Britain’s Most Famous and Influential Artists’ Colony
With 326 miles of dramatically contorted coastline (well over 100 of them protected as the ruggedly scenic Coastal Path, a must-hike choice for international trekkers), Cornwall also offers peaceful villages and deserted headlands. St. Ives is the most famous of the West Country’s fishing villages, a Cubist tumble of well-kept white cottages falling over one another.
The almost Mediterranean quality of light has attracted artists here; today’s art galleries and artisans’ shops prolong its role as Britain’s most famous artists’ colony with a holiday-resort air.
That London bastion of British art, the Tate Gallery, opened an offshoot here in 1993 in a handsome rotunda above the sea with striking views from its rooftop restaurant. It includes works by the St. Ives school of artists, mostly from 1925 to 1975, drawn from the mother museum’s rich collection.
It also administers the small but special Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, studio and home of St. Ives’s leading artist who, together with her husband, painter Ben Nicholson, helped establish this port town as an outpost for avant-garde and abstract artists in the 1930s.
This is also the land of ancient myth: according to legend, King Arthur was born and held court at nearby Tintagel Castle, its crumbling ruins crowning Cornwall’s north coast, with Merlin’s Cave at the foot of the rocky cliffs below.