“ An archipelago of 5 islands, 28 miles off Lands End, the most South Westernly point in the UK. „
I have worked each year on the Isles of Scilly since 2003. There are several ways to get there and they are by small plane, Helicoptor and the boat. The best way I think is to fly from Newquay as the plane does not go above the clouds you get tremodous views over Newquay, St Ives on your way down to the Islands and it is about 30 mins. The helicoptor is ok but it is very noisy and sometimes cold. The boat is over two hours and it is very slow. Also the boat is flat bottomed so it can be a little choppy so take the tablets and good reading matter. I think the best way to see the scillies is to stay on St Marys and then travel to the off islands and see which one you prefer. St Marys is a little more busy. There is plenty self catering , bed and breakfast and self catering.. www.vistibritain.com/ the isles of scilly is the best website to choose accommodation from. Please make sure you take a raincoat as it tends to get rain and also be prepared if you go in May for the dreaded fog as I have been caught out many times. Eating out is a little more expensive and as with the shops too. If you do self cater there is a small co-op but as the islanders do you can order tescos to deliver and put on the boat. The scillies are for people who like to walk, experiance the beauty and want a relaxing holiday as there are only a few pubs so it isnt for the night club goers. The views are stunning and the flowers are amazing inn March time.
I went to Bryher the smallest of the isles about a month ago and fell in love. Its hard to believe that it is part of the UK. The beaches are stunning white sands and beautiful blue / green seas. We visited the main island and Tresco all equally beautiful with their own charm. My heart is still with Bryher though is is unspoilts and quiet with only 80 residents. There is one shop and post office, a cafe, hotel with restaurant and bar open to everyone. I particularly like the Fraggle Rock Bar. Must try the Rattler! It can be a little expensive if you are buying food from the shop on Bryher it is a good idea to take the boat (£4 return) to Trescos to stock up from the larger store. There is no real roads or traffic everywhere is in wlking distance as the Island is about half a mile wide and a mile and half in length. If you go in April you will find most beaches are deserted and the sea is relatively calm so it is safe to bathe. we had a lot of fun with the dingy. There is plenty of boat trips available to the other islands. there are a variety of fishing tips. As the journey is almost 3hrs on the boat it is not advisable if you suffer with travel sickness and it is worse on the way there as it is back however the plane takes about 15 mins. The place is extremely pet friendly, we took the little rottweiler.
If you are thinking about it do it its just beautiful.
Three Girls and a Tent....was to be the theme for my most recent holiday. When my elder sister rang me back in February this year and asked if I fancied a camping holiday, I thought about it for an hour and decided that this would be a fantastic opportunity for a very different holiday and so despite the fact we hadn't camped since the Girl Guide trip some 28 years previously, our five day trip was duly booked!
I had seen the Isles of Scilly on TV shows, including Coast, and read about the Islands in the Sunday newspapers, and I was delighted that I had the opportunity to visit the place for myself.
Fast forward to the night prior and I drove down to my Sister's house in Truro ready for the boat trip the following morning. By this time, her 16 year old daughter decided to have a teen strop, the bottom line being the lack of showering facilities and the threat of rain spoiling her hairstyle, and the three girls in a tent, became just the two of us!!!
Getting to the Isles of Scilly
There are three methods of transportation to the Isles of Scilly. Passengers can get the 28 seater-helicopter from Penzance; the Scillonian III passenger boat, which also goes from Penzance, or the Skybus fixed wing aircraft from Lands End, which seats 8 or 16 passengers, depending on the actual plane used. I have to confess I did not take too much of a role in the decision making and booking process, and I went with my sister's choice of the Scillonian III boat. What she failed to mention was that the boat takes 2hrs 40 minutes, whereas the plane takes about 15 minutes and the helicopter takes about 20 minutes. Our fully flexible boat ticket cost £95 return and this does allow cancellation up to 48 hours of the trip. Needless to say the locals do not call this boat the "sick room" for no reason, and the crossing was a little too choppy for my liking. I did however convince sister to upgrade to the fixed wing aircraft for the journey home, for the small supplement of £23 each. I have to say that for the small difference in cost between the helicopter, boat and plane, I would personally recommend that you consider the airborne option, for both the saving in transport time, and the fact that the crossing would be far smoother!!
Camping on St Mary's
Everything is small scale in the Isles of Scilly, and the main island is St Mary's, with its capital Hugh Town. Our Campsite was called Garrisons, and is a 15-20 minute walk from the quayside - all uphill. Luckily the campsite owners offer a luggage transfer service, which was fantastic, as between us we were carrying two rucksacks, two tents, two chairs, and a sports bag which was contained two airbeds and our groundsheet. The campsite itself has a small shop which is ideal for essentials, and is open twice a day for approximately one hour in the morning and again in the evening. On our arrival we registered and were shown a map of the campsite. We found a lovely spot which was sheltered on three sides with high bushes, and set about the business of making our home for the next five evenings. I have to say, I found the whole experience at Garrison excellent, the site was very picturesque and well kept and the owners do their utmost to keep their guests informed of any weather changes to transport schedules and the like. The cost was just short of £9 per person per day, so all in all it worked out to be a very inexpensive holiday.
For those who prefer a warm bed, there are plenty of self catering and B&B options as well as small hotels, typically three stars in standard, and offering good personal service. We wandered through one, the Star Castle hotel, and it had absolute bags of character.
Geography and Geology
The Isles of Scilly are situated some 28 miles off the SW of Cornwall, and indeed have not been attached to the mainland itself for thousands of years. This rocky archipelago consists of five inhabited islands (St Mary's, St Martins, Tresco, Bryher and St Agnes), as well as tens of smaller islands and over 150 named rocks making a total of around 200. The islands are formed from granite around 290 million years ago. The islands themselves are very low lying with the highest point being barely 50 metres above sea level. The seas are also very shallow, and even a small drop in sea levels would mean that the islands would be joined together again. Legend has it that there is a lost land of Lyonesse between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly
The Islands themselves are located at 49 degrees 55 minutes N and 6 degrees 19 minutes W, a statistical fact from which a strong Scilly brand of clothing has emerged. The islands do feel very tropical, with glorious blue skies, plenty of rain mostly in short bursts, and beautiful palm trees and flowers/plants.
Tresco is home to the fantastic Tresco Abbey and Gardens, which are awash with colour from plants from all continents' tropical regions, whether in the Northern or Southern hemisphere.
Most first time visitors, including ourselves, select St Mary's as their destination. However on chatting with many people over our six day holiday, we found that everyone we spoke to returned to the Scillies year after year after year, and several opt to holiday on the quieter islands of St Martins, Bryher or St Agnes - although St Mary's is hardly a buzzing metropolis!
Things to Do
As you can imagine, there are plenty of activities within the Isles of Scilly which involve boating and the water. The Quay area in Hugh Town is very busy all day as small boats take visitors to the off islands for day trips, or for cruises. Tresco is extremely popular, due to the Abbey and Gardens I have already mentioned, and it is easy to spend a complete day there, strolling through the gardens, and enjoying a picnic and some time on the beach. Visitors are at the mercy of the weather, and we missed our opportunity to go to St Martins, which is home to the most southerly vineyard in the United Kingdom. Typically day trips leave at around 10am, which is ample opportunity to get to the quay from anywhere on the island.
We spent most of our time on St Mary's and a lot of time simply walking, practising our photographic skills, and visiting galleries. There are a surprising amount of galleries on the islands; presumably this is an inspirational place for any budding artist. We spent one afternoon following a basic map and visiting each of the galleries in turn. St Mary's is only a couple of miles wide and we did find ourselves meandering along country lanes, often in different directions as we embarked on new discoveries.
The Islands are an amazingly peaceful place, and less than 24 hours after our arrival, my sister and I felt we were a world away from the monotony of day to day living, and by this time we both agreed we would be back time and again. There is a charm about the whole place, and this is apparent even on St Mary's which is the most developed of the islands. Most people simply walk and relax, venturing from coffee shop to gallery to beach, but there are island taxis available and bicycles for rent.
There are a number of pubs and restaurants in Hugh Town (St Mary's) itself and we made our local the Mermaid Inn, which offered great price main courses for about £7 and a glass of wine was around £3, so an evening meal was very affordable on the occasions when we didn't want to go and light our Bunsen burner of a cooker!
It is possible to spend half a day browsing the shops in Hugh Town. This isn't that there are hundreds of shops, but more like things go at a smaller place. There are several clothing stores, which are extremely popular, including the 49 degree N brand and Seasalt, a popular Cornish clothing store. There is also a reasonable sized coop store for those on self catering, although the stock did very much depend on what was available - the day after the boat was cancelled and the shelves were quite bare!!
The islands' history is evident in the Bronze Age graves, tombs, villages and forts and these can be explored on another circumnavigation walk of the island. Everything is within easy reach, and while there is traffic on St Mary's, it is reasonably low in volume and we often found ourselves sauntering along in the middle of the road.
Needless to say, the islands are a haven for bird watchers especially, and there are many books available which detail the species which visit the islands regularly. Up at the campsite birds seemed very tame, and it was a great opportunity to see wildlife close up. There are also several boat trips which are geared to wildlife spotting.
The Isles of Scilly is a really special place. Despite their small size, there are still attractions and places we want to go back and see or revisit, and I truly think that the place can quickly get into your bloodstream. We chatted to many people over the time we had there and most seemed to book their same week at their choice of accommodation year after year, and some for as much as 40 continuous years!!!! I can definitely see why people would choose to do that, despite the fact that normally I like to see new places. Both my sister and I agree that we had a fantastic holiday for an extremely low price, and it is definitely somewhere we would want to visit again and again and again. Not only that, but we also have the camping bug!
The Isles of Scilly lie 28 miles off Lands End off the Cornish coast, and is the most South-Westerly part of the British Isles.
Out of the 100 or so tiny islands, only 5 of these are inhabited, with St Mary's being the largest and main Island.
The name "Scilly" is thought to come from the Viking word "Syllorgar" and the Romans "Sully" meaning sun Islands (the 'C' added in the 16th Century).
*****************************St Mary's ***********************
St Mary's is the largest (at 2 1/2 miles by 1 3/4) and main Island that people stay on for their holiday, and has the most hotels, guest houses and self catering accomadation available.
There is also a large campsite positioned up on the Garrison, which is not far to walk down into the town centre and is relatively cheap at £5-£6 per person per night.
There are 6 hotels to choose from,
the Star Castle at £45-£105, (up on the Garrison)
St Mary's hall hotel at £68-£98,(town centre)
Tregarthen's hotel at £72-97,(town centre)
Bell Rock hotel at £47-£77,(town centre)
Harbourside hotel at £52.50-£65,(on the Quay)
Atlantic hotel at £75-£95.(town centre)
It has a further 40 B&B's from £22.50-£45 a night
12 B&B's half board at £29.50-£63,
and over 117 self catering flats and cottages to choose from.
These range in price from £150-£870 per week, so can be expensive.
There are plenty of places to eat out, with 20 cafes,restaurants, hotels, tea gardens and a fish and chip shop van.
For an excellent meal with a bit of class I would recommend the Pilot's gig restaurant located behind the chemist with the entrance opposite the Mermaid Inn pub. Here you can taste the delights of the sea, caught that morning and very locally, including Shark, Halibut, Swordfish, Lobster, Crab and Mussels.
All the 5 pubs on the Island also do excellent meals at very average prices, these are the Atlantic hotel, Bishop and Wolf, Old Town Inn, Porthcressa Inn and the Mermaid.
My favourite pub is the Mermaid Inn, which is more for the younger person, they have live music on occasions, excellent restaurant, pool table and a cosy fire for when its a bit stormy outside.
The town centre called Hugh Town offers 2 banks with one hole-in-the-wall style cashpoint, a Post Office, Chemist, A Co-Op supermarket, a Film processors for all your holiday snaps (now has Digital flashcard processing), several gift shops, one or two clothes stores selling local made items, a newsagents, wholesale store, 2 bakeries which sell the biggest cornish pasties you have ever seen and a butchers/fishmonger, Laundry and Bike hire Shop.
There is a Doctors Surgery, Main Hospital, Dentist, Police station, Voluntary run Fire service and the Island has its own R.N.L.I. Lifeboat again manned by volunteers and Medic launch for between Islands, and two schools and three churches.
The police here must have the best job in Britain, with virtualy no crime to speak of, a part from the odd local getting drunk one night in 4 months or so, it has to be the best place in Britain for raising a family in a safe environment.
St Mary's is reached by Air or sea, boasting its own Airport, where planes from Lands End on the Skybus fly in every so often costing, no flights Sunday.
The Helicopter costs, no flights Sunday. Flying from Penzance.
£132 normal return,
£91 day return,
£108 mid week saver,
£108 for senior citizens.
The Scillonian 111 from Penzance costs, No sailings Sunday.
Things to do and see.
There are plenty of things to while away the hours,such as walking and enjoying the fresh sea air on the many footpaths and trails around the Island,
cycling around the quiet 9 1/2 miles of roads (there are cars on the island but short in numbers as cars are not permitted to be brought over by visitors) is a safe and easy way of getting around, although St Mary's is not a flat Island and can be very steep in places, easier going downhill.
There are also Horse riding facilities and a mini bus coach tour which leaves the town centre at scheduled times of the day. Hire a boat and go Sea Fishing catch your tea. Or play a round of Golf on the 9 hole course.
For those of you a bit more adventurous, there are boats for hire, Kayaks, wind surfing, snorkelling (excellent for seeing the local Grey Seals at close quarters and the abundance of marine wildlife that are hidden away beneath the sea, also a chance to see some of the many wrecks that lie around the Islands) and sightseeing chartered cruises around the Islands.
There is also the other Islands to visit by the daily sailing boats, the first depart St Mary's quay at 10.00am, 12.00. and 14.00 (2.00), but these need to be checked for sailing availability due to the weather, it can be choppy between some of the Islands even in fairly light winds.
Pay a visit to the Star Castle now a hotel, built in the 16th century to keep the Spanish Armarda at bay. It is situated on one of the highest parts of the Island with excellent views all round, the gate way holds the dungeons and the whole area has a huge granite wall (3-4ft thick) with cannon emplacements all round.
There are several ancient burial mounds some of which can be entered,dating back to the Bronze age and also memorials and grave sites of people who have been shipwrecked and lost their lives here.
The most famous of which is Sir Cloudesley Shovell, a captain of the HMS Association, which sank off the western rocks in 1707 with massive loss of lives, and is still the largest maritime disaster in British Navel history, his stone lies on Porthellick Beach.
Many Ships have come to grief around the treachorous rocks, and some still do to this day, despite modern day technology and an automatic series of lighthouses, there are plenty of books to buy and read on the subject.
On wet and windy days, there is always a chance to pop into the museum, this has a wealth of treasure, artefacts and a fine collection of stuffed birds that have been shot in earlier times on the Islands, an interesting place to visit.
Among other things to visit are the many art galleries, with local artists spoiled for choice in the things to paint and handcraft.
most of which can be bought for a lasting momento.
A walk through Old Town cemetary to visit the last resting place of ex-prime minister Sir Harold Wilson who had a holiday cottage here and spent many summers away from the hustle and bustle of big city life.
Tresco is the second largest of the Islands with a small population of about 150, there are 2 hotels,
the Island Hotel (£117-£283)
and the New Inn (£75-£115)
Self catering there are 3 places to choose from,
prices start from £250-£900 per week.
There are also time share cottages available here.
It is catered by a Sub-Post Office and general store and one pub, the New Inn which does meals.
It has its own link to the mainland via a Helicopter service, which runs from Penzance.
Prices start from £91 day return.
£132 Normal Return.
£108 Senior Citizens Return.
or via St Mary's from the Airport or Scillionian 111 by boat.
Things To Do and See.
Tresco is like entering a tropical paradise, with its range of tropical trees and flowers from all over the world, mainly South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Travellers from all over the world were encouraged to bring back with them tropical seeds and plants, such as New Zealand Tree Ferns, Eucalyptus from Australia, palm trees from the caribbean.
In 1830's a banker called Augustus Smith bought the Islands and created the Abbey and gardens surrounding it, which must be seen on your visit here, it is like nowhere else you have ever been, some plants that only flower once every 30 years or so and some look like they would be better off in a sci-fi, very strange indeed.
There are two Ancient castles that once belonged to Oliver Cromwell and King Charles to visit.
Tresco has two main pools, one the Great Pool which is about a 1/2 mile long and the other is the Abbey Pool, both fresh water lakes.
This is the 3rd largest of the Islands and has only one hotel, called St Martin's on the Isle.
Prices range from £50-£169 per night.
There are just 8 self catering cottages here, prices from,
£250-£1400 per week.
A Campsite has the cheapest option from, £5.50-£7 a night.
Things To Do and See
There is a pub, Sub-Post Office and several shops and Tea rooms for the visitor.
Here you can go snorkelling, water sports and go on boat trips to the other Islands like the Eastern Isles where the Atlantic Grey Seals and Puffins breed, or tour the vineyard and sample the wine.
You can also just relax on one the most beautiful beaches in Britain, with white sands and craggy rock pools for the kids.
Bryher is located next to Tresco and is reached by a boat from St Mary's, sometimes via Tresco.
It has a small population of about 75 and is one of the most peaceful places to visit or stay.
To the west at Hell Bay, the Atlantic storms lash the coastline with huge waves that leave you awe inspired once seen.
The claim to fame here is the quay was built by the programme Challenge Anneka, and Anneka Rice and the locals, which did a very good job.
Accommodation is provided by the one hotel on the Island, Hell Bay Hotel, which costs £100-£200 per night.
There are 7 self catering cottages to rent starting from,
£150-£940 per week.
Also 2 Half board B&B style accommodation,
£25-£60 per night.
Again there is a cheaper alternative in the campsite, which is only £4.75-£6.50 a night.
There is a cafe, restaurant, Sub-Post Office a shop and a public bar in the hotel.
There is not much else to do on the Island but enjoy the beauty, and quiet surroundings.
St Agnes has the most South-Westerly community in the British Isles, and probably the oldest Lighthouse which was built in 1680.
It is joined by a smaller Island called Gugh (pronounced Goo), which gets cut off at high tide.
There are a short number of places to stay including, 3 self catering cottages, prices from £225-£495 per week.
and 1 B&B half board at £28-£49 per night.
The campsite charges £450-£700 per night.
There is a Sub-Post Office, 2 cafes and the last pub in South-West Britain, called the Turk's Head, a tiny pub that offers a warm welcome, T-shirts and mugs with the pubs name on with facts on can be bought.
Great views of the Bishop rock lighthouse can be seen from here, standing on a tiny rock in the Atlantic, with waves that can reach the top in very stormy conditions.
As on most of the Islands, there are shops selling the main produce of the Islands, Flower Bulbs.
These are the tiny and very varied Dwarf Daffodils or Narcissi, something that you must buy for your own garden.
The fields all over the Islands mass produce these flowers and bulbs for sale to Europe, and can be grown all year round due to the frost free climate, it very rarely snows here, as the Islands are constantly warmed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.
The main reason I personally go here is for the birds, in the Autumn in particular, from September to early November, rare and exciting birds turn up on these Islands from all over the world.
Tiny leaf Warblers from Asia turn up on winds blowing from the South-East, like Yellow-browed Warblers, Dusky, Radde's, Arctic, Greenish, Bonelli's and Pallas's.
Siberian vagrants like, Siberian Thrush, White's and Eye-browed Thrushes, Pine, Yellow-browed, Rustic and Little Buntings.
A massive list of rare and scarce birds from Europe come in on Southerlies for instance, Britains first and only Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush, Orphean Warbler, and many, many more.
But it is the American birds that turn up here that the Islands are famous for in the birdwatchers mind, here the Atlantic storms have plucked migrating birds from the eastern seaboard of Canada and North America, and deposited them, some totally exhausted, onto Scilly.
When the weather has cleared and the South-Westerly winds have eased, birds such as, Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cukoos, Cliff Swallow, Common Nighthawk, Gray-cheeked, Swainson's, Hermit and Wood thrushes, Black& White, Blackpoll, Parula, Yellow-rumped and Magnolia Warblers, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Upland Sandpiper, Bobolink, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Northern Oriole.
There are too many to list, in all a total of 415 bird species have been recorded, a large number of these have been seen only on the Isles of Scilly, and no where else in Britain.
You can sit on a headland and watch over the sea for hours on end, sometimes catching a school of Dolphins as they pass by, such as Common, Bottle-nosed and Rhisso's Dolphins.
I have been out on a small boat and watched these swimming under the boat and leaping out in front of us their clicks and squeaks audible in the water.
I have visited here every year since 1991 and have my place booked for October this year and can't wait to be back.
It is a lovely place to be whatever your interests are, and makes an ideal family holiday without the hustle and bustle holidays can bring, this is certainly a stress free zone, leave your worries behind and just relax and enjoy.
Nearly 20 years ago, my husband took the 2 kids on a day trip to the Isles of Scilly. I, not being a sailor in any meaning of the word, stayed on terra firma. He returned enthusing about the place, and vowed that one day he would return to explore more. As I was not only a dreadful sailor, but an even worse flyer, I doubted this very much! In 1997, the kids were off hand, and the subject was once more broached. The brochure was inviting. I agreed reluctantly, on the condition that we drove to Lands End and took the plane for the last 28 miles! No way was I setting foot on a ferry! Booking was relatively easy. We picked a selection of self-catering holidays, picked up the phone....and booked a bed and breakfast! Next came the airline booking. As the year was relatively advanced we had to take what was left, which was a flight on the Saturday at around 9.30a.m. The cost is quite high for this flight considering the distance, but then you have to weigh that up against the running costs. Skybus (Scilly) have to, by nature of the airstrip in Scilly, run 8 or 12 seater planes. Anything larger couldnt land there! If my memory serves me correctly I think a return flight in peak season was around the £85 in 1997. As the flight was fairly early, we decided to book a night in Penzance to be sure of being there on time. A quick call to the Tourist Information in Penzance, and we were booked in a very reasonable B and B, which turned out to be extremely comfortable, and we have since used it 3 times more; The Holbein in Alexander Road. With much trepidation on the day, I boarded this 8 seater plane and the propellers (yes, I said propellers) started whirring! We taxied down the grass runway! and took off....right over the clifftop! However, once we were airborne I was too fascinated by the view to be nervous. There below us was Lands End, and in the water was a schoal of basking sharks! The plane flies at only 200 feet, so
all this is eminently visible. Within a very few minutes, the Islands appear before you, and as you approach them, they are like jewels set in the most wonderful coloured sea. I have never seen a colour quite like that of the sea around the Isles of Scilly. I'd like to bottle it up and take it home with me! The plane approaches the islands from the north east, so before it lands on St.Mary's, the largest in the arcapelago, you get the full beauty of all the others from the air. I will never tire of that first view of these magical islands. Landing is somewhat nervewracking, as you approach the (uphill) runway over and between some rather vicious looking rocks! Incidentally, is this the only runway in the land with a level crossing at the cliff end of it? The round the island path on St. Mary's goes right across the end of the runway, and if the hooter hoots and the red light flashes, you aren't allowed to cross! For obvious reasons! Landing over, a fleet of minibuses takes you to your destination, and books your return journey. Cost? Around £3 per person return. Our lodgings, the Bylet in Church Street, proved to be very comfortable, friendly, and convenient. We used the same place 4 years running. Judy and Don Williams and family always made us feel welcome, and as they lived 3 doors away rather than in the guest house itself, we always felt we had the run of the place. One thing that became clear to us on this first visit to the islands was the total lack of pace of life. The only thing that seemed to run by timetable was the fleet of water taxis that took you to the off islands at 10.15 and 2.00 and left the off islands at 4,30 and 5.30. Miss them and you were stuck! There are over 100 islands and islets in this group, some of them being little more than a rock showing above the water line. However, only 5 of them are inhabited: St. Mary's, St. Agnes, Tresco, St Martin's and Bryhe
r. Each has their own unique character, and apart from St. Mary's, each can be explored pretty thoroughly in a single day. St. Mary's, being the largest island, offers most in the way of things to do, although don't expect the London Palladium! During the day, the most common form of entertainment is walking, or sunbathing on one of the many beautiful beaches which never get crowded. At night, there is at least one pub on every island, and apart from St Mary's that is about all! But the Scillonians make their own entertainment, and many a night has been spent in the Scillonian club, listening to the Islanders singing, and indeed, joining in. My kind of heaven! On St Mary's there are 2 late night discos for those who still have energy left after a days walking. In 4 years, we've never managed to get to one of these! There are regular slide shows in the varying church halls during the evenings, and amateur theatre groups put on productions in the Town hall from time to time. Each summer, the main Church in St. Mary's also houses a production of an outdoor Shakespeare company in the church gardens, which is great fun. There are numerous boat trips to be taken, apart from simply island hopping. I managed to trip around the Eastern Isles to see the seals before landing on St Martin's, but I drew the line at visiting the Bishop Rock lighthouse, about 8 miles out into the Atlantic! Hubby did this one, and said the lighthouse was awesome! What a feat of engineering, to build this huge lighthouse on what is essentially a huge rock, and to see it still standing today. It is so huge, there is a helipad on its summit. Each year, on the Sunday closest to 8th August, there is an annual pilgrimage to St Helen's, one of the uninhabited islands, for a church service (open air) at the ruins of an old monestary on the island. This is dedicated to St. Elihd. As there is no landing stage at St. Hel
en's, you either have to walk the plank, or be ferried by rubber dinghy from the water taxi to shore! Either way is hilarious, and someone always manages to fall in the water! Luckily it hasn't been me yet! There are a number of eating places on St. Mary's for those only booking bed and breakfast, but not so much choice on the other islands. Our favourite was the Tolman, on Old Town Bay. Most of the others didn't open until 7.p.m., but we liked to eat after disembarking from whatever trip we had been on. The Tolman stayed open all day until 9 p.m. and we could sit outside in the open air. The food was all home cooked, and very reasonably priced. Hubby swore by the locally caught crab soup, whilst I would die for the coffee and walnut cake! On Old Town Bay, is the Old Town church and cemetary. This is the only church actually built on the beach, and shows great insight into the history of the islands. It is here that bodies of those lost in shipwrecks off the coast are buried: sometimes scores at a time. It is here too that Sir Harold Wilson is also buried, having spent many a summer with his wife in their house on St Mary's. She still visits each summer. In fact their house was almost opposite the place where we stayed. Another trip worth taking is a round the island tour on Fred's Bus. This only takes about 90 minutes, and includes a couple of stretch your legs stops, but is worth doing, especially on your first trip to the islands. Then you can get a good idea of where to go when you plan your walks for the duration of your stay. The Isles of Scilly would not be a good choice of holiday destination for the very old, infirm of inactive person, due to the undulating and sometimes rugged nature of all the islands. But for anyone who enjoys walking, and is able to manage resonably demanding inclines, there could be no better place to unwind and chill out. We have sat on rocks before now and apart from a
fishing boat a few hundred yards offshore, haven't seen a soul for over two hours! Peaceful bliss! For us, the highlight of our 4 trips to the islands was to witness the eclipse of the sun on August 11th 1999 from Peninis Head. Unlike the mainland, we had a perfect view of it, even though somewhat hazy. Of course, they can't lay that on every year, but to see that shadow racing across the Atlantic from the west was absolutely fantastic. It is something I will never forget. For anyone wanting a quiet, restful, yet reasonably active holiday, you really couldn't choose better than these beautiful islands just off our Cornish coast. We went 4 years running, and I personally would go back year after year, but the other half wants to see more of the world! But I SHALL return!
We holidayed in Scilly in June 2001, and actually got married in the Town Hall in St Mary's during our stay - a fantastic experience, but that's another story. The weather wasn't brilliant generally, but at least half of every day was sunny and warm enought to be on the beach. Rain, when it came, was heavy, but passed quickly. You can travel there from Penzance by boat, small aircraft or helicopter. The ferry is the cheapest, but is known by locals as the "White Stomach Pump". It is a small craft with a minimal keel, which tends to create a bit of a roll, so be prepared if you do not possess a pair of sea legs. We were lucky to have two good crossings, spotting a couple of basking sharks on the return trip. Flights are very quick, and probably worth the extra money if you are susceptible to seasickness. The islands are a small, functional community, with beautiful coastal scenery in every direction, a rich mixture of wildlife and spectacular flowers. We spent most of our time on St Mary's, the largest and most populated (approx 2,000) island. Tresco, with its famous Abbey Gardens, is the next largest; accommodation is about twice the price of other islands! There are plenty of regular boat trips to the inhabited and uninhabited islands, and prices are reasonable. One of the nice things about Scilly is the relatively small numbers of tourists, so there is never much of a crush for popular events. It was perfect for us because our 3-year old son was having his first major holiday. There are beaches galore on Scilly, and not the typical British "cold mud" number. The beaches are sandy, with dazzlingly clear water, and are a complete haven for children. They don't get too crowded, they're generally pretty clean and there's a friendly, tolerant atmosphere. One word of caution - the sun is absolutely piercing, because of the clarity of the atmosphere. We burned really
quickly. It was more like a visit to a mediterranean island - a world away from England, and even Cornwall. Finally, seek out Julia's kitchen on St Mary's as a great place to eat with beautiful harbour views.
The Isles of Scilly are a small group of islands lying in the deep waters of the Atlantic about twenty eight miles from the dramatic granite cliffs of Lands End in Cornwall. They lie at latitude 49 degrees 55 minutes north, longitude 6 degrees 19 minutes west and their position gives them an enviably mild and pleasant climate. This means that frost is very rare, snow is probably only experienced once or twice in a decade, and narcissi are picked for market in the tiny flower fields from October to March. Forming a loose loop around a sheltered channel called the Roadstead, the Isles of Scilly consist of five main inhabited islands together with a huge collection of small rocky outcrops of granite varying from over a hundred yards across to mere pinnacles jutting from the sea. Taken together, the five largest islands cover a total of 3,573 square acres and have a total population of around two thousand people. The archipelago covers forty five square sea miles in all and even the smallest granite rock that sticks its nose above the sea is honoured with a name. Some are quite amusing, such as 'Dry Splat' and others indicate a fearsome danger such as 'Hellweathers Brow'. Ancient Greek and Latin mythology makes frequent mention of islands situated beyond the Pillars of Hercules (taken to refer to the Straits of Gibraltar) which were known by various names including The Isles of the Blest, the Hesperides or, simply, The Fortunate Islands. To these islands in legend, dead heroes were brought and they lived forever in peace and abundance, rendered immortal and kept safe, far beyond the knowledge of the world. Celtic legends and folklore, speak of Avalon, fabled last resting place of King Arthur, whose body was carried across the sea aboard an enchanted boat. Whether these fabled places are references to the Isles of Scilly is unknown but, from archaeological evidence unearthed over many centuries, it is clear that the islands h
ave been inhabited for over four thousand years. To support this view, you need only to consider the extraordinary number of chambered megalithic barrows that have been identified on Scilly. These ancient burial mounds are so plentiful as to indicate a large, rich and powerful population - unlikely given its area. However, it would have been quite feasible for people to bury their dead princes and leaders on remote, inaccessible islands to keep them and their treasures safe from harm. Furthermore, it was believed that the spirit of the dead could not cross water. What better way to make sure that a powerful chief, once dead, was unable to return to make mischief for those who succeeded him? The Isles of Scilly have sometimes tentatively been identified with The Cassiterides (the Tin Islands) visited by Phoenician traders about a thousand years before Christ. From 400 to 1100 A.D., there were Christian hermits living on the Scillies, including St. Elid, the most famous, who lived on St. Helen's. In his memory, boatloads of locals and visitors make a pilgrimage to the island every summer to hold an open-air service. There is even an ancient saga telling the story of Olaf Tryggvesson, King of Norway, who came to the Scillies around 990 A.D. and was converted to Christianity during his stay. He returned to his kingdom with 'learned men and priests' from Scilly and introduced Christianity to Norway and Iceland. In 1114, Tresco was granted to the Abbey of Tavistock by King Henry I and a Benedictine Priory dedicated to St. Nicholas was built. In 1337, the islands were included in the Duchy of Cornwall and were bestowed upon Edward, the Black Prince. In 1593 Queen Elizabeth I built a star-shaped granite castle high on the fortified Garrison of St. Marys to prevent the islands being captured by the Spanish and used as a base to attack England (it is now a hotel and known, oddly enough, as Star Castle Hotel!). Here, in 1646, Prince Charles
, lat er to be Charles II, took refuge from for six weeks during the English Civil War, before he and his entourage escaped to the Channel Islands and thence to France. Between 1646 and 1651, the islands were controlled by Sir John Grenville, a Royalist, and became a centre for pirates, plundering ships as they sailed past, regardless of their nationality. This led to Holland declaring war on Scilly! Admiral Van Tromp sailed to the islands with twelve powerful Dutch men-of-war, intending to punish the pirates. He was forestalled and persuaded to leave the troublemakers to British justice by Admiral Blake who arrived in the nick of time with a Parliamentary fleet. Blake managed to capture Tresco with its gun batteries commanding the routes into safe waters, and forced Grenville and his rebels to surrender. An interesting footnote to this story is that, although Holland formally declared war on Scilly, a peace was never concluded - until a few years ago, when someone read about it and thought it would be excellent publicity for the islands. So the Dutch Ambassador and the Chairman of the Islands Council met to sign a peace treaty - after over three hundred years of formally being at war! On October 22nd 1707, Scilly was the location of the worst peace-time disaster in British naval history when the twenty one ship fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell was returning home after the siege of Toulon in the south of France. A great storm struck and five ships came to grief on the treacherous Western Rocks of Scilly. The most famous of the five was the Association, mighty flagship of Sir Cloudesley himself, which was rediscovered by divers in the late 1960s and has yielded many fascinating artifacts - including the Admiral's chamber pot complete with crest! The other ships were the seventy gun Eagle, the fifty gun Romney, and the fireships Phoenix and Firebrand. In all, nearly 2000 men lost their lives during that terrible night.
In 187 5, the celebrated steamship 'Schiller', one of the largest passenger vessels of her day, was on route from New York to Plymouth when she struck the Retarrier Ledges (part of the western reefs) in dense fog and sank. Although the 'Schiller' was a German vessel and carried few British passengers, there was a full complement of German and American passengers on board. Furthermore, a dance was in progress which meant that many of the female passengers were resplendent in full evening dress and jewels. More than 300 crewmembers and passengers lost their lives. Today, in Old Town churchyard on St. Marys, the great granite obelisk dedicated to Louise Holzmeister, one of the victims of the disaster, stands overlooking the little church down below. In fact, during the First World War, the Kaiser was so grateful for the courageous rescue attempts made by the islanders and their care for survivors of the Schiller disaster, that he forbade any German U-boat to attack the steamers that sailed between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly. In 1834, a member of an old Hertfordshire family, Augustus John Smith, leased the islands from the Crown. In effect, he ruled the Scillies as Lord Proprietor for thirty nine years. His rule is generally said to have been benevolent but autocratic. In fact, he took some very tough decisions including land reform, removing families from Samson due to untenable poverty, deportation of paupers and eviction from the islands of those who disagreed with him. He enforced schooling for island children in the 1850s, (about thirty years before the Foster Act made education compulsory on the mainland). Attendance was ensured by charging tenants one penny per week for each child.... and fining them two pence if the child failed to attend! Boatbuilding also gained importance on Scilly and well-educated Scillonians, with their seafaring heritage, were ideally suited as officers. In fact, it was said that Scillonians 'b
efore the mast& #39; were a rarity! Today, Prince Charles, as the present Duke of Cornwall, maintains a Land Steward to oversee this small corner of his domain and Tresco is still leased directly by the descendants of Augustus. The largest island is St. Marys at three miles long and a mile and a half wide, covering about 1,611 square acres. If you imagine a figure 8 with a very small fortified top loop and a much larger bottom loop, you will have a good idea of its shape. The narrow isthmus in the middle joining the two loops is only 150 yards wide. The 'capital' of the Isles of Scilly, known as Hugh Town, is packed into this space, spilling out onto the shoulders of the loops on either side. Hugh Town is the administrative centre of the Isles of Scilly and its Council has full county council status (which leads to some interesting and often frustrating anomalies when compared to big councils on the mainland!) About three quarters of the Islands' population lives on St. Marys and, amusingly enough, the majority live 'in town' while the rest are scattered out 'in the country'! St. Marys is the only island with proper metalled roads - no more than ten miles... and island motorists have the unenviable privilege of paying a full UK road tax to drive on them.... To the north-east of St. Marys, lies St. Martins which is the nearest of the islands to the mainland. Quite a long thin island covering about 552 acres in all, it boasts some of the most wonderful white sand beaches imaginable, including the graceful arc of Great Bay. On the most easterly headland of St. Martins, at a land height of 160 feet, stands the majestic tall conical tower of the Daymark which is painted in broad red and white stripes for obvious reasons. St. Martins has three settlements which are just clusters of houses, inventively named Higher Town, Middle Town and.. yes.. Lower Town. Moving anti-clockwise, the next island is Tresco, the s
econd largest island in the group at about 735 square acres. It is about a mile from St. Marys and a mile from St. Martins. This is the seat of the Dorrien-Smith family, descendants of Augustus John Smith, who lease Tresco from the Duchy of Cornwall still. Here you will find what is probably the most well-known facet of Scilly, the world famous sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Gardens. It is the only place in the UK where you will find rare and beautiful plants from all over the world growing out in the open. A tall puya plant from Tresco, its flowerspike nearly ten feet tall and smothered in brilliant green hooded flowers, caused quite a stir at Chelsea Flower Show a few years back. Heavily-perfumed auratum lilies from Japan, scarlet-flowered New Zealand Christmas trees, succulent spiky agaves, exotic proteas, stunning 'silver trees', broad mounds of purple and red geraniums and towering blue echium spires are only a few of the breathtaking species on view at various times of the year. The three grouped clusters of houses on Tresco bear the unusual names of New Grimsby (the 'capital'), Old Grimsby and, quaintest of all, Dolphin Town. Nestled against the flank of Tresco, with only quarter of a mile of sand flats separating the two, lies Bryher which is the smallest inhabited island of the Scillies at only 317 square acres. Despite its small size, it has its own quite distinct character with towering Shipman Head and Hell Bay at the bleak northern end of the island and the pink thrift-cloaked dunes encircling the sheltered sandy retreat of Rushy Bay in the south. South of Bryher lies Samson which is simply two hills (yes, North Hill and South Hill!) joined by a low girdle of land. This is the legendary setting for Sir Walter Besant's novel 'Armorel of Lyonesse' and there is a ruined cottage where she is reputed to have lived. More recently, "Why the Whales came", a 1989 film version of Michael Morpurgo's book of the
same name set in 1914, wa s made on Bryher using a cast of local people. Two island children took major parts alongside such British luminaries as Paul Scofield, Helen Mirren, Helen Pearce, Max Rennie, David Suchet, David Threlfall, Barbara Jefford and Jeremy Kemp. The slow opening sunrise sequence is just breathtaking.... Last, but by no means least, is the most south-westerly inhabited island of the British Isles, St. Agnes and its sibling island of Gugh (pronounced to rhyme with 'hugh'). When combined, their acreage is 358 but they are joined by a sand bar which is exposed at low tide and covered when the tide comes in. This makes it (along with the sandbar connecting St. Marys and the much smaller uninhabited Tolls Island) one of the most dangerous places for bathing on Scilly due to undertows and currents. St. Agnes is usually referred to as plain 'Agnes' on Scilly and is only three quarters of a mile long by half a mile wide. It is separated from the rest of the islands by a deep water channel known as St. Marys Sound. Further out from St. Agnes/Gugh is the bird sanctuary of Annet and, further out still, the famous 168ft pinnacle of the Bishop Rock Lighthouse - next stop America! This is the finish line for the transatlantic speed crossing. Richard Branson broke the record back in the summer of 1986 in Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, a huge powerboat, and got chucked into the harbour as part of the victory celebrations! Today, the Isles of Scilly are involved mainly in tourism. During the season, visitors can travel to the islands aboard the modern steamship R.M.V. Scillonian III which takes about three hours to cross from Penzance to St. Marys. There are small fixed-wing planes taking between six and nine passengers which leave St. Just Airport at Lands End and arrive at the airport on St. Marys about fifteen minutes later. But, most exciting of all, is the only scheduled passenger helicopter service in the UK. (The Sikor
sky helicopters used are the s ame model as the Royal Navy uses for its Sea King rescue squadrons). They take about thirty passengers and it is a thrilling twenty minute flight from Penzance to Scilly, passing the famous St. Michael's Mount and Lands End on the way. Once on the Scillies, you can take daily boat trips from St. Marys and visit all the other islands There is accommodation on all five of the inhabited islands - luxury hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, self-catering cottages and apartments, and campsites. Bikes can be hired by the day or the week but you can't access all the delightful coastal footpaths by any means except foot! There are slide shows, choral concerts, variety shows on most evening. Most exciting of all are the Gig races held for ladies on Wednesday evenings and men on Friday evening. Gigs are narrow six oared racing boats painted in brilliant colours once used as all-purpose vessels between the islands. With names like 'Golden Eagle', 'Serica', 'Bonnet', 'Dolphin', Men-a-Vaur' and 'Nornour', they are very fast and the sight of a dozen or more flying across the waves, oarsmen (or women!) bent to their work, is a sight to see. The passenger boats leave St. Marys and follow the gig races from start to finish to the accompaniment of chants and racous yells of encouragement from the onlookers. There are only three pubs on St. Marys and several hotels, together with various cafes and restaurants where the food is generally excellent though quite expensive. You can take bus tours round St.Marys with humourous commentaries from the driver. There are, not surprisingly, quite a few artists offering paintings for sale, along with two hand crafted pottery workshops, a jewellery workshop, a perfumery, an excellent Museum, a stained glass centre and a Golf Course. All in all, there is plenty to do! As you have probably guessed from my ID, I live on the Isles of Scilly a
nd it is exactly twenty years ago t his month that I set foot on this enchanted archipelago. Personally, I feel that spring and autumn are by far the nicest times to visit the islands. Accommodation, especially self-catering, is almost impossible to find during the summer holidays (which is hardly surprising as it is a wonderful place for children!). If you want night clubs, shopping, self-contained hotel complexes with entertainment provided and 'experts' to keep your kids amused, please don't come to Scilly. If you love the open air, beautiful scenery, peace and quiet, walking, photography, painting, boating, bird watching, and village-style entertainment, then you may find that Scilly is that well-kept secret you've been just waiting to discover! If you want to read more about the Isles of Scilly, look out for 'Portrait of the Isles of Scilly' by Clive Mumford, first published by Robert Hale of London in 1967 but revised several times since then. Another book is 'The Fortunate Islands' subtitled 'A history of the Isles of Scilly' by R. L. Bowley. Online, you can find fascinating websites at www..scillyonline.co.uk and www.rosevear.demon.co.uk For any further information, contact the Tourist Information Centre on St. Marys (telephone 01720 422536)
If you happen to be holidaying in Cornwall, you could take a day trip to the Scilly Isles,either by ferry or by helicopter. But don't bother - there's far too much to see to take it all in in a day. You need at least a long weekend to appreciate all the beautiful scenery. Visiting the Scilly Isles, is like taking a step back in time to a world where cars are few and far between, graffiti and vandalism don't exist and doors are never locked. Suitcases are put outside hotel doors to be collected and loaded onto the ferries, with the fee left on top, in plain view. The scenery is breathtaking, with a wide range of wildflowers and birds,sandy beaches with fine, white sand and dramatic coastlines with hidden coves. There are several islands to visit, including Tresco with it's world famous gardens. From the main island, St. Mary's you can take boat trips to the others,or go fishing or seal watching.Sights include "The Garrison" which is an old military building, the church where Sir Harold Wilson is buried and there is also a golf course - although plenty of balls head for the sea bed.Bus tours with commentaries are available for those who don't like walking,although the coast path is magnificent, especially the bit which crosses the airport runway - must be the only path where you have to beware low flying aircraft!And the cottage gardens are fantastic - every one a riot of colour As you are on an island, you must be prepared for things to cost more than on the mainland.Eating out can be expensive too, although the seafood particularly is so fresh that you don't mind paying a bit extra The weather can sometimes be a bit rough too, so it's as well to take everything from a bikini to a thick fleece.