As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits,
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives.
How many were going to St. Ives?
Perhaps the main thing most people know about this Cornish seaside town is the old poem/nursery rhyme/riddle As I was going to St Ives. This anonymous poem was originally printed around 1730 – but in that version there were nine wives. The modern version, with seven wives, appeared in 1825. Although there are a number of St Ives in England and elsewhere, the poem is generally thought to refer to the one in Cornwall.
The answer to the question in the last line is usually assumed to be that only one person is heading towards St Ives while the others – wives, cats or kits – are heading away from the town. But the poem gives us no indication of the direction in which the others are heading. It has been suggested that the person going to St Ives could even have overtaken the party as they were also heading to St Ives!
This little video was uploaded to YouTube by Appuseries. I have to admit, I’ve never heard the poem sung before but it’s very sweet.
We visited St Ives in June 2016 on the first whole day of our stay in Cornwall. It was the third site we visited that day, and we didn’t spend too long there, but we managed to take a few photos. For this post I’ve used several images from Wikipedia to illustrate places we didn’t get to see.
To start with here’s a location map…
St Ives is one of Cornwall’s most famous destinations. It is situated to the north of Penzance on St Ives Bay at the edge of the Celtic Sea. The name of St Ives is attributed to the Irish Saint Ia the Virgin in the 5th century, and the old town is clustered around the parish church of St Ia, built in the 15th century. The church can be seen clearly in this nighttime photo:
Since medieval times fishing has been of great importance to St Ives and the town became one of most important fishing ports on the north coast of Cornwall. The Sloop Inn on the Wharf dates from 1312 and is one of the oldest in Cornwall. It was a fisherman’s pub for many centuries, a reminder of the town’s importance – and former dependence – on fishing:
Commercial fishing is very reduced today but the harbour is still in use, often for recreational boating and tourist fishing, and since 1930, people have been taking boat trips out to Seal Island, 3.5 miles/6km to the west of St. Ives. The island is home to over 40 seals.
Today, St Ives has become primarily a seaside resort, renowned for its working harbour surrounded by beautiful beaches. The irregular coastline ensures sunlight on the different beaches throughout the day. There are four main beaches, two on either side of ‘The Island’ which is also known as Pendinas. It is not an island at all but a promontory. On the photo below, taken from above Porthmeor Beach, the small Chapel of St Nicholas can be seen sitting on top of Pendinas. The one-roomed granite building was an ancient fort and has become a birdwatchers’ paradise. Of the four beaches, we managed to visit two of them, one on either side of Pendinas: Porthmeor Beach and the Harbour Beach.
The town boasts art galleries, cafes, restaurants pubs and shops and is known for its quaint streets and alleys. There are also many old fishermen’s cottages we didn’t have time to see, as well and one of the four Tate Galleries in the world. After we’d spent time at Carn Euny and Land’s End, our visit to St Ives was pitifully short, but it was enough for us to get the general feel of the place.
These few images from Wikipedia give more of an overview of St Ives than we were able to get:
We headed into St Ives along the northern coast and parked on a road up on the hillside looking down on Porthmeor Beach. These photos were taken as we walked towards the town centre. To the right in the first photo is the lifeguard station:
We then turned into the town centre and took a few photos of the streets and shops:
Then we headed across to the lovely harbour where lots of people were enjoying the June sunshine and the ever-present seagulls.
On our second day in Cornwall we visited two more of the county’s most famous sites: Tintagel and the Gardens of Heligan. So my next post will be about Tintagel.