Cornwall Life relaxes and take time out in the Isles of Scilly

PUBLISHED: 10:52 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:39 20 February 2013

Cornwall Life relaxes and take time out in the Isles of Scilly

Cornwall Life relaxes and take time out in the Isles of Scilly

Escape to the Isles of Scilly where you will find a gentle, quieter pace of life and unspoilt beauty in the form of white, sandy beaches, azure sea and tropical plants. Words and pictures by Ian Wilkinson

Take your time on... the Isles of Scilly


Escape to the Isles of Scilly where you will find a gentle, quieter pace of life and unspoilt beauty in the form of white, sandy beaches, azure sea and tropical plants. Words and pictures by Ian Wilkinson


Nearly thirty miles west south-west of Lands End lies a group of islands. Five are inhabited, 49 smaller ones are not. Their origins are shrouded in Celtic legend and through the centuries the islands have been associated with ancient tales of Atlantis and the lost land of Lyonesse, of Avalon and King Arthur. Those of a romantic disposition have speculated that these are the Hesperides, The Elysian Fields, or the Fortunate Isles of Greek mythology and in fact the latter term is used to this day.


The Isles of Scilly are indeed the Fortunate Isles. Words and phrases such as unspoilt beauty, tranquil, charming, bewitching and beguiling dont even begin to do justice to this magical place.
I have been visiting the Isles of Scilly now with my family for many years and Im not alone. The Islands returning visits statistics are amongst the highest in world tourism. Its a wonderful place for a family holiday and thats half the secret. My own children are grown up now and while they will travel far and wide in their lifetime, I know that they will always return to their islands of childhood memory and one day will no doubt bring their children too.



Returning to a much-loved place every year makes you fearful that it may change. But to me, it hasnt. Yes, theres the odd new building (not many, though), and there are more cars on the main island, St Marys, than there used to be. Services that most of us take for granted are much improved. In Hugh Town, for instance, there is now a hole in the wall! But the pace of life is still calm and unhurried and the Scillonians are friendly and hospitable.



Its a small, tightly knit community where everyone seems to know one another. In the last year or so those who have watched the BBC television series An Island Parish will feel they already know some of the people who live and work on the Islands. The very human stories of Father Guy, the Hicks family on St Agnes, Heike the vet and the Methodist minister, David Easton, give a fascinating insight into the realities of Island life.



There are regular flights from Lands End, Newquay, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton and a helicopter link from Penzance. Flying to the Islands is a wonderful experience, particularly on a clear day when you can see the whole island chain laid out below you. With the unbelievably white sandy beaches and the azure sea, you might easily be in the South Pacific! However, between April and October my own preferred mode of transport is the Scillonian, a venerable old lady of some 1,000 tons that chugs along at 15 knots between Penzance and St Marys once a day.


With the unbelievably white sandy beaches and the azure sea, you might easily be in the South Pacific


She is 34 years old this year and there is talk of replacing her with something faster. I hope they dont! There is something about the leisurely three-hour voyage that gets you tuned into life on Scilly.



Of the five inhabited islands, St Marys is the largest and Hugh Town, at its western end, is the Islands capital. In Hugh Town you can buy most of lifes necessities and the odd luxury as well. There is a good selection of boutique-type shops and galleries, a few food shops, a hardware shop, a post office and a couple of banks. Sometimes, however, you cant get exactly what you want and sometimes the shelves on the small supermarket seem a little bare. You simply need to adjust your expectations a little: this is an island, and tomorrow, when the boat comes in, what you desire may or may not arrive! Hugh Town has some good pubs and restaurants, while St Marys has some wonderful beaches and coastal walks, although unlike the other islands its quite a long haul to get round it in a day. What you can do however, if time is short, is to tour the island by bus. Two tours are available, one on an old open-topped London Transport bus and the other on Katie, a 1948 Austin K2.



St Marys is also the hub for the inter-island boats and there are regular services to all of the other islands (known as off islands), as well as boat trips to uninhabited islands and rocky outposts where you can see seals and other marine wildlife in its natural habitat. Almost everyone on the Isles of Scilly has their favourite island, either because they live there or are a regular visitor. The off islands are all different in character sometimes subtly, sometimes not so. Tresco is a case in point. The island is leased to the Dorrien Smith family and there is a quiet affluence and manicured feel to the place that is different from the other islands. It is also undeniably beautiful with some fine beaches and a world-class attraction for those interested in formal gardens. Abbey Gardens contains a staggering 20,000 exotic plants, and even in the winter months more than 300 of these will be in flower. Its like Kew without the glass!



St Martins has arguably the nicest beaches on Scilly and is closest to the Eastern Isles, which are wonderful for watching seabirds. Bryher is the most rugged of the off-islands and the coastal scenery on its western side is spectacular particularly the appropriately named Hell Bay, which in the prevailing wind takes the full force of the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, theres St Agnes, my own favourite. Its a microcosm of island life. Very beautiful, rugged, particularly on its western coast, with excellent walks and a couple of nice beaches. There isnt much here a post office and a farm shop and a church. Unlike the other islands, there is no hotel, but there is a pub. For those who like milestone destinations its here that you can drink in Britains most south-westerly pub!



Taking your time on the Isles of Scilly isnt hard its not the sort of place to rush around. You just have to relax and enjoy it.

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