Even in the depths of a wet and windy winter, St Ives manages to look tropical. Under the murkiest sky, the sea is a bright marker-pen blue and the sand a very un-English pale gold.
The town's location, close to the tip of Cornwall and the Gulf Stream, means it often feels a bit warmer than the rest of the country, too. Add to this a clutch of first-rate art galleries, excellent restaurants and four sandy beaches all within walking distance of each other, and it is easy to understand why it has become one of the South-west's most popular destinations.
For those in South-east England, St Ives has the added attraction of being near St Erth, the penultimate stop on the sleeper train from London to Penzance. There can be few better British travel experiences than waking up on the Night Riviera to see the sea rushing by your window. The early morning coastal ride on the Carbis Bay Railway from St Erth to St Ives is also a promising start to a visit.
Moon Shadow is just behind the eastern end of Porthmeor Beach, one of a terrace of slate-fronted fisherman's cottages. It was completed last year, abd is the latest offering from Beachspoke – a company which now has three top-end self-catering properties in the town.
While the outside of Moon Shadow looks like a traditional fisherman's quarters, the inside is anything but. Designers have had the chance to work on this from scratch, with plenty of artful lighting, metal details, driftwood surfaces and large mirrors throughout.
If you are looking for an authentic-feeling Cornish cottage then this is not for you. Its creators describe the look as more "a slick boutique London hotel than fisherman's cottage".
It is open-plan with a kitchen and sitting room area downstairs and a bedroom upstairs with walk-in shower. Underfloor heating makes it cosy, even in the colder months. Beachspoke's decadent and expensively finished havens are impressive, but not ideal for children.
Out and About
Out and About
Given Britain's notoriously changeable weather, St Ives is perhaps the perfect seaside town. It has plenty of beaches for when the sun is shining, as well as a decent array of indoor cultural experiences when the heavens open.
Thanks to its longstanding reputation for attracting artists, St Ives has the best collection of galleries in the south-west. Its compact nature also means they are within walking distance of each other.
Tate St Ives is a 10-minute walk along Porthmeor Beach from the house (01736 796226; tate.org.uk), although you can only visit the free, temporary visitor centre next door while it's closed for refurbishment until 16 May. The excellent Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is inland, a further five minutes' walk (01736 796226; tate.org.uk).
For something more energetic, Porthmeor, the town's surfing beach, is right behind the house. Lessons and equipment can be arranged at St Ives Surf School (01736 793 938; stivessurfschool.co.uk). If you prefer gentler outdoor pursuits, the South West Coast Path (southwestcoastpath.com) runs along the town's cliffs and beyond, offering excellent scenery.
Food And Drink
A bottle of champagne is nice and cold in the fridge when you arrive at Moon Shadow, which sets the tone for a weekend spent worrying about very little, least of all catering.
While the kitchen has everything you need for putting together a great breakfast (including a proper espresso machine), a small bar with stools is the only eating area, so other meals are best eaten out.
Fortunately, St Ives is bursting with great cafés and restaurants, all of which are within easy walking distance. Porthgwidden Beach Café is among the nearest (01736 796791; porthgwiddencafe.co.uk). This whitewashed sail loft has fantastic seafood (Cornish crab linguine, £13.95) and local beers from the St Ives brewery.
For a traditional Cornish cream tea, or a selection of some of the best hand-baked cakes in the county, try Madeleine's Tea Room (01736 799 628; teashop-stives.co.uk). Its setting is homely without being chintzy and its friendly staff make it a welcome retreat after wandering around the nearby shops.
If you fancy a longer walk (or if you're feeling lazy and have a car) Cornwall's oldest (and best) fish and chip shop is Becks, along the coast in Carbis Bay (01736 796241). If you can ignore the dated decor you will be rewarded with a top-notch fish supper.
Moon Shadow, Porthmeor Road, St Ives, Cornwall (020 8740 3097; beachspoke.com). Beachspoke offers three nights in Moon Shadow from £110 per night based on two sharing (£60 surcharge for one or two night bookings). No dogs.
The Night Riviera Sleeper train from London Paddington to Penzance costs from £171.50 per person return (firstgreatwestern.co.uk).