Isles Of Scilly - 2023
We'd often considered visiting the Isles Of Scilly, west of the end of Cornwall, but there always seemed somewhere else to go.
A Google Maps image of the Isles Of Scilly
When Mandy's sister, Tammy, suggested we all rent a house there in 2023, though, it seemed the ideal time to finally get there.
We set off on the long drive to Lands End airport around 7AM.
We stopped for a few minutes to visit Jamaica Inn, grabbing an ice cream and using the facilities.
A brief stop at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor
It was an easy drive until we got a few miles from Redruth, when the traffic ground to a crawl. As we had some time, and prefering to be moving, we diverted up via St.Ives.
We stopped for a quick beer and then onto the airport, where we watched a navy helicopter practice and then boarded the tiny plane for the 20 minute flight.
We all had a window seat and you could even see out of the cockpit windscreen. As we approached, the islands' water looked beautiful, almost like the Caribbean.
Approaching the Islands
We took a taxi to our house, which was about a 20 minute walk outside of Hugh Town.
Tammy and I went to the buggy hire company and picked up our transport for the week. It wasn't cheap, but it was useful, especially for shopping as walking from the town with shopping would have been a bit like hard work.
Our transport for the week, a golf buggy, as there are no hire or visitors's cars allowed.
That evening, we took our buggy down to Old Town Inn for dinner and a few drinks.
We all took the buggy up to the beach at Bar Point on the north coast of St Mary's.
After A stroll down through woods, we found ourselves on a lovely white sandy beach with crystal clear water and views out to two of the other islands, Tresco and St Mary's?
Most of us had a swim. The water was cold initially, but we soon got used to it and enjoyed it
Dave and Tammy returned to the buggy and explored the island a bit, while Mandy and I headed along the coast for a while until we turned inland at Pelistry and started walking up the road to our house.
One of the Innisidgen burial chambers
It was hot and we both fancied a drink, but we didn't see a pub (there's not much outside towns), so went to a cafe, where we enjoyed a cream tea, with very tame sparrows eating our crumbs off the table.
We popped down to town in the buggy and got shopping for dinner and some snacks for the following day's picnic lunch.
We headed to Tresco on our first full day away from St Mary's.
The ferries are small, open boats, but luckily we had the first good weather since June for the whole week we were there.
The boat landed us at New Grimsby and we set off towards a small castle we could see in the distance, overlooking the channel between Tresco and Bryher
It was quite a tricky path and David struggled a bit, but we all reached the castle, built on Cromwell's orders.
Tammy and Murphy read up on the keep at Cromwell's castle
Bryher and Cromwell's Castle from Tresco
We explored the castle, climbing the stairs inside to the top where cannons covered the channel.
After that, we climbed the steep slope up to the ruins of the older castle. This was built by King Charles I but had a poor field of fire over the channel and replaced by the smaller , round tower later.
The view from King Charles' Castle
We then walked back to town and ate our lunch, planning to visit the gardens, but when we got there we had only limited time and they were expensive to visit, so Mandy and I headed back to catch the ferry over to Bryher.
We paused along the way to watch a helicopter depart, while Tammy and David did visit the gardens and then caught the ferry directly back to St Mary's.
Apple Tree Bay beach
Mandy and I spent a couple of hours walking on the northern end of Bryher, taking a very overgrown path at one stage, before returning to catch the last ferry back.
View of Cromwell's castle from the beach on Bryher
New Grimsby from Bryher
The northern edge of Bryher
Tresco from Bryher
Tresco from Bryher
We met Tammy and David in the Mermaid pub at the end of the harbour wall and then returned to the house.
That evening we headed to Juliet's Garden for dinner, watching a beautiful sunset over the harbour and enjoying an excellent crab linguine.
Sunset at Juliet's Garden
The next day Mandy and I headed out to St Martin's alone.
Being a keen Scuba diver, I'd hoped I might have had a chance to do a day's diving in the Scilies, but there is no longer a dive centre based there.
However, there is a boat, which you need to charter as a group for the whole week, and I came across it as we landed at Higher Town Key.
I started chatting to the divers on board and they explained they were from the Cornwall and Isles of Sciliy Marine Archaelogical Society (CISMAS) and were doing their annual dive on HMS Colosus, a wreck from the late 1700s.
We then walked up to the village, located a shop selling Cornish Pasties and then walked up to the eastern side of the island, pausing to explore a graveyard briefly, and started to walk along the coastal path.
Mist over Hugh Town harbour
Walking down to the beach on St Martin's
The views were lovely and the soft sandy beaches almost devoid of people.
Great Bay, St Martin's
I wanted a swim, so we walked down to the biggest beach and I enjoyed a few minutes swimming in the crystal clear water, feeling aggrieved that I couldn't have managed one day's diving here.
Beautiful sky over Great Bay
After that we headed for some rocks, only to find the few people on the beach were there!
So we walked on, into Little Bay, and past the people on the beach until we found some more, uninhabited, rocks and sat there to eat our, excellent, pasties.
Little Bay, St Martin's
After lunch we swang west and stopped at the pub in Lower Town for a drink.
Stoney beach on the south of the island
After lunch we walked on and it got hotter as we did, until we found our way back to the village where we bought an ice cream and encountered the CISMAS group again, now off their boat, their kit stowed in a container for return to the mainland on the sole ferry, the Scillonian III.
We wandered down to the harbour at Higher Town again and took the boat back to St Mary's where we met Tammy and David in the Mermaid again!
I think we ate in the house again that evening and enjoyed a few games of Crib, something I'd never done before.
Sunset looking towards Tresco from St Mary's
Sunset over Hugh Town
The plan for Saturday was for us to go out to the Bishop's Rock Lighthouse and then return to St Agnes, the final inhabited island, meeting Tammy and David there, as they didn't think it fair to take their dog on such a long boat trip, but we discovered everything was shut for an island wedding, so we decided to explore the Garrison area of St Mary's, which occupies the high ground on the south-west corner of the island, above Hugh Town.
Entrance to the Garrison
We walked around the outskirts of the Garrison, which took a good couple of hours and afforded us lovely views over some of the other islands and a cruise ship lying offshore and interested me as I'm always happy to explore an old fortification.
Cruise ship in the harbour
Many cannons scattered around the Garrison
The weather was, again, excellent and we arrived back at the old castle, which is now a hotel, the Castle Hotel, and descended into the dungeon which is now a bar, but, in Tudor and later times, served as a genuine dungeon!
View towards St Agnes
We had a drink and then ordered lunch. I had fish and chips, which were some of the very best I've ever had! Light, crisp batter, tasty fish and excellent chips.
As we came out Mandy met two of her patients who had said they were visiting the Isles of Scilly, but we really never expected to bump into!
They had come off the cruise ship and wanted to see a church that had featured in a TV programme. David and I ran them up there, but I'm not really sure they wanted to be there, so I hope they got back to the boat safely! It was only at the other end of Hugh Town, so a gentle 10-15 walk from the harbour.
View over Hugh Town
We tried to go for a swim again, but the spot we chose was very shallow with rocks and only Mandy actually got in!
Mandy managed a swim
I can't remember where we ate that evening, possibly in the house again.
Sunday's itenary was what Saturday's should have been.
We boarded the boat for the wildlife spotting trip to Bishop's Rock in sunshine, but by the time we set off, fog had descended and we started to think that we were in for a pointless and unpleasant trip!
Luckily, even in the worst weather of the week, it was still very enjoyable.
We passed by many of the smallest, uninhabited islands, spotting lots of seals and various types of seabirds.
Seal in the mist
Choppy sea around one of the small, uninhabited, islands
Sitting near the back of the boat, I looked out and saw something flapping on the surface.
It took me a moment to realise I'd seen it once before. It was a Sunfish!
I pointed it out to Mandy and the people around us, but the skipper hadn't seen it and so only a handful of us did!
We reached the lighthouse after what seemed a long journey, but seeing it in sunshine the following day, we realised it really wasn't far at all!
Bishop's Rock Lighthouse
It's an imposing construction and you can't help but wonder how they managed to build it or what life for a lighthouseman out there would have been like in poor weather. Even getting to the door, 20 or 30 feet above the tiny rock it rests on, would have been a major challenge!
Mandy on the boat with the lighthouse behind us.
By the time we get back to St Agnes, the fog had lifted and we met Tammy and David at the pub on the island, just a few steps from the jetty.
The spit at low tide
They had come over earlier and after a drink, we set off across the spit that separates the two halves of the island when the tide is low enough.
The spit to Gugh
A burial chamber on Gugh
We sat and ate our picnic lunches overlooking it and then headed off around the smaller 'island', called Gugh, but as we made our way back it was apparent that the tide was encroaching onto the spit and we only just crossed it before water covered it, albeit to a shallow depth that we probably could have easily waded.
The spit separating St Agnes is covered at high tide.
Mandy and I then set off to explore the main island, which Tammy and David had explored in the morning, and after a good stroll around, with some impressive rock formations and even a very small maze(!), made our way back to the pub, where we had another drink and then caught the boat back to St Mary's.
Along the coast of St Agnes
Impressive rock formations
A less than challenging maze - Apparently these date back centuries on St Agnes
The inland lighthouse, now disused, I believe.
Tammy and David had taken an earlier one and we met them at the Mermaid for another drink (this was becoming a bit of a theme!). I was a little surprised when they suggested we had a roast dinner in the pub that evening, as the bar is rather rustic, but I'm not snobbish about such things, liked the atmosphere in the pub and hoped the food would be good.
When we returned later that evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the restaurant upstairs was bright and airy and nicely decorated. The food, too, was excellent and we all enjoyed an excellent Sunday roast to round out our day.
For our final full day in the Scilies we stayed on St Mary's.
Mandy and I set off walking around a stretch of coast on the western side of the island, with views across to Tresco, while Tammy and David arranged to meet us at Bar Point later for lunch and a swim.
Hugh Town harbour on an overcast day
The day was overcast, but still a pleasant temperature, and we enjoyed the walk along the coast line, passing Juliet's Garden along the way.
The route also took in the interesting Halangy Down Ancient Village and Bant's Carn Burial Chamber, where we paused for a drink and a snack.
Halangy Down Ancient Village
Bant's Carn Burial Chamber
We arrived at Bar Point well before Tammy and David, finding a RHIB full of people having a full picnic, complete with large collapsable table and chairs on the beach.
Luckily, they packed up and left before Tammy and David arrived, bringing Pasties for lunch and we ate those and Tammy and I had a swim before we headed back up to the Buggy.
Small boats in a cove
The weather improved as the day progressed
From there we headed off to the tea room Mandy and I had visited earlier in the week and had a cream tea, before driving down to Old Town Beach.
Tame sparrow at the Carn Vean Cafe
We decided to go and take a look in the churchyard in Old Town as someone said that Harold Wilson was buried there.
I'm not sure why any of us felt this was important to see, but it proved to be a very interesting graveyard, with the unlucky passengers and crew from numerous shipwrecks buried there as well as the former PM (In a suitably modest grave).
Graveyard at Old Town contains many graves of those lost in shipwrecks
It's a large graveyard as a result.
After dropping Tammy and David at the house, Mandy and I returned the Buggy and then walked back up to the house.
We ate in our house again that evening and played cards after doing most of our packing.
The taxi arrived as promised and took us up to the airport, where I spotted an interesting book on shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly - One day, I'd love to come back and dive some of them.
The flight back was uneventful until we approached Lands End airport where the plane takes a surprisingly steep descent. Whether that's normal or was due to conditions on the day, I don't know, but it was certainly unexpected, but we landed safely, of course.
We said our goodbyes and set off for the long journey home. Tammy and David were staying another few days in Cornwall, but Mandy and I had to get home.
Luckily, the drive home was less hampered by some of the delays on the way and, splitting the driving, made it relatively easy.
Our transport to and from the islands.
So, we'd been to the Isles of Scilly, did it match our expectations?
Undoubtedly so. Of course, we'd been very lucky with the weather, which helped, but the quite, unspoilt islands with their white sandy beaches and clear water were exactly what we'd hoped for from seeing others' photographs over the years.
It's not a cheap place to visit, especially if you plan to travel from island to island, as many people did, and the buggy was expensive (If it had been just Mandy and I, I think we would have rented bikes instead), but equally, you can save money by self-catering, rather than eating out as we sometimes did.
I'd certainly go back, but not immediately, as I think we'd seen a lot in the busy week we'd spent on St Mary's and the neighbouring islands.