THE ISLES OF SCILLY - A DREAMY DESTINATION
Stepping back in time, while relaxing in luxury beachside accommodation.
THE ISLES OF SCILLY are, for me, one of the most idyllic locations across the world. The islands offer beauty, tranquillity, history and adventure, but beyond all this, there's a quintessentially Britishness which feels extraordinarily romantic, calm and kind – like nowhere else I've ever visited. With a ferry service from Penzance and flights from Land's End, Newquay and Exeter airports – plus a new helicopter service on the horizon – there is no better time to make your plans to visit these wonderful islands. The five inhabited islands (St Mary's, Tresco, St Martin's, Bryher and St Agnes) have, between them, a relatively small landmass of approximately 16 km², with 2,200 people lucky enough to call them home, and with the entire archipelago designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Located just off the coast of Cornwall, with one of the most temperate and mild climates in Britain, it is difficult to believe that the allure of white sandy beaches, awash with wildlife, mighty seas and rugged coastlines, can be so easily reached from our mainland.
Our visit to Scilly was in early autumn, the perfect time for lovers of wildlife, and seeing the sub-tropical plants and flowers at their very best – especially at the Tresco Abbey Garden, a botanical paradise boasting an incredible 20,000 plant species. It is home to thriving red squirrels and the fascinating Valhalla museum – a collection of figureheads collected from shipwrecks around the islands – making for a wonderful highlight of any trip. I could see us visiting at anytime of the year though, in the summer for the beaches and outdoor pursuits, from stand-up paddle boarding and sailing to scuba diving, and in the winter for a true taste of island life – and imagine how wonderfully quiet and cosy it would be when celebrating Christmas. There's the more difficult decision of which island to choose as home for your stay, with each of the five islands having its own personality and unique charm, offering something very special in its own way. It's a tough choice. St Mary's: This is the main island where you will first arrive (be it by ferry or flight), and its small capital, Hugh Town, is where you will find museums, cafés, shops and galleries – as well as being just a few minutes walk to the quayside, where inter-island boats can ferry you further with routes to each of the islands.
For many, St Mary's is the perfect gateway to visiting the other islands for varied day trips, throughout their holiday. There is also more to see just a short golf buggy drive or cycle ride away. In 2018, the new ‘On the Quay' restaurant opened, offering Pashley Cycles bike hire for a fantastic way to explore the island – plus picnic hampers made to order. There is plenty for history buffs to explore here as well. We enjoyed the panoramic views from the Garrison headland (once the frontline of England's defences), the iconic Star Castle that harks back to the 16th Century, the Iron Age burial chamber at Bant's Carn and the ancient settlement at Halangy Down. St Mary's punches way above its weight in terms of tasty island delights, from island-reared duck to freshly landed lobster, mackerel or crab. We sampled some of this delicious local produce at Juliet's Garden Restaurant & Bar, while enjoying the unrivalled views of the sea, boats and harbour – it was fabulous.