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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.

The Is­lands

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.

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