Isles of Scilly

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Isles of Scilly Travel Information

The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago of five inhabited islands - St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin’s, Bryher and St Agnes - and numerous other small rocky islets 28 miles off Lands End - the most South Westerly point of the British Isles. With a total population of just over two thousand, an exceptionally mild climate, and countless golden sandy beaches, Scilly is a beautiful haven of peace and tranquillity loved by visitors and locals alike.

The islands' position produces a place of great contrast - the effect of the sea means there is rarely any frost or snow, which allows local farmers to grow flowers well ahead of those on mainland Britain while the exposure to the Atlantic winds means spectacular winter gales lash the islands from time to time. This is reflected in the landscape, most clearly seen on Tresco, where the lush Sub-Tropical Abbey Gardens on the sheltered Southern end of the island contrast with the low heather and bare rock sculpted by the wind on the exposed Northern end.  

Scilly has been inhabited since stone-age times and its history has been one of subsistence living until this century with people living from the land and the sea. Farming and fishing continues today, but the main industry now is tourism. Obviously the sea has always played a huge part in Scillonian history but it was in the nineteenth century that Scilly had its maritime heyday. Beaches which are now enjoyed by sunbathers were then factories for shipbuilding, the harbours now full of pleasure boats were once packed with local and visiting fishing and trading boats.

Feel the sea breezes in your hair, and taste the salt on your lips as you explore the beautiful coastline of St. Mary’s, the largest of the islands, and home to about three quarters of Scilly's population. It has the Town Hall, hospital / health centre, banks and most of the shops and larger hotels. Hugh Town is the 'capital' of the islands, situated on the sandbar which separates the Garrison from the rest of the island.

The ship to Penzance and the fleet of colourful inter-island launches to the off-islands operate from the quay. Although most of the accommodation is in Hugh Town, guest houses and self-catering accommodation may be found elsewhere on St. Mary's. There is a circular bus service that operates from Easter through to October on the nine miles of road, linking most of the island's communities.  Bicycles may be hired and taxis are available throughout the year.

St. Mary's has an Anglican, Methodist and a Roman Catholic Church, five public houses, hotel bars, a social club, disco, cafes and restaurants.  A camp site is situated on the Garrison. Discover secret coves once used by smugglers, listen to the cries of seabirds and maybe spot the odd seal on the beach. Inland you’ll find woodland, heaths and marshland and sand dunes thick with wild agapanthus flowers from Africa. St. Mary's has many hidden secrets and the walks around the coast and across the island are a delight.

If you love an active outdoor life, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied on St. Mary’s. Facilities available include squash, golf, cycling, tennis, horse-riding, windsurfing, sailing, scuba-diving, fishing, snooker and shooting. Visitors are' also welcome to join in the cricket matches with the other islands. Islands provide natural attractions for artists and craftsmen and St. Mary's is no exception with many studios dotted about the island producing high quality pottery, paintings and crafts. St. Mary's offers everything a visitor would require to enjoy a lifetime of holidays.
On Tresco, the second largest of the islands, you might just forget you are still in the British Isles as you wander among the palm trees of the magnificent sub-tropical Abbey Gardens spotting rare and unusual plants which can’t be grown anywhere else in the country. It’s all down to that warming Gulf Stream which kisses the islands’ shores. Elsewhere on the island you’ll find numerous sandy beaches in the south and a wild and windswept landscape in the north.

St. Martin's is the third largest of the islands and is the first land you see, with the distinguishing Daymark, when crossing from the Mainland by sea or air. For the visitor who wants a quiet holiday there is much to offer. There is a choice of some of the finest sandy beaches with safe bathing, secluded coves, and many interesting walks along the cliffs and downs where purple heather and golden gorse grow in profusion, or walk along our self-built roadway from Highertown to Lowertown!

St Agnes is one of those rare places which can honestly claim to be unspoilt. It is a small flower farming community which has not been robbed of its tranquillity by commercialisation. This beautiful island, about a mile across, welcomes those who want a simple holiday away from the stress and pollution of the mainland. The sea is crystal clear, ideal for snorkelling and diving, and at night the stars can appear remarkably bright in the clear air.

The downland areas on both St Agnes and Gugh, where birds, butterflies and wild flowers abound are maintained, by the Isles of Scilly WildlifeTrust, as sites of special interest.

Bryher, the smallest community of the Isles of Scilly welcomes the visitor to share its peaceful, yet spectacular island. It is an island of contrasts. In spring there is a profusion of colour with wild flowers - daffodils and narcissi in every hedgerow and field corner. In autumn many migratory birds use Bryher as a resting place and gales frequently lash the western coast making Hell Bay an awe-inspiring sight. And, whereas the rugged west coast faces the full force of the Atlantic, the east coast overlooks the sheltered waters of the channel between Bryher and Tresco.

There are lots of things to do on the Isles of Scilly, from sailing to bus tours, but don't forget that part of Scilly's charm is that you don't have to be busy all the time. You're sure to want to spend at least some of your time soaking up the relaxed atmosphere.