I have been seduced by the beauty of the Isles of Scilly, it was love at first sight – from getting off the twin prop airplane on the island of St. Mary’s. The peace and tranquility wraps around you and doesn’t go away until you leave this attractive outpost 28 miles off the coast of Great Britain. Every corner holds a surprise, from the fabulous white – almost people free – beaches to the cliffs that rise up out of the sea, threatening the ships that sail to close to them, but protect and encourage the sea birds from any predators or humans getting too close.
The journey over whether by the Skybus airplane; 15 minutes from Land’s End, 1 hour from Exeter and 30 minutes from Newquay or the ferry, the Scillonian III which takes approximately 3 hours – are all dependent on the weather. A shuttle bus is waiting for you either at the airport or quay (no shuttle buses from the Quay – although you can opt for your luggage to be delivered. You can walk to your accommodation or taxis are available) to take you to your accommodation. The drivers of the shuttle buses know all the accommodation across St Mary’s so you won’t need to provide directions, just the name will do, the cost of the shuttle to our hotel was £7.50 each return. If you are staying on any other islands a connecting boat will be waiting for you. The Isles of Scilly are not the most disabled friendly area I have ever been too, but if you do have a disability then Isles of Scilly Travel will endeavour to support passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. If you require assistance contact [email protected] or ring 01736 334220. There are also taxis on the island that are reliable and efficient.
St Mary’s is a quaint, relaxing place to be. Our hotel, the St Mary’s Hall Hotel is a three star with four star service. The hotel is situated near the imposing church of St Mary’s and set in beautiful gardens with tables for meals or drinks. You don’t have to be a resident to dine at this fabulous restaurant or buy a drink. The hotel staff are efficient and courteous and are aware of how important their service and attention to detail is. The hotel accommodation is 26 comfortable and well equipped rooms, at varying prices and it even has a honeymoon suite. The food is exceptionally good with a wide variety of choices, fish is a specialty and the mussels are well worth a try, but every meal is a dining feast. However if self-catering is your preference the hotel’s partner company, Scilly Self Catering, has 90 properties to let – [email protected]
The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of islands that are easily accessed by boats from the quay at Hugh Town on St Mary’s.The boats leave the quay every morning at approximately 10.15 am and 2.00pm for the other islands and cost approximately £10 per person. Take a boat to Tresco to see the famous Abbey Gardens and see the beautiful array of plants from all over the world, watch out for the red squirrels and the golden pheasants that wander around and hope you have brought your lunch with you! Lunch or a lite bite can be bought from the well-equipped cafe and shop, the staff are efficient and helpful. It cost approximately £10 for the boat and £13.50 for concessions for the entrance to the Abbey Gardens. The area isn’t disabled friendly but if you ring the Abbey Shop before setting off they will arrange transport from the quay and a buggy for you to use around the paths of the gardens – tel: 01720 424105 or email [email protected]
The island of St Agnes is home to just 80 people, a small, thriving community. A walk up the quay to sample the beer at the Turks Head is a welcome start for your walk around the island and perhaps one on the way back to check if it was as good the first time! St Agnes has nature walks run by Will Wagstaff which are informative and a treat when a rare bird or plant is spotted, the charge for the walk is £6 per session. Walk to the lighthouse or go across the sandbar to another island called Gugh but beware the tide does come across the sandbar very quickly, so check the tides before you go. Make your way to the lighthouse calling at the Coastguard cafe, excellent views and delicious crab sandwiches. If time allows, go to Periglis Bay to the small church with lovely stained glass windows that were made locally, by local artist Oriel Hicks.
St Martin’s is a beautiful, family friendly island that boasts white sandy beaches and has crystal clear waters which are a hallmark of St Martin’s. Beaches called Bread and Cheese Cove to Par Beach, all jostle for the title of best beach in the UK. Churchtown Farm has the Scilly postal flower service which will send you flowers home to your address reminding you of your lovely time on St Martin’s. Take the coast road and call in for a cup of tea at Polreath Tea Room, or visit the Island Bakery and savour the delights of homemade food. You could also pop to the Seven Stones Inn for great views to accompany your pint!
Bryher gives you the opportunity to ‘taste’ the untamed Scilly, just one and a half miles long by half a mile wide, the dramatic contrast and diverse beauty never fails to impress. In the summer months the boats go out on evening trips for you to enjoy the islands and dusk comes to light the sky with stars to amaze you in this unpolluted area of the world. The sea birds and seals that breed here come back year after year to give the keen ‘twitchers’ the desire to discover the many rare birds that have been blown off course in either Spring or Autumn.
As you will have gathered, the Isles of Scilly are beautiful and well worth a visit, I met a man who had visited the islands 31 times! This says a lot for the ‘pull’ that the islands have and the love that many people feel for this remote ‘bubble’ in the Atlantic, situated like a drop in the ocean off Land’s End. By ‘bubble’, I mean it is a slow, relaxed environment, a place to really chill out, walk, eat and read – well that is what I need when I go on holiday. It is a little like going back in time, where the islanders know one another, care about one another, work and play together. The town does have a police officer or two but no locks are required and people respect the culture that has been on the island for many, many years.
The Isles of Scilly gives the visitor the chance to unwind and many people do come to the islands to walk and see the beautiful scenery. Other activities that can be accessed are cycling and cycle hire is available from the area of Porthmellon on St Mary’s or phone 07796 638506. The cost for a full day is £10 or £6 for a half day and you can even hire a tandem. Another way to get around is to hire a Scilly Cart which is a golf buggy for two or four passengers – great for seeing the island of St Mary’s and ideal for people with reduced mobility, contact www.scillycart.com or ring 01720 422121. The history of the islands can be found by visiting the interesting, informative museum, from maritime shipwrecks to Bronze Age burial chambers the history of the island is compelling. Visit Old Town Church and cemetery, a lovely little church and the resting place of one of our past Prime Ministers, Harold Wilson who loved the islands and spent many holidays there with his wife Mary, who still has a home on the island. If all the walking is daunting there is a local bus that takes you around the island and leaves from the Town Hall stop regularly or a tour bus that leaves daily from Holgate’s Green in Hugh Town at 10.15am and 1.30pm cost £7.50 and has a very entertaining driver that gives an insight into the island and its history.
A golf course and bowling greens can be found on St Mary’s and a chance to go horse riding, diving and snorkeling are other pass times for your choice of relaxation, lots of information can be found at the Tourist Information Centre overlooking the beach at Porthcressa. A beautiful walk is to The Garrison, the heavily fortified headland, steeped in history, surrounding the famous Star Castle which is now a four star hotel. The dining room was the Officer’s Mess! The ‘gun powder’ room is situated below Star Castle and depicts the history of the Castle.
The inaugural Scilly Islands’ Regatta over the August Bank Holiday weekend is a four-day celebration of its unique maritime history, with nautical festivities, a flotilla of classic and traditional boats such as the replica tall ship, the Spirit of Falmouth, and a visit from a Royal Navy Type 23 Frigate. Follow the Round the Island race, admire the Parade of Sail, catch the conclusion of the Redwing Championships, and don’t miss the bill-topping display from the Red Arrows on the final day. The ‘Taste of Scilly’ event runs throughout September where you can savour the flavours of the islands. Visitors can sample a wide range of Scilly’s food and drink as local bakers, growers, brewers, fishermen, foragers and chefs come together for a month of island-hopping food trails, foraging walks, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, crab and lobster evenings and more.
Places to eat are abundant on the island of St Mary’s, less so on the ‘off islands’ but you won’t go hungry anywhere in the Isles of Scilly. The pubs and restaurants have good food and if you plan to go to a restaurant it would be wise to book before you go. For anyone doing self-catering small shops do sell produce but there is a substantial Co-op supermarket on St Mary’s to get all you need. On many of the walks a cafe can be found but a picnic looking at the fabulous views is recommended. The islands do not have a ‘night life’ but the days are long and the nights are short, but ‘night life’ or not St Mary’s is ‘ buzzing’. Most evenings talks are held at the Church Hall on Church Road from wildlife to local history. Quiz Nights at the local pubs are an evening out for the locals and visitors to the island. Gig racing happens every Wednesday and Friday evening from April to September, with local teams competing to win a variety of trophies. The Gig is a long narrow rowing boat that can go at some amazing speeds, the six rowers and coxswain compete with rowers from each island. This is weather dependent as is many things connected with the islands but is very exciting when the racing takes place.
The World Pilot Gig Championships are held in the Isles of Scilly every year during the first May Bank Holiday weekend. Crews from all over the world, including Holland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, the USA and Bermuda, come to Scilly to compete and enjoy the carnival atmosphere.
I envy the islanders, their peace and tranquility, the camaraderie and friendliness to one another, I don’t envy the cruel, cold winter Atlantic winds that buffet the shores, but my love story of the Isles of Scilly will not end, as we did not see all the islands’ beauty on a week’s holiday. I may not return 31 times but my love affair with the Isles of Scilly will go on.
Taste of Scilly Festival September 2016
Calling all foodie aficionados … This September, the Isles of Scilly play host to the inaugural Taste of Scilly Festival – a month-long, mouth-watering celebration of the very best in local food and drink from the islands. And you’re invited!
For more information on events and accommodation visit www.visitislesofscilly.com