Are You Silly Enough to Visit the Islands of Scilly?

The Isles of Scilly are a group of islands less than 60 miles away from Cornwall that are made up of hundreds of islands, however only five are inhabited. I had been dying to go for ages, and it is a tricky feat to get accommodation there, especially during their peak season as most places have less than ten bedrooms. Adam and I tried for a few weeks to get a place for a weekend trip, but everything we tried was booked. Eventually we managed to find an amazing bed & breakfast called Penhallow. Now, in case you are not familiar with the means of transportation, you can take a plane or ferry, Scillonian III.

Either way you go about it the transportation for us was the most expensive element, and we chose the Scillonian III; however, person after person notified us that it is a really rough journey across. We were advised to be prepared that going would be the roughest part of the trip; because, it goes against the tide. Despite this bad reputation we bought seasick tablets, and bought crystallized ginger candy (if you are prone to seasickness you can chew on ginger). In the end we were fine, and the journey back was even easier (on really nice days you can see dolphins from the ferry). In addition, the Scillonian III is better than I had expected as it is a few floors, two cafes, outside deck, plenty of toilets, and incredibly comfortable leather seats.

We went across on one of the worst days possible as it was miserable rain, and had had strong winds just the day before. Once we arrived in St. Mary’s (the biggest and central island) we walked through Hugh Town towards our lodging. As we walked down the street it took us back in time, their were practically no cars (in comparison to the mainland) and when their were cars they all still had the keys in the ignition left in! Adam said it reminded him of his youth, the old Cornwall, but for someone whom did not experience the old Cornwall I can say it was truly a magical experience just the walk down the main street.

After we arrived at our lodging we were greeted and shown our gorgeous room, and then provided a delicious set biscuits and tea in the lounge. I cannot fault our hosts with anything as they did a phenomenal job from the room, details, breakfast, and service. Now the part that really worked out in my favor was that I had been in communication with a boatman named Tim, whom does a boat tour to three islands in a day for £27 a person! He was so kind that he even saved us tickets and stopped over at Penhallow to hand deliver them for us. That saved us so much worry, time, and stress because our goal was to try see all five islands in two days.

The following morning we had an exquisite full English breakfast and made our way to the Quay (pronounced Key) where the boats collect you. The Calypso Boat Company (led by the wonderful man named Tim) picked us up and took us over to our first island, St. Agnes. St. Agnes is fairly good size island and is even more of that back in time feeling than St. Mary’s. We were given an hour and half to do whatever we wanted on the island, Adam and I chose to explore. We walked from one end of the island to the other and saw art work made by the children, to the one pub, to the old lighthouse that is in retirement (they say it was built badly as it was too far inland and ships would crash amongst the rocks), and the one school (the school was one small building and absolutely amazed us) for the entire island. Once we arrived at the end of St. Agnes we came upon a beach that no one else was on, and were able to just enjoy the amazing scenery and tranquility.

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The second island we visited was the famous island of Tresco, after St. Mary’s it is probably the most popular island. It is the only island of the five that is privately owned, so everyone that lives on the island are employees. Tresco is most famous for its botanical gardens that house plants found in tropical places rather than in Great Britain, but it is possible because the weather is much warmer there. Tresco’s gardens also contain red squirrels as a project being tested to reintroduce red squirrels into the UK (red squirrels were the original squirrels, but became endangered due to the invasive grey squirrel). We had three hours on Tresco, but we decided not to go into the gardens as they were £15 a person, and we thought we would enjoy the exploration more on the island. The walk through Tresco itself is gorgeous as it is truly a tropical garden, their is an old abbey (now converted into holiday lettings), old homes, two ruin castles, and a quiet beach. Tresco is by far the second most commercialized island and is well-catered to tourists, in comparison to the other three islands which are more natural.

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As we came into our third and final island of the day we past by Hangman’s rock (it has a guillotine placed on the rock and at one point a local even put a dummy there, but it was taken to seriously by visitors and had to be removed) and proceeded on to Bryher, which is the smallest island for sure. It is a mere one and half miles long by half a mile, and is an amazing place to just lay amongst the sand and watch the sea and sky. It is very rugged and is said to be able to see all kinds of wildlife from the seabirds to whales. We had one hour and half and decided to walk the island, but then laid ourselves on the beach where we could just relax, and soak up the sun. (Important side note, do wear sunscreen, even though it may not seem it the air is clearer and the sun penetrates even stronger. We did not burn and even got a slight tan, but people on our boat were like lobsters by the end of the day).

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After, a long but fun day we returned to Penhallow for some much needed sleep. The next day was going to be our last day there, so we got up at a reasonable time and left our suitcase at Penhallow before heading out. (They have this really nice service on the island where you can leave a suitcase at your accommodation with a £1.40 on top of it and the host merely texts a worker of the Scillonian III to collect it, and we do not see it again until we arrive in Penzance). I knew from the day prior that the one ticket kiosk for the whole island had a huge line, and we were running low on time to catch the boat transfer to St. Martin’s. I noticed that one of the shops sold boat tickets as well, so we swung by there and bought the tickets to St. Martin’s and saved ourselves a load of time.

St. Martin’s we had over three hours on, because the pick up time was around 14:30 and we needed to be back to board the Scillonian, but also buy some souvenirs from St. Mary’s (we hadn’t had a chance because when we arrived on Saturday the shops were closed and on Sunday they were closed anyway). St. Martin’s was by far our favorite, the beaches were gorgeous and the sand was so soft and white, but it also has that old time homey feeling. Upon arrival on the island their is a upscale hotel called Karma, and then beach upon beach. We walked down on the beach for probably an hour than walked back to start our way across the island. The walk itself was probably about 45 minutes, but it was a beautiful walk. The views up from the peak of the island shows off the gorgeous waters down below, adorable homes, fluffy and happy sheep prancing around there fields, and the most sensible old timey post office I’ve ever seen. The post office sold all the school supplies to groceries, and all for reasonable/cheap prices. We continued our walk to the Quay where we were to be collected from and then laid on the beach nearby, on occasion moving because I was scared of the hopping sand shrimps. If you wanted to experience seals then they have a seal snorkeling excursion you can do from that island, and nearby to St. Martin’s they have the isles that you can supposedly see loads of birds, although the argument about puffins is debatable. We were told you could by some and some others were insistent we wouldn’t, but on the islands closer to St. Agnes.

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Our journey back was perfect timing as we managed to buy souvenirs with ease, and board the boat without the worry of a suitcase. We both fell asleep on each other’s shoulders under the gentle rocking of the ferry back, and when we awoke we watched the ferry sail in from Landsend to Penzance where we disembarked, collected our suitcase, and blissfully returned to Truro after an amazing trip that more people should definitely take the journey to.

St. Mary’s Hugh Town