Explore The Isles Of Scilly : All You Need To Know About It

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The Isles of Scilly are a wonderful retreat into the peace and quiet of nature, for avid travelers who seek to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy time in the midst of natural beauty and wonder- exploring new places. Here is all that you ought to know about the wonderful Isles of Scilly. The slow and laidback island life along with the thinner crowds of tourists ensure that this spot remains an open and beautiful secret- hidden in plain sight.

Simultaneously being the southernmost and westernmost point of the UK, the Isles of Scilly offer an unparalleled retreat into natural countryside and beaches surrounded by the sea. Surrounded by the blue Atlantic, Scilly is an ideal place for wanderers and adventurers. The place consists of five major inhabited islands, surrounded by many smaller islets which are unpopulated. The Scilly islands are well known for their breath-taking beauty and unsullied natural landscape. In 1975, Scilly was designated as An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

About The Scilly Isles

St. Mary’s, St. Martin’s, Tresco, St. Agnes, and Bryher’s are the major five inhabited islands at Scilly. St. Mary’s is the largest both in terms of population and area. The biggest town in the whole archipelago is Hugh town on St. Mary’s Island.

Hugh Town, St. Mary's
Photo by Daniel Bagshaw, Unsplash

Hugh town

The following are the five inhabited islands in Scilly:

1. St. Martin’s Island

This is the northernmost main island of the Scilly archipelago. It has three major areas of settlement. These are the Higher town, the Middle town, and the Lower Town. St. Martin’s island has farms, a vineyard, churches, and two quays.

2. Tresco Island

The island of Tresco lies to the west of St. Martin’s and is well frequented by tourists. It is a car-free island and houses different castles from the Medieval and Civil war periods. Another top draw at this island is the Tresco abbey.

3. Bryher Island

To the west of Tresco, lies the hilly Bryher island. This island has Churches, two quays, and a popular campsite at its northern end, overlooking the coast. It also has the infamous Hell Bay on its north-western coast, notorious for being dangerous for ships to navigate, leading to several shipwrecks in the 18th and the 19th centuries.

4. St. Mary’s Island

It is the largest island in Scilly and has several historical landmarks and sites like Giant’s castle (an iron age cliff castle), Harry’s walls, Star castle, Porthellick cove, etc. This island has large settlements like Hugh town, Oldtown, Trenoweth, Holy Vale, Normandy, etc. St. Mary’s also has the Porthloo beach and Watermill cove for beach lovers. Hugh town is the largest town and offers different restaurants and other places for tourists.

5. St. Agnes Island

This is the southernmost of the main islands in Scilly. It is also the extreme southwestern tip of inhabited land in the UK. It is about the same size as Bryher and has a High town, Middle town, and Lower town along with Troy town Farm as the main settlement area. Other sites of interest include Wingletang Down moor, Tory town Maze, the old lighthouse, etc. St. Agnes has limited accommodation, but visitors are welcome to make a day trip to the island.

How To Reach The Isles of Scilly?

The Isles of Scilly is an archipelago in the Atlantic, located 45 km. off the coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom in the southwest. The island group is accessible both by water and air. Traveling by sea, one must reach it through the Penzance Harbour, aboard the Scillonian passenger ferry. Scilly is accessible by flights which connect it to the Newquay airport in Cornwall, Land’s End airport, or to the Exeter airport on the mainland.

When To Visit The Place?

The Isles of Scilly are open year-round for visitors. Out of the five inhabited islands, accommodation is found throughout the year on the islands. Spring and summer are among the most popular seasons for visiting, and rates can be expensive at this time. However, the winter season is leaner, and rates are lower in this period.

You can also go on a day trip to the islands, along with separate trips for birdwatchers and those who wish to see the wildlife frolicking in the local surroundings. A day trip across the sea from the mainland lasts around 4-5 hours, with the exclusive ones lasting a couple of hours more. Dogs are allowed on the islands. Accommodation at privately owned inns and hotels is available on all the islands which are inhabited. Stays can be arranged on the official Isles of Scilly website.

The History Of The Isles Of Scilly

The Island group had an interesting role to play in the history of Britain as a whole. Prehistoric remains have been found on the island in form of barrows and pillars, giving them significant archaeological importance. It is estimated that the islands were a single unified landmass, but rising seam levels around c. 400-500 A.D eventually led to the submergence of land and created the archipelago. A Roman-era description labels the islands as scillonia insula, in the singular.

The Scillonian word ‘Ennoer’ is a contraction of the Old Cornish word ‘en Noer’, meaning ‘great island’. With the 11th century Noman conquest, the islands came under more centralized control. The Cornish language underwent a decline during this period and though the reasons are unclear, the islanders also stopped using it by the Reformation period. During the English Civil War (1642-1651), the isles of Scilly were controlled by sympathizers of the Crown and were used to attack Dutch ships from the Netherlands, which had declared war on the isles of Scilly by 1651. This bloodless war is said by some to have formally lasted 335 years until a peace treaty was signed in 1986.

The Biodiversity Found On The Isles Of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly have more moderate weather than the rest of the UK, falling in the temperate oceanic climate, than mainland Britain, varying from approximately 7-16⁰C. Scilly also has tropical plants which are not found anywhere else in the United Kingdom. All the islands have a rich biodiversity, including 437 species of birds recorded. Rare birds like the Roseate Tern, Spectacled Warbler, Golden Pheasants, Song thrushes, etc. can be found on the island group. Other animals which can be observed include Grey seals, a wide variety of butterflies, beetles and moths, Humpback whales, Killer whales, Fin and Minke whales, dolphins, porpoises, hedgehogs, rabbits, Red squirrels, etc.


Grey seals
Photo by Niel Cooper, Unsplash

Things to do-

There are many activities for thrill-seekers and outdoor adventurers who are visiting the place. the isles of Scilly offers many opportunities for visitors who land on its shores:

  • Birdwatching is a delightful activity in Scilly. The many species of birds found on the island offer an opportunity like no other. Several migratory birds not visible elsewhere in the British isles can be spotted in Scilly.  This makes the isles of Scilly a prime haven for those who like birdwatching.
Photo by Dieny Portinanni, Unsplash
  • The isles of Scilly also offer a rich spot for visitors who like historical places. The several castles which occur throughout the islands are a major draw for tourists. These date from a variety of periods and offer a glimpse into the rich and unique history of the place. Popular ones include Cromwell’s castle built on the west side of Tresco, Star castle in St. Mary’s has its walls shaped as a nine-pointed star and now serves as a hotel. There is also Bant’s Carn, an ancient Bronze Age burial chamber on the other islands of Scilly for those who like to explore.
Star Castle, Tresco
Photo by David Lally, Wikimedia

Star Castle

  • A must-visit when on the islands is the Tresco Abbey gardens, founded in the nineteenth century by Augustus John Smith. There is a large variety of lush vegetation (20,000 species of plants) from many different countries around the world on offer. The abbey gardens offer visitors offers a very unique tropical taste of natural beauty, as they walk through the large and well-maintained garden. It is open year-round for visitors to Tresco.
Tresco Abbey
Photo from the Photochrom Collection, Wikimedia

The Tresco Abbey

  • Visitors can go camping on the Troytown farm, on St. Agnes, on the Bryher Campsite, or the Garrison campsite on St.Mary’s island. All three offer spectacular and panoramic views of the turquoise sea waters off the coast of the islands and have been rated highly as some of the best campsites in the UK. Modern facilities like grocery shops, electronic repair, and services, toilets, etc. are available nearby. Camping equipment and other arrangements are also provided.



Fire near the sea
Photo by Kyle Peyton, Unsplash
  • Island hopping travelers should also visit the pristine and beautiful beaches in the isles of Scilly. These are also some of the best beaches in the British isles. Porthloo beach on St. Mary’s is a great spot for tourists who like beaches. Pentle Bay beach is a crescent-shaped, half-mile-long beach with white sand. There is also the Appletree Bay, set on the foreshore of the Tresco abbey. Other notable beaches to visit include Rushy Porth Beach, Pelistry Bay, Porthcressa Beach, Covean, etc. on the other islands One can also go sailing in the blue seas off these beaches since sailing boats are available.
 white sand beach
Photo by Leafar Perez, Unsplash

A white sand beach

  • Another unmissable event whilst visiting the isles of Scilly is gig racing. It is a fascinating tradition found exclusively in Scilly. It involves rowing boats engaging in a race between the islands. This is done in teams of six and is an exciting glimpse into the very unique Scillonian tradition. It is said that gig racing originated with boats racing to shipwrecks on the dangerous rocks surrounding the archipelago to retrieve salvage, but it actually was meant to deliver a pilot to the oncoming vessels trying to reach the islands . Initially, the event saw crews from the island and Cornwall only, but now welcome participants from a wider range. The Gig racing championship is held annually on the May Day bank holiday.
  • Adventure lovers and explorers can travel for significant distances exploring areas away from the inhabited islands, going solo, and island hopping through the impressive beauty of the isles of Scilly. Alternatively, they can go snorkeling in the seas around the islands of Scilly to get close to the seals, fish, and other aquatic wildlife.
Bryher Island
Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash
  • Foodies will also thoroughly enjoy the chance to have their meals al fresco in the islands of Scilly. The best thing is that all of the food is from local produce- fresh and unfiltered. Husbandry and fishing ensure the availability of crisp seafood and delectable meals. Popular places to eat include Adam’s Fish and Chips on St. Martins, the Seven Stones Inn, and the luxury Karma St. Martin’s
  • Visitors are also recommended to visit the Scilly museum and the Art galleries on the islands- the Glandore Gallery on St, Mary’s showcases works by Stephen Morris, Gallery Tresco hosts art pieces by some of Cornwall’s most famous artists. Exhibitions and viewings are regularly organized on the islands.

Thus, the isles of Scilly offer something for everyone and are definitely worth visiting. Though they may appear far-flung islands detached from the mainland, the isles of Scilly are a different sort of Britain altogether- relaxed, closer to nature, and self-satisfied as it sits amongst some of the most beautiful seascapes in the world.

 Isles Of Scilly
Photo from geograph.org.uk, Wikimedia

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