Back to Britain, Part 10

Cornwall’s St. Ives and Trewinnard Hotel

June 10-25, 2003 (Updated Dec. 5, 2003)



1. London revisited

6.  Royal Gardens at Kew

11. Tate Gallery at St. Ives

2. Dolphin Square Hotel

7.  Tate Britain, Riverwalk

12. Eden Project, Heligan

3. London Eye, Piccadilly

8.  Greenwich Naval Museum

13. Rainy day in Cornwall

4. V&A, Tower of London

9.  Roman baths at Bath

14. Land’s End, Penzance

5. Queen Troops the Colours

10. St. Ives’ Trewinnard Hotel

15. To Gatwick and home


Index to 46 Photos


By Lewis Nolan

Return To Nolan Travels Home Page


Thursday, June 19, 2003 – To St. Ives


Breakfast was a delicious, takeout BLT on a baguette from the Waitrose Supermarket. The inviting store is in the heart of Bath and only a few steps from the Hilton. The interior had the look and feel of an American food chain store. However, there was no sprawling parking lot here. The urban store is served by a multi-story parking garage, which also serves the hotel and other businesses. Many local customers walk to market. I would have liked to poke around the Waitrose to compare foods and prices. But the road to Cornwall beckoned.

Betty on flower-bedecked walkway in St. Ives
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo


We drove through the rolling Cotswalds of southern England in light rain. It turned out to be a long, tiring and frustrating drive due to some truly awful directions we got from a well-meaning concierge at the Hilton. Adding to our confusion were unfamiliar signs on England’s country roads.


This was the only part of our drive across the country where we encountered problems.  The busy M-routes that crisscross England are “dual carriageway” roads like the divided highways of U.S. Interstates. The speed limit is usually 70 mph. The A-routes are almost as good but not always divided. On the A-routes, highway junctions are often traversed through “roundabouts” rather than by the horrendously costly overpasses and clover leafs used on the Motorways.


We spotted only one or two police vehicles during the several hundreds of miles of our road trip. England mainly relies on hidden cameras to enforce its traffic laws.  Motorists are warned that cameras take pictures of speeding vehicles; miscreants are traced by license numbers and heavily fined. It looks like few motorists pay much attention to the risk, at least on the motorways. 


Had we followed our instincts and gone a few miles out of the way from Bath to return to the M-5 and the A highways rather than take the concierge’s “shortcut,” our drive would have taken less time. As it was, we ended up having to frequently brake for slow-moving tractors on the twisty, narrow, back roads. We also lost time when we had to backtrack through several tiny villages because of confusing signage.

Glynis O'Shea, Ken Maidmint
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo


We arrived in the coastal town of St. Ives in southwest Cornwall just after 3 p.m. Our attitudes improved immensely when we stopped on a narrow, hillside street to ask for directions from a man working on a roof. The middle-aged owner of the B&B climbed down a ladder from the roof and affably gave us easy-to-follow directions to the Trewinnard Private Hotel at 4 Park Avenue a mile or two away. He offered to get in his car and lead the way, an unexpected kindness that we declined. Once there, we were surprised to see that he driven to the hotel to make sure we got there okay.


The Trewinnard’s owners gave us a hearty welcome that melted any residual crankiness  that remained from the unnecessarily difficult drive. They are Glynis O’Shea and Ken Maidmint, two middle-aged fireballs of energy to whom we took an immediate liking. I had exchanged some e-mails with Glynis during the booking process several months previously and even then sensed an intelligence and outgoing graciousness that was sure to please.


They gave us the run of the place, including an “honor bar” where I enjoyed a daily glass of Stella Artois, a very good Belgian lager that dates to the 16th Century. As we got to know them, we learned that Glynis and Ken both had failed marriages in their backgrounds. They had met in London, where he was a baker and she worked in a business office. They fell in love and decided to give themselves a second chance at life by going into business together in beautiful St. Ives. They jointly bought the seven-room B&B and were having the time of their lives managing it.


They seem to be ideally suited to their inn-keeping partnership. Glynis is the waitress/reservations clerk/marketing manager and business administrator. Ken is the bellman/plumber/maintenance man/bartender and breakfast cook. The hard rolls and croissants that come out of Ken’s oven are served piping hot. They are heavenly.


We’ve seen a lot of seaside towns and villages in Europe, North America, Mexico and the Caribbean over the years. But none have the beauty and charm of St. Ives. We had originally planned to stay in nearby Penzance, another tourist center in Cornwall. But I had trouble locating a suitable property - one having large rooms – and getting responses to my emails to several hotels and B&Bs.


A well-seasoned, world-traveling pal back home had suggested that we try St. Ives, where she and her husband had been attracted by the town’s focus on art and landscaped beauty. I’m very glad she opened my eyes to St. Ives, which beats Penzance in every category of importance to us.

Lewis and Betty by St. Ives harbor at low tide
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo


The seasonal tourism market in the southwest of Cornwall evidently isn’t strong enough to interest the big hotel chains to build modern hotels to American standards. The seashore is beautiful but the water is cold. The vacation packages offered by American airlines list no lodging options for Cornwall. St. Ives is hard to get to from the U.S., so most big-spending, American tourists go elsewhere. One of the Internet travel service companies routes American tourists through Paris, then Bristol to the north of St. Ives.


It is possible to fly from America to London and take a train from Paddington Station to St. Ives. The St. Ives station is within walking distance of the Twewinnard. It may be easier to fly to Dublin, then to Bristol or other small airport in Southwest England. Either itinerary likely requires a hotel stay in London or Dublin if one is to avoid an impossibly long time in flight and layover.


It appears that most tourists visiting St. Ives are the thrifty English, and they do visit in droves during the warm months. Most of the lodgings are in family-owned B&Bs or small hotels.


I had found the Trewinnard Private Hotel through the Internet. Its website is  ( What appealed to me most are the facts that the hotel has a terrific location on a hillside, a four-star rating and is totally non-smoking. It offers a large, family-sized room that met our requirements. The price wasn’t cheap (£70 per night for the two of us, including an excellent breakfast), but it provided excellent value.


Our comfortable room is No. 2. It is equipped with a double bed plus two bunk beds. It has a modern, spic-and-span bathroom with shower. Furnishings include a color TV but no American stations. We had a great view of the town. From the bay window we can see the gray and red tile roofs of St. Ives marching up and down the concave hillsides that surround the harbor. But we couldn’t see the water from our room. A smaller room down the hall has a bay window with an excellent view of the oh-so-beautiful harbor. There are additional rooms on the third story.


We were upstairs from the dining room, the tiny bar and the unpretentious “guest lounge.” The lounge is really a living room that could come out of a middleclass family’s home – complete with antique photographs and loads of books about Cornwall and St. Ives. We found the room to be a wonderful place to read and relax on overstuffed couches and chairs. It is totally unlike the uninviting, decorator-chic sitting areas found in the lobbies of many chain hotels. Like one of the guest rooms upstairs, this room’s bay window offers a fantastic view of the town, the harbor, fishing boats, “the island” and the Atlantic Ocean.

Betty overlooks rugged Cornish coast at St. Ives
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo


I thought it odd that Betty and I were the only hotel guests who took advantage of the room’s charm and comfort. Maybe it is because the TV in the room offers only BBC and another channel or two. That makes it all the better for people like us who would rather read than watch dull programming.


Our hosts recommended several restaurants within a short walk of the Trewinnard. We opted for the Sea Food Café for our first meal in St. Ives. It is a casual, moderately priced, “pick-your-own” restaurant. We walked down the hillside steps and a few hundred yards on one of St. Ive’s narrow streets near the harbor. The restaurant’s fish and other seafood selections are displayed on ice. Customers pick out what they want. The fish is cooked to order and brought to the table by a friendly staff of attractive waitresses. I had some excellent lemon sole and Betty had a dinner-sized portion of steamed mussels. The appetizer size would have been plenty. Each mussel (not the shell) was half the size of my little finger – roughly double the size of those we’ve had in France and back home. They tasted great.


We found the Sea Food Café to have wonderfully fresh food that is well served in a crisp and spare modern setting. The prices were reasonable and the service good. But the restaurant was a little too busy and noisy to suit our tastes. The place was fully booked during prime time dining hours, so we ate early. Evenings are long this far north at this time of year. It doesn’t get dark until 9:30 p.m. in Great Britain during the summer, so we had several hours to poke around town. Many stores stay open late.


Most streets in the old section of town are made of cobblestones. The streets were built as the town grew up the hillsides from the harbor. The narrow, twisty lanes are barely the width of a car. The streets near the harbor are closed to vehicles during the peak tourism months of July and August.

Betty overlooks Porthmeor Beach at St. Ives
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo


St. Ives is studded with gem-like, tiny gardens planted with multicolored flowers. Their number and their beauty have earned the town a series of awards. Local government encourages property owners to hang flowerpots from their buildings’ exterior walls.  The government makes available potting and watering services for a small fee. We saw a municipal crew making the rounds with a water wagon equipped with long nozzles to reach the hanging baskets.


Local government also plants flowers in the roundabouts and at intersections of busy streets. The planting is efficiently done in bags of topsoil that are arranged in orderly rows and circles. The foliage and flowers cover up the plastic bags.


The quay lining the harbor forms a busy promenade. There are wooden benches here and there. There is a 10-foot tide that alternately floats and beaches several dozen fishing boats and other craft twice daily. Everybody who visits St. Ives seems to spend a lot of time admiring the harbor.


Various takeout food shops face the quay, providing a source of nourishment to both visitors and annoying seagulls. We had been warned to beware of seagulls swooping down to steal food right out of your hand. Signs direct people to not feed the birds, but some do anyway.  Townsfolk are not amused. They see the gulls as noisy pests. Their droppings stain many roofs. The gulls’ squawking calls as they fly about can be heard through open windows all night long.


Continue With Next Trip Installment / Return To Nolan Travels Home Page