Scilly Billies: My Visit to the Isles of Scilly

Hi blog readers!

It’s hard to believe that July was just a few short months ago, given how autumnal it is right now! That month, I was lucky enough to be able to go on holiday with my family to visit the Isles of Scilly — a group of over 140 islands 35 miles off the coast of the county of Cornwall in the UK.

Scilly Isles Bike

Described by the islands’ Official Tourist Board online visitor guide as “a place like nowhere else in England”, the Isles of Scilly consist of five inhabited islands — St Mary’s, St Agnes, St Martin’s, Tresco and Bryher  as well as 140 other islands. The area, understandably, is incredibly remote and rural, with the islands boasting a total population of 2,203 (according to the 2011 census), and the local economy consists majorly of tourism and agriculture. The Duchy of Cornwall owns the majority of the isles’ freehold land.

Scilly Isles Hugh Town
The centre of Hugh Town

If you want to get to the Scilly Isles, you have two main transport methods: sailing and flying. We decided to travel to the islands by ferry, and boarded the Scillonian III in Penzance for a 2 hour 45 minute sailing to St Mary’s, the largest and most populous of the Scilly Isles. Having arrived into the quay of St Mary’s Harbour in Hugh Town (the biggest settlement of the islands), we later checked in at the island’s Longstone Lodge & Café, which offers modern hostel accommodation with a shared kitchen.

The next day, our first full day on the islands, we hired bicycles and explored St Mary’s. Cycling makes for a convenient way to explore the Isles of Scilly — tourists can’t bring cars, and it doesn’t take long to do a full circuit of St Mary’s.

Isles of Scilly St Mary's Cycling

The next day, my dad and I took a boat trip over to St Agnes — the most southerly point in England and the UK and my personal favourite of all the islands we visited. It was beautiful and incredibly peaceful. We stopped to eat in a small café, which offered incredible views of other Scilly islands and the sea beyond.

Scilly Isles St Agnes Café View
The view from the café

Scilly Isles St Agnes Beach

The day after that, my parents, sister and I went over to Tresco, the second-biggest Scilly island. The family-owned isle is known for Tresco Abbey Gardens, which are 17 acres of thousands of plants from around the globe. My parents visited the gardens while my sister and I opted for a spa day at Tresco Island Spa.

Scilly Isles Tresco Spa

Scilly Isles Tresco Hill
The scene from a hill on Tresco

We headed home the next day, but not before a visit to St Martin’s! It was really sunny when we visited, and the island really came into its own with this weather — you could see through the water!

Scilly Isles St Martin's

Scilly is a great place to holiday. Though the islands are remote, all the inhabited ones have places to eat, and there’s plenty to see and do. We certainly could have done with more time to explore, as we certainly didn’t uncover the entirety of the islands we visited and didn’t get to go to Bryher.

Scilly Isles St Mary's View
The view from the Atlantic Inn pub in Hugh Town on St Mary’s
Scilly Isles Food
And the pub food!

Another great thing about the Scilly Isles is that it’s a great place for wildlife. The birds will literally eat out of your hand! Also, the islands felt pretty much rubbish-free — a good thing in times when there’s such a focus on plastic pollution.

Scilly Isles Birds
Hanging out with my pals the birds

Unfortunately, our ferry journey home was cancelled. We were offered compensation in the form of a flight in a small plane. This wasn’t great news for my Mum, who hadn’t flown for decades, but the travel company for the Isles of Scilly were so nice. Also, the quick flight offered some great shots of Cornwall from the air:

Scilly Isles View From Plane

So what were my overall impressions of the Isles of Scilly? First and foremost, if you’re looking for a holiday destination with everything on your doorstep like shopping and oodles of tourist attractions — this is not the place for you. This is a remote part of the UK which has a quieter pace of life and has avoided most of the trappings of commercialisation.

Scilly Isles Honesty Stall
One of the many honesty stalls on the islands

Secondly, though I’ve never been to Greece, I feel confident enough from my Scilly experiences and limited knowledge of the European country to say that the Scilly Isles are not the UK’s answer to Corfu — though they are often billed as the UK’s tropical islands, I found the climate on the islands to be like that of mainland UK during my visit (and on top of that, the weather there seemed incredibly changeable, with torrential rain one minute and sunshine the next). However, if you fancy getting off the beaten track and exploring a different way of living (and, arguably, if you fancy more of an active holiday), you might just find yourself falling in love with these islands.
Scilly Isles Final Pic

Have you ever visited the Isles of Scilly? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for future travellers? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Scilly Isles Pavlova

This blog post was originally published on 12 November 2018.

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