The Island St Ives Cornwall

The Island, St Ives - Full Of History & Wildlife

The Island in St Ives isn't really an island as it is firmly attached to the mainland of St Ives. But we still call it The Island. It is actually a beautiful headland jutting out into St Ives Bay and provides a lot of shelter for the harbour.

The Island St Ives Cornwall  Not An Island

Where Is The Island?

The Island sits in between Porthmeor Beach and Porthgwidden Beach and is easily accessible from all parts of the town. From Porthmeor Beach, take the steps up by the flats on the East side of the beach. From the harbour, follow the coast path round past Bamaluz Beach and across Porthgwidden Beach. From the centre of town, walk along Back Road East and turn down Island Road.

The Island St Ives Cornwall View Across The Harbour

A Bit Of Island History

Since the settlement of St Ives, The Island has played a big role as a lookout and focal point of St Ives. It was originally called "Pendinas" which means fortified headland, and it used to be a promontory fort with a ditch and ramparts.

The views across town, the beaches and St Ives Bay make it a really important and beautiful place.

The Island St Ives Cornwall View Over Porthgwidden Beach
The Island St Ives Cornwall View Of Porthmeor Beach

The Island On The Great St Ives Pasty Dash

The Island, including St Nicholas Chapel and the NCI Coastguard station is on our game, The Great St Ives Pasty Dash. I mean, you can't come to St Ives without visiting The Island!

The Island On The Great St Ives Pasty Dash Game
The Island On The Great St Ives Pasty Dash Game

St Nicholas Chapel

St Nicholas Chapel sits right at the top of The Island and dates back to the 15th century or possibly even earlier. It is thought that this is where people came to worship prior to the main church being built in St Ives in 1434. It is a really simple, granite chapel consisting of one small room, with the most incredible view!

The Island St Ives Cornwall St Nicholas Chapel

During the 18th century it is believed that the chapel was used more as a lookout post, especially for revenue officers or "preventative men" keeping a watch for smugglers. It then fell into the hands of the War Office who used it as a store.

In 1904, the War Office started to tear the chapel down, but there was a public outcry. In 1911, Sir Edward Hain (the St Ives ship owner) stepped in and restored the chapel to commemorate the coronation of King George V.

The chapel was restored again in 1971 which is when the floor tiles by Bernard Leach were made. The icon of St Nicholas was donated by a monastery in Devon.

The Island St Ives Cornwall Chapel

Volunteers now open up the chapel in the summer months and it is also used for wedding blessings.

St Nicholas is not only the patron saint of children, he is the patron saint of sailors too. So it is not surprising that there is a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas in St Ives.

Click here to read more about St Nicholas Chapel >>

The Pharos

Although there are no remaining traces, it is interesting to note that The Island was used as a sort of lighthouse before Godrevy Lighthouse was built in the late 1850s. The light was basically a fire and it was called The Pharos. It was lit at night to help guide shipping safely into the harbour. We believe the fire was placed on Lamp Rock, which is the rocky outcrop on the north-east corner of the Island.

The Battery

This little island in St Ives was considered to be of strategic importance in the 1850s! A gun battery was built in 1859 to help protect the area from French invasion. It consisted of a 3 gun emplacements and an ammunitions cellar. What is now the Surfhouse St Ives used to be the barracks that housed the gunners and their families.

The Island St Ives Cornwall Gun Battery

In 1895, it was all dismantled when the powers that be decided that St Ives wasn't really a main target for battle!

In around 1905, the Admiralty put up a signalling mast and a huge semaphore pole on what was then referred to as ‘Battery Point’.

The Coastguard Lookout

The Coastguard built a lookout on the largest of the 3 gun emplacements in 1945. This used to be run by the government and was manned day and night. However, in 1994 the government closed it down as it thought new technologies made visual monitoring of the coast unneccessary.

In 1999 it was reopened by NCI coastguard, which is a voluntary organisation. They keep watch over the coastal activity in St Ives Bay. They also monitor weather and sea conditions and provide information for mariners, walkers and other users of the sea and coast. They also observe the coastal and marine life.

The Island St Ives Cornwall NCI Coastguard

Click here to read more about the NCI Station >>

Surfhouse St Ives

The other main building on The Island is now called Surfhouse St Ives. This building was originally the barracks for The Gun Battery and was built in 1860. It has had all sorts of uses, mainly military, but also as an artists studio. It had fallen into disrepair though and needed a lot of TLC. Tassy Swallow, a local surfer secured a long lease from the council in 2014. She received crowd-funding to repair the building. Surfhouse St Ives is now a place for education and entertainment for the wider community. They hold workshops, film nights and other events there.

The Island St Ives Cornwall Surfhouse

Wildlife On The Island

The Island is simply buzzing with wildlife. Take a walk along the path that circles The Island and keep your eyes and ears peeled.

The Island St Ives Cornwall Path


The Island is one of the stopping off points for migratory birds, and so it is one of the best bird watching sites. Rare and unusual birds are frequently spotted as are Gannets, Razorbills, Manx Sheerwaters, Cormorants and even the occasional Puffin! On top of The Island in the bushes, the bird life is just crazy. Sit still and listen and the whole place comes alive! Circling overhead we have a resident Kestrel!

The Island St Ives Cornwall Birds


The Island is one of the most stunning place for wildflowers, especially in Spring. We get carpets of seapinks (thrift), and lots of other gorgeous wild flowers.

The Island St Ives Cornwall Sea Pinks

Marine Life

You would be unlucky not to spot a seal on a walk around The Island. They are plentiful at most times of the year. There are also often pods of dolphins to be seen and even the odd whale! Check the NCI Coastguard facebook page for recent sightings.

There are lots of benches all over the island which are perfect for sitting and looking for wildlife, and for taking in the incredible views.

The Island St Ives Cornwall Benches


Useful Info About The Island

  • The nearest loos are by The Island car park at the top of the slope down the Porthgwidden Beach.
  • The nearest cafe is on Porthgwidden Beach.
  • The nearest car park is right on The Island - the council car park.
  • The Island is a great spot for a picnic. You can sit on the grass overlooking Porthgwidden Beach, eat your pasty and not get attacked by seagulls!
  • You can walk right round The Island. It isn't pushchair or wheelchair friendly though. The path is a bit rugged and there are some steep steps and a slope.
  • There are lots of benches dotted around The Island. Perfect for a sit with a view!
  • The Island is dog friendly.
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