Leica Virgin: Photography in Cornwall, UK

We recently took a long weekend indulging in some friendship and photography in Cornwall. The primary purpose of the visit was to catch up with old friends, Mike and Hilary Philpott, who many Saab folk will know. But of course, we also took a look around this beautiful part of the world while we were there.

The itinerary:

  • Friday – fly in to London, drive to Cornwall
  • Saturday – St Ives, incl Tate Galleries
  • Sunday – Drive a route Mike planned for us
  • Monday – Drive to London, return home.

It was a longer drive than we thought. I’d recommend to anyone contemplating a similar trip that you fly as close to Cornwall as possible. Either Bristol or the much more local Newquay (though flights there can be season-dependant).

Most photos were taken with my Leica M240.

Click to enlarge.

St Ives

St Ives is a beautiful coastal village with all the touristy stuff that that phrase implies. Great cafes, little galleries, markets, craft shops, etc. And tourists. Lots of them. Still, it’s well worth taking the trouble.

After a short but stunning train ride along the coast, we arrived in St Ives and took a look around the tiny streets and paths with the most gorgeous little stone houses before getting some lunch (a pasty, of course – when in Rome!).

After lunch, we headed to our main drawcard: Tate St Ives.

The Tate Gallery is famous for it’s big galleries in London – Tate Britain and Tate Modern. But there’s also Tate Liverpool in the northwest and Tate St Ives in Cornwall, which occupies a beautiful building overlooking the sea.

The Hepworth Museum

Tate St Ives had a display of works by local Cornwall sculptor, Barbara Hepworth. Hepworth is well worth looking up if you’re into such things. She had a remarkable life (with a tragic end) and her works include a 6.5 meter piece outside the United Nations building in New York.

Cornwall – and St Ives in particular – became a haven for artists in the mid 20th century and Hepworth was one of the many who moved there, staying there for the rest of her life. Tate St Ives now owns and operates Hepworth’s former home and studio, which are a short walk from the main gallery.

For a very small fee (a rarity in the UK), you can tour Hepworth’s home studio or participate in one of the regular lectures/classes there. The highlight is her garden, which is unusually large for the area, overlooks the rooftops of the city and has many of her works showing throughout.

St Ives was a joyous full day of walking, nibbling at amazing food and looking at interesting things. We can’t wait to go back and see the things we missed out on.


The Tour

Mike prepared a touring route that took us around the southwest tip of Cornwall, taking in both known and lesser-known spots on the way.

We had a late start but got through most of the route, though the weather wasn’t always cooperative.

Take Penzance, for example. Epic cloud can be great for drama, but not so good for seeing the sights. We wanted to see St Michael’s Mount on the way to Penzance but the fog and cloud made that a bit difficult. (Note: my camera is not pointing at the Mount in this shot, but this view is typical of the day).

It made for some moody photos in Penzance itself, though.

Our next stop was another coastal village called Mousehole, which is most definitely not pronounced “Mousehole”. Again, quaintness overload. This was our favourite stop of the day, with beautiful walks through town and seagulls the size of small cows. They breed ’em big in Mousehole.

We made it to Lands End, but the fog continued…. somewhere behind Caro is America.

The seals are sleeping.

The lighthouse that partly inspired Virginia Woolf’s novel, ‘To The Lighthouse’

A lovely incline, which reminded me a little of Scotland.

Doors in Mousehole.

Our surprise lunchspot on the way back to London. Sometimes it pays to follow one of those brown tourist signs.


Cornwall is magnificent. Photography in Cornwall is like shooting fish in a barrel. Next time, we’ll fly directly into town and save ourselves a few days of driving – more time for photos!

Thanks for reading.

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