Buy Of The Week: St Ives, Cornwall

Soak up stunning views from this cool, modern apartment in the heart of St Ives
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Peter Back, a retired accountant, and his wife Julie bought a two-bedroom flat in the beautiful Cornish seaside town of St Ives three years ago.

They already knew the town well, having lived there for several years in the late 1970s, and, since leaving to settle in Exeter, had retained links with the place with a series of holiday homes in the area. This time, though, the couple were looking for a place to buy as an investment. "We were primarily looking for something with good holiday-rental potential," says Peter.

This second-floor flat seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Its location - perched on the brow of a hill at the end of a short terrace of attractive late-Victorian houses, and directly overlooking the town's famous Porthmeor surfing beach - was ideal.

Another attraction was its airiness. "The flat is surrounded on three sides by sea," says Peter, "so you have this phenomenal light streaming in from all directions. It feels very special." This quality is particularly noticeable in the combined living-room and kitchen area, where a large bay window looks out over the harbour while an enclosed glazed balcony runs along the side elevation directly above the surfing beach.

The spare bedroom next door enjoys similar sea-views, while across the entrance hall, in the master bedroom, an additional bay window offers equally spectacular views across the old town and towards St Ives Bay, with its sheltered inlets and coves that are perfect for swimming.

Yet another attraction of the apartment was its pristine condition - the building had just been completely gutted and modernised to make way for six self-contained luxury flats, each with its own internal parking space. The developers had done a thoroughly professional job. They installed a lift in the communal lobby area, and all of the flats had been kitted out to the highest specifications with all mod cons. This particular apartment came with gas-fired under-floor central heating, down-lighting, double glazing and oak flooring throughout, while its recessed kitchen area was likewise comprehensively equipped with fitted cupboards, polished granite work surfaces, and a full range of AEG appliances.

The master bedroom came with an en-suite shower room that, along with the main bathroom leading off from the split-level hallway, was stylishly tiled in limestone.

The Backs were pretty sure they would have no trouble finding tenants willing to take on the flat for short-term holiday lets. Even though St Ives is quite remote, jutting out into the sea on an exposed spur of land almost at the westernmost tip of Cornwall, hordes of summer holidaymakers have been visiting the town's lovely sandy beaches since Victorian times. Surfing is big business, too, now and goes on all year round.

St Ives is also a major centre for the arts. Turner, Whistler and Sickert all found inspiration here, attracted by the town's unique quality of light. However, it is the St Ives School, whose members included the abstract artists Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, that really put the place on the cultural map. The group was particularly active in the 1950s and 1960s, when they used to meet in The Sloop pub on the harbour. Today, much of their work is preserved at Tate St Ives - a postmodernist-style building, with a distinctive roof shaped like a Roman amphitheatre, that lies directly below the Back's apartment on Porthmeor beach.

The old town is also justly famed for the quality of its seafood restaurants, which, along with its many independent art galleries and stunning sea-views, are increasingly attracting wealthy Southerners to the town for weekend breaks, especially now that cheap flights from London's Stansted Airport to nearby Newquay have slashed travel time to and from the capital to little more than two-and-a-half hours.

So, how has Peter and Julie's investment paid off? "We've made a substantial profit on the flat," reports Peter, who says that it generated £14,000 in rental income last year during the peak summer season - a figure that he believes could have been more than doubled if they had chosen to let the apartment out all year round.

Instead, however, they decided to use the flat for the rest of the year as their own holiday home. "We absolutely love the place," says Peter, "and have made a point of spending as much of our free time here as we possibly can."

Now, though, they have reluctantly decided to sell up in order to raise the money to buy a bigger property in Devon. They say that what they will miss most about the apartment, apart from the rental income, will be the fantastic light and the views. "It's just like being up in a crow's-nest," says Peter. "We literally get to see everything that is going on in St Ives - in the old town, around the harbour and all along the coast.

"It is endlessly fascinating to gaze down on it all, with the reassuring sound of the waves breaking endlessly on the beach in the background."

Get the spec

What's for sale: second-storey two-bedroom flat with good holiday-letting potential in recently converted Victorian terrace directly above Porthmeor surfing beach, a short walk from the town centre.

Getting there: a four-and-a-half-hour drive or train journey from London or, alternatively, an hour's drive from Newquay airport, with its regular 60-minute Ryanair flights from London Stansted.

Serious kit: lift and stair access from communal entrance foyer; large bay windows in living room and master bedroom; enclosed balcony with glazed screen incorporated into the side elevation overlooking Porthmeor beach; wall-to-wall kitchen units, granite work surfaces plus full range of AEG appliances, including four-burner gas hob, oven, dishwasher and fridge; inset down-lights; under-floor gas-fired central heating and double glazing; en-suite shower room in master bedroom; oak flooring throughout, with limestone tiling in bathrooms; own parking space.

Drawbacks: the flat has already been contracted out to a local agency for rental for the period April to October 2006 - an agreement any new owners will be tied into but which should generate significant financial returns.

How big? More than 650square feet of living space plus split-level entrance hall, two bathrooms and enclosed balcony area.

Buy it: Flat 4 The Galleries, 7-8 Godrevy Terrace is for sale through Lillicrap Chilcott (01872 273473; www. waterfrontandcountryhomes.com), for £435,000.

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