Although they’re only 28 miles off the mainland of England, the Isles of Scilly feel worlds away with their tranquil beaches and wildlife. This archipelago includes about 140 islands, only five of which are inhabited! St Mary’s is the largest, featuring a museum of island life and a smattering of friendly cafes, restaurants and shops to explore. If you prefer, you can go out and enjoy the wilder atmosphere of St Agnes with its secluded landscapes and silence. If you’re after a slower pace of life and want to enjoy a truly unique side of the UK, the Isles of Scilly will enchant you.
Undoubtedly, part of the charm of the Isles of Scilly is their lack of must-see sights. This tiny cluster of islands offers a quiet, sleepy lifestyle that revolves around the ever-present sea that surrounds it. There are only 2,200 residents in the archipelago, but visitors flock here during the summer months to visit the Old Town of St Mary’s with its church and bustling harbour. The Garrison Fort is also a top attraction here, accessible from Garrison Walk. Tresco houses the famous Abbey Gardens, featuring over 20,000 exotic plants, while St Martin’s is the place to go for some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches.
Cruises dock on the largest island of St Mary’s, which features a colourful harbour. Each island is quite small and walkable, so it’s a pleasure to get out and explore the 60 miles of walking trails that criss-cross these main inhabited islands. When you arrive on St Mary’s, you can easily get around by your choice of bus, taxi, bike, or simply on foot. To get from one island to the other, take the tripper boats. Signs aren’t always available in these quiet islands, so it may be worth investing in a paper map if you plan to go exploring.
Although there are only a few miles of road on the Isles of Scilly, if you do choose to park your car for the duration of your cruise, you’ll find onsite parking available. The closest parking is 20 metres from the main quay on St Mary’s, with indoor parking on hand to shield your car from the elements. This premier parking costs £7.50/day. The Standard Parking facility is 1.4 miles away, serviced by a quick and efficient shuttle bus. The fee here is only £6/day. Finally, there’s overflow parking on hand when the other lots are full.
The Isles of Scilly archipelago became an official Area of Outstanding Beauty in 1975, and not much has changed since then in these beautiful islands! The main industry apart from tourism is flower farming, so you’ll see plenty of bright blooms.
These pristine islands are not a major shopping destination, but there are some small, organic producers that have businesses here. Stock up on exquisitely handcrafted goods like Scillonian soap and St Agnes wildflower honey while you’re here, and don’t miss a taste of the St Agnes ice cream!
As you might imagine due to its setting, there’s an important fishing heritage here and you’ll find the catch of the day gracing local menus. Dine on succulent lobster and crab in restaurants like the Blues Restaurant or Dibble and Grub.
There are signs that these islands have been inhabited in one form or another since the Iron Age. You can see remains of a village from this era on St Mary’s, along with the Telegraph Tower which features a burial chamber dating back to 300 BC.
A diverse range of wildlife calls the islands their home. Take a sea safari to see grey Atlantic seals and colonies of puffins, guillemots and gulls dotting the rocks.