Scilly in pictures: 39 reasons to visit the Isles of Scilly
There are so many reasons to visit the Isles of Scilly – but two of the biggest are hard to sum up in words. Firstly, the atmosphere. It’s so relaxed, welcoming, a really magical place which seems to operate slightly outside the everyday world. I had to keep reminding myself it’s part of the UK.
Secondly, it’s beautiful. So beautiful. The beaches are the kind of pale white sand you see in the Caribbean, or golden stretches that seem to glow in the sun. The sea is palest clear turquoise, deep indigo blue and every shade in between.
I could pull out every adjective in my arsenal, every superlative I know. But really, you need to see. So here’s a taste of why Scilly is so stunning. I defy you not to look and want to book…
As well as my reasons to visit the Isles of Scilly, I’ve got 16 things to do in the Isles of Scilly with kids too if you need more persuasion.
St Mary’s is the biggest island – and where your trip is likely to start. Population 1,800 and slightly under 2.5 miles, with the airport, main ferry port and biggest towns, there are also clifftop paths, plenty of beaches, nature trails and quiet roads.
Beach hop around the island or follow the cliff walk: tucked away are ancient sites and vineyards, wildflowers and wide open spaces, nature reserves and tea rooms – even the signs, vintage or driftwood style, are never dull.
Unspoiled St Agnes, meanwhile, is only about a mile across, joined to its neighbour Gugh by a sandbar at low tide. This one is the most south-westerly and one of the smallest of the five inhabited islands with only 85 inhabitants.
Once you could find small ceramic beads from a wrecked cargo ship, now remembered in the name Beady Pool. These days, there are rocks to clamber over and seaglass among the seashells, with fields of flowers and farms inland. A lighthouse stands tall at the highest point: the Turk’s Head Pub is the most south-westerly in Britain.
Tresco is the glamorous one – home to the subtropical Abbey Gardens as well, it looks over to Bryher. Lush and sprawling, the gardens are one of the islands’ few official ‘attractions’ (although with so many natural attractions, it’s hardly an issue). With more than 20,000 exotic plants from around the world, statues and stone structures looking as much part of the gardens as the flowers which bloom year-round.
The collection of figureheads from wrecked ships is a reminder of the rugged coast and the islands’ dramatic past – today, its deli, art gallery and five-star places to stay prove how many of us would love to be cast away here.
Bryher itself vies for the title of smallest isle, home to around 80 people and the memorably named Hell Bay. The drama of the wild, windswept crashing Atlantic views reveal why – but on the other side, its sheltered coves have sea so clear, it’s the palest turquoise. Soak both in from the lookouts, with some cake from the island shop.
Last but never least, peaceful St Martin’s has some of the most spectacular bays I’ve ever seen – curving arcs which could have been transported from Antigua, sand gleaming in the sun, palm trees towering above splashes of bright flowers.
Don’t miss a drink with a view at the Seven Stones pub, do wander the quiet streets between the Higher Town and Lower Town, but save time for the sand. Days could turn into weeks on the beaches – or so I wish,
Venture out to sea – no trip is complete without at least one boat tour, discovering uninhabited isles, some with their own history, others barely more than bare rock emerging from the spray. The blue goes on forever, sea merging with sky, while birds soar above and seals bask indolently.
Then there’s great food – from homebaked treats and sweets to fabulous seafood, fish and the freshest ingredients. Tregarthen’s hotel, where we stayed, had some wonderful dishes on its ever-changing menu, but from pub to small cafes, these small islands put bigger towns to shame.
Even the journey is an experience, especially if you arrive in the tiny planes which fly out from Devon and Cornwall. There’s a ferry from the Cornish mainland too, but however you reach the islands (and then very begrudgingly leaving again) it’s part of the adventure.
Disclosure: My trip was courtesy of Tregarthen’s Hotel and Isles of Scilly travel. All opinions, superlatives and ability to take a million photos are my own.
PIN FOR LATER: 39 REASONS TO VISIT THE ISLES OF SCILLY
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