Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago around 30 miles off the south-western tip of England. Though numbering over 50 islands in total, only five are inhabited.
The total population of St Mary’s, Tresco, Bryher, St Martin’s, and St Agnes is just over 2,000, contributing to that special ‘step-back-in-time’ feeling and providing a taste of the timeless magic of childhood holidays. Amid wonderful scenery, younger children can explore rock pools and endless sandy beaches, while the older ones – and the adults – can hike nature trails, hire bikes, or ride horses along the shore.
The Isles of Scilly are a bird watchers paradise, with approximately 435 species of birds, including cormorants, gannets, oystercatchers, manx shearwaters and puffins to name but a few. On Scilly, everything revolves around the sea, so why not take the opportunity to spot some Atlantic grey seals?
Twice weekly inter-island gig races take place through the summer months and they are a great spectacle to watch. Walk Scilly takes place in April and October, with guided and themed walks, including a chance to explore the uninhabited outlying islands. Others include a Folk Festival in May, Comedy Festival in June and Taste of Scilly in September.
Eating out in the Isles of Scilly is often just that: an alfresco delight. What could be better than enjoying fresh fish and chips on the beach, gazing out at waters the same colour as those in the Caribbean, or a delicious freshly-caught lobster salad in one of the local restaurants.
St Mary’s is the most inhabited island, possessing the Scillies’ only airport and major port, from where you can hire boats to explore all the islands – and, if you’re lucky, perhaps spot seals and puffins. Underneath the waves, divers can explore the area’s huge network of shipwrecks and marine life.
Hugh Town is the capital, nestling between two sandy beaches, and is an interesting place to explore with its independent shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs. Why not hire a bike or a golf cart to explore the island, stopping wherever you fancy to visit an artist’s studio, or sit in a beach front café, admiring the view?
Additionally, with over 30 miles of nature trails and walks, St Mary’s offers the ideal island to explore on foot.
Tresco is the only privately-owned island. With its long silver beaches and historic sites, including King Charles Castle – a coastal artillery fort dating back to the 16th century – it is an incredible place.
The island is best known for its famous Abbey Gardens, home to a wonderful array of exotic plants from all over the world. This terraced sub-tropical garden boasts an amazing collection of 20,000 plants from over 80 countries. Gallery Tresco showcases some of Cornwall’s finest art in a converted boatshed, and holds 10 exhibitions during the summer months. A visit to the Tresco stores and deli is a must with its strong emphasis on Cornish produce, ranging from Tresco beef and Newlyn fish to delicious Scilly ice cream.
The smallest of the inhabited islands, Bryher offers sheer wild beauty one day, and calm tranquillity the next. The luxury Hell Bay Hotel has won many an award, and other eateries include the fabulously named Crab Shack and Fraggle Rock – a bar Jamie Oliver once hailed as one of Britain’s best boozers! The film, When the Whales Came was filmed on the island, based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel. At certain times of the year, you can also walk between Tresco and Bryher. As the tide retreats to reveal a sandy pathway, a popup seafood and fizz festival helps islanders (and visitors) celebrate one of the most special experiences to be found anywhere in Britain.
At just two miles long, and boasting some of Britain’s finest beaches, St Martin’s is certainly worth a visit. Only 130 people live on St Martin’s, but the island has a diverse and enterprising community. Visitors can wander around a flower farm and vineyard, a locally inspired silver jewellery designer, a gallery showcasing local art, and a bakery offering artisan bread. A dive school on the island offers diving and snorkelling trips with seals.
St Agnes is just a mile across and, as a result is remarkably unspoilt. It is an island of stunning contrasts, from its dramatically exposed west side to its paradise beaches with sheltered coves. A visit to Troy Town Farm, the southern most settlement in the UK, is a must for any visitor to the island – for the home made ice cream alone!