitions seemed to perfectly complement the shapes of the building and the colours of the landscape framing the windows and giving us so much to talk about. No trip to a gallery is complete without a quick detour to the café for the always excellent Tate scones and a rummage in the shop.
We then took a short blustery wander to the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden. This is an actual small corner of heaven. Tactile sculpture set within a garden of lush bamboo and ferns with a backdrop of the wonderful Cornish sea behind it. We spent an age taking photos, turning corners, exploring shapes and forms, which considering it was a blowy February morning is testament to the beauty in itself. Even my children who are much more Minecraft and graphic novels than gardens and sculpture loved it.
No trip to Cornwall would be complete without the obligatory stop for a Cornish Pasty so we popped into Skys Diner. It didn’t disappoint, buttery pastry, rich with root veg, steak and pepper. A fabulous easy lunch and another must do on the St Ives itinerary.
Although the weather has been against us this week, the UNA St Ives has been an actual sanctuary in the storm. Warm, comforting, hard to leave. It is filled with smart touches, tastefully selected details like Anglepoise lamps, local art, handcrafted throws and hidden practicalities like a washing machine and dishwasher. It is dog-friendly, would work for any family – extended, large or small, or a group of couples looking for walks, conversation, and great food. You could contentedly base yourself here for the 3-night minimum stay – or enjoy a longer break exploring further afield. There is certainly plenty to see and do.
In my mind Cornwall was far away, it had always felt like it would be a traffic jam too far. Yet the journey from the Northwest was surprisingly straightforward. It seemed to me like the sort of place for outdoorsy people who went for the surf, again surprisingly it felt boutique, independent, arty, interesting. The sort of place I could comfortably peruse for days and not get bored. I wasn’t sure Cornwall was worth the hype. Now we’ve been, I know it is. Three nights has been enough for us to get started. We will be back to see more.
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