Why do people come to Cornwall? There are so many reasons to visit our beautiful county, and a love of Cornish art is one of them. Here we take a look at some of our best-loved walks, where you can combine exploring the Cornish landscape with discovering the local art scene.
6 days – 47 miles/76 km
This walk starts out at Cornwall’s Art Central, St Ives. Home to a branch of the Tate Gallery and countless superb private galleries, St Ives has been reeling in artists like fish for generations. They’re drawn here by the crystal-clear light and contrasting landscapes – much the same reasons as we Cornish walkers come here!
The path takes you west from St Ives, along the rugged, mine-scarred coastline that inspired modern artists such as Bryan Wynter and Peter Lanyon. The next few days are spent exploring the dramatic moors and cliffs of Cornwall’s wild west, before dropping down to the gentler south coast at Porthcurno and Mousehole. Soothe your feet in the clear waters of Mousehole harbour, before going in search of the town’s many little galleries (and places to eat).
2 days – 24 miles/38 km
One of the many incredible things about West Cornwall is that every small town has a plethora of fantastic private galleries, open studios and art workshops. St Just, in the heart of old tin mining country, is no exception. Local artist Kurt Jackson has opened the Jackson Foundation Gallery, a stunning exhibition space in a former industrial building. Leaving the town behind, you’ll strike out into the landscape that inspired Kurt and many other Cornish artists.
The rocky coastline curves round Land’s End towards the sheltered south coast coves. Day Two takes you to Penzance via Newlyn. The Newlyn School of art was established in the 1880s, when a colony of artists settled in this busy fishing town, including Walter Langley, Stanhope Forbes and Elizabeth Forbes. Find out more at Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance, and stray from the path to visit the contemporary Newlyn Art Gallery on New Road.
6 days – 68 miles/110 km
Again, this walk starts out in St Ives. Spend time here before striking out to visit the Tate, or explore Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures in situ in her former garden. Get to know St Ives’s current art scene by calling in to the St Ives Society of Artists HQ in an old chapel in Norway Square.
From St Ives, head east towards Hayle along one of the most laid-back stretches of the coast path. The white sand and blue seas inspired John Miller’s paintings, which are usually mistaken for the Caribbean. Day Three takes in St Agnes, birthplace of eighteenth-century portrait painter John Opie, known in his day as the “Cornish wonder”. You’ll arrive in Padstow on the sixth day, where there’s the usual choice of fabulous independent galleries – and some of Cornwall’s best cuisine. Works of art on a plate.
4 days – 36 miles/58 km
Marazion, home to St Michael’s Mount, is a lively little town with some splendid galleries and places to eat. The start of this walk takes in the sweep of Mount’s Bay, surely one of Britain’s most-painted views. From Turner’s intense work to John Dyer’s far more cheerful take, there’s a painting of the Mount to please every taste.
This walk passes through Porthleven and Mullion, where again you’ll find some wonderful little galleries. Call in at Porthleven’s Custom House Gallery, which exhibits around fifty local artists. You eventually end up in picture-perfect Coverack – and if this fishing village doesn’t inspire you to get your own brushes out…
10 days – 119 miles/192 km
If you really want to get to know West Cornwall on foot, this is the holiday for you. Our fifth Cornish walking holiday for art lovers takes you between Cornwall’s two centres of art teaching: St Ives and Falmouth. The ten-day tour covers all the places we’ve mentioned above and finishes in Falmouth, the other side of the Lizard peninsula.
Falmouth School of Art was established in 1902, and has grown to become a university with a great reputation for the creative and digital subjects. The presence of Falmouth Uni makes this a young and fresh-feeling town, with, of course, plenty of arty places to visit. Falmouth Art Gallery is a must, with an impressive collection that emphasises Cornwall’s place in the history of British art.
The people and places we’ve mentioned are just a few of Cornwall’s artists and galleries. There are so many more – and part of the joy of walking in West Cornwall is discovering new art for yourself.
If you’re here between Saturday 25 May to Sunday 2 June, your holiday will coincide with Open Studios Cornwall. This a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Cornwall’s art in a very different environment to a formal gallery setting. Look out for the white signs with distinctive orange Os that show there’s an open studio nearby, or download the Open Studios programme before you set out.
If you’d like to combine your enthusiasm for art with your love of the great outdoors, please drop us a line at Western Discoveries.
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