Calypso boat trip around the Isles of Scilly
Whenever I arrive somewhere new, I like to try to get my bearings as soon as possible – a brief explore, a city bus tour, whatever helps me find my feet a little when I’m somewhere new and unfamiliar.
When it came to the Isles of Scilly, that means getting on a boat. Although we spent some of our first (rainy) day wandering around St Mary’s, discovering one of the closest beaches and a rather fab cafe (more to come there), I wanted to get a taste of the other smaller islands to plan our remaining time.
Step forward Calypso boat tours, which visit three islands – St Agnes, Tresco and Bryher – within a day. And while that only gives you a quick look round each, with the trio all deserving much longer, it’s a good way to get a feel of them.
We met Tim, our captain, at the main quay in St Mary’s – as all the ferries started pulling out for their inter-island routes, 12 of us (including two families) clambered into his smaller boat, Calypso, at bang on 10.20.
Our first day had been spent glued to the windows wondering if the rain would break. Mid-August in the sunniest part of the UK and the drizzle only let up at lunchtime.
After a lot of agonising (and competition for seats), we’d decided to brave the forecast and head out on day 2 instead. Thankfully the sun came out around lunchtime as we wandered across Tresco, but the weather and tides meant some seriously bumpy waves on our first leg to St Agnes.
Fortunately no island is too far from each other and there’s an indoor cabin for a few people to shelter, so we had landed at St Agnes before seasickness could strike. And after a quick wander past the Turks Head (pub, shop and general centre of the island) to the Bulb Shop, we ditched any plans of heading to Troytown or the Beady Pool, and wandered to The Bar.
This stretch of sand joins St Agnes and Gugh and stretches out at low tide with sea on both sides, unexpectedly glittery sand (a feature of all the islands), huge rocks to clamber on and lots of shells.
After too short a time, it was back on board and heading to Tresco. Dropped at Carn Near Quay in the south, we had our first experience of being picked up on the other side of the island at New Grimsby Quay.
Which left the perfect amount of time to stop for lunch at Tresco Abbey Gardens – a pasty, what else, although I wasn’t fast enough to snaffle the last cream tea – then into the gardens themselves.
There’s 17 acres with plants from across the southern hemisphere thriving in the subtropical climate, plus Valhalla, the National Maritime Collection of Ships’ Figureheads. You’ll also spot stone statues along the paths and a quirky shell grotto.
The gardens were created back in 1834, in the grounds of the 12th century priory – arches and occasional sections of wall still remain. Today they’re divided into themes so you can get mini Australia or part of the Mediterranean as you wander, with over 4,000 different specimens.
Don’t miss the History Room, which has an incredible 18th century wooden figure from the HMS Colossus. Then, once again, we had to head off, wandering the cliff path to New Grimsby Quay.
Suddenly the sun shone. And what a difference – instantly I could see those incredible blues and turquoises in the water, the beaches seemed illuminated, almost glowing in the light, and all the purples of the agapanthus flowers shone.
Perfect for the final part of the trip, from the gorgeous beach at the quay past Cromwell’s Castle (and the ruin of King Charles’ castle above) and across to Bryher.
Stripping off hoodies, we decided to spend most of our time on the beach, making the most of it. After a quick walk up past the small church to Bryher Stores for ice cream and views down to Hell Bay, where there’s nothing but Atlantic stretching off, waves crashing, of course.
Church Quay beach, meanwhile had perfect water for paddling, a stray translucent jellyfish to admire (from a distance, I never know with jellyfish), perfect sand for making castles and digging holes, and lots of space for me to lie down and soak up a few rays.
If we’d have had longer on the islands, I know I’d have loved to go back to explore Bryher and peaceful St Agnes particularly. For a short trip, we couldn’t have had a better introduction to the Isles of Scilly.
Need to know
Tickets cost £26 for adults, children £18 and can be bought at Tideline in St Mary’s. If you’re staying at Tregarthen’s Hotel, they can book for you. Otherwise, call 0778 198454 or 01720 422187.
There are also evening trips available as well to St Agnes, or to spot seals as well as to some of the uninhabited islands.
Disclosure: My trip to the islands was courtesy of Tregarthen’s Hotel and Isles of Scilly Travel. I paid for the Calypso boat tour as one of the (recommended) activities we chose to take. All opinions and lack of jellyfish knowledge remain my own.
Images copyright MummyTravels