Newest Review: ... 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 ... more
Three Girls....and a Tent
Isles of Scilly in General
Member Name: helencb
Isles of Scilly in General
Advantages: Beautiful scenery, peaceful,
Disadvantages: the boat over, the weather can be rainy, although tends to be quite tropical
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!
Summary: A must see place within the UK and somewhere where everyone returns to time after time