England, UK, Wanderlust

Travel to the Isles of Scilly

In those travel Q&As, I’ve never understood the question about whether the journey or the destination is better. After all, who really goes, ah, those six hours stuck on the motorway were fabulous compared to the week at the beach at the end of it.

But occasionally I do get to do a journey which is such a part of the travel experience that the holiday really does begin when I board.

scilly-beach-aerial-viewAnd that’s exactly what happened with our recent trip with Isles of Scilly Travel, clambering into a tiny prop plane to speed over the Cornish coast and to St Mary’s.

We’d chosen to fly out of Exeter airport, as it’s only about two hours away on the train from west London, you can also board in Newquay or do the very short 15-minute hop from Land’s End.

And even before we boarded, things were different than your standard flight. There’s a strict policy on hand luggage, which is minimal, as well as a maximum of 15kg hold baggage. When you see the plane, you understand why.


The Twin Otter, the bigger of the two Skybuses has room for 19 passengers (plus pilot and co-pilot), while the smaller Islander can only fit eight. There are no toilets, no meal service, no in-flight entertainment.

Actually, that’s not quite true as I had a bird’s eye view of the cockpit. On the return flight, I could have reached out and touched the pilot. (I didn’t.)


But who cares? I love little planes, Minnie promptly dozed off to the whirr of the propellers and I got to gaze out of the window watching the coastline, the expanse of sea and finally – the Isles of Scilly, dotted on the water.

We didn’t even have the best weather on the way out, hazy and cloudy, so I can imagine how spectacular it is in sun. On the return, one bay around Land’s End was gloriously emerald and turquoise, although sadly I didn’t have a view of the islands as we took off.

After years of impersonal, hectic, strict mega airports, this really took me back to the joy of flying. Oh, there’s still scanning and X-raying at Exeter airport but it’s far more relaxed than Heathrow, while at St Mary’s we were given a colour coded plastic card in place of a boarding pass, which they collected again to reuse.

Checking monkey fits the hand luggage restrictions

Both ways we watched the safety demo on TV before boarding – no screens on board remember, and no room for cabin crew. It was also incredibly smooth and friendly, our suitcases whisked off to await us, and the pilot joking with Minnie about the no smoking sign (she very seriously promised not to smoke while it was on).

And we were met at St Mary’s by one of the many transfer buses which shuttles travellers to various hotels or to the quay to reach the other islands.

Although you can take the ferry if you prefer (or need a bigger luggage allowance), I wouldn’t have swapped this for the world. As the propellers started whirring, my holiday really began – and didn’t end until the Cornish coast and Devon countryside had finally been replaced with runway once again.


Need to know
Adult fares start from £70 from Land’s End, £95 from Newquay and £135 from Exeter. Children and infants (under two) both pay reduced fares. There’s usually at least one flight from each airport every day, significantly more from Land’s End during peak season.

Infants are allowed a buggy free, while children in their own seat must take one as part of their luggage allowance of 15kg. Pregnant women can fly up to and beyond their due date, subject to medical verifications and only on the shortest flights from Land’s End towards the end of the pregnancy. Check the plan your trip section for more details.


Dogs can also travel on the Land’s End and Newquay routes.

The Scillonian III ferry travels from Penzance to St Mary’s, with fares starting at £43. It does not sail from November to the end of February, and there is one daily sailing the rest of the year.

How to travel to the Isles of Scilly - my review of the Skybus flights from Cornwall and Devon, as well as details of the Scillonian ferry service from Penzance


Disclosure: Our flights were courtesy of Isles of Scilly travel. All opinions and choice of catchy music in the video are my own.


Images and video copyright MummyTravels