EXPLORE THE ISLANDS
Paradise on the edge of England
ST MARY'S - YOUR GATEWAY TO ALL OF THE ISLANDS
St. Mary's is the Isles of Scilly's largest island (population 1,800) and the gateway to the rest of the islands. Covering an area less than 2.5 square miles, it's still not exactly bustling but with its air and sea links, it's more than likely to be your first port of call when you visit.
Hugh Town is the central hub with its cluster of shops, banks, churches, post office, cafés, galleries, restaurants and pubs as well as the wonderful museum. It has three lovely beaches in very close proximity – Porthcressa with a children's play area close by; Town Beach, a perfect spot to watch the comings and goings on the Quay; and Porthmellon which also hosts the Sailing Centre.
The Quay is where the Scillonian III passenger ferry docks every day. It's also where you'll find yourself travelling from if you're staying on any of the “off islands” or if you're taking any tripper boats for a day out from St. Mary's.
Old Town is the other “major” settlement on St. Mary's, closer to the airport and with its own beautiful beach, nature reserve, Old Town Church where Sir Harold Wilson is buried, children's soft play zone, shop, pub and cafés.
Up country, away from the relative hustle and bustle, St. Mary's is an easy going safe haven of hidden treasures. The coastline features large stretches of deserted white sandy beaches, dramatic rocky coves, stunning seascapes, amazing archaeological sites, beautiful walks and scenery along miles of coastal and country paths and nature trails.
Detailed map of St Mary's.
TRESCO - A GARDENER'S PARADISE
Tresco is the second largest of the islands and a subtropical gem. It is the only one of the islands to be privately-owned; it is currently cared for by Lucy and Robert Dorrien-Smith.
This island has a little bit of everything – from dramatic rocky outcrops, bronze age burial sites and romantic castle ruins, to secluded sandy beaches and, of course, the world famous Tresco Abbey Garden which was established in the 1830s by Augustus Smith. This horticultural paradise hosts a spectacular collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants from all corners of the world – many of which cannot be grown anywhere else in Britain. The Valhalla collection within the Garden is equally impressive with its colourful display of figureheads salvaged from the islands' shipwrecks.
The rugged north of the island is a great place to walk and explore, while in the centre of the island, there are bird hides to seek out around Tresco's freshwater pools. You can hire bikes to travel around, or if you are feeling active, hire a boat, windsurf or kayak from Tresco Sailing Club.
Detailed map of Tresco.
BRYHER - AN ISLAND OF DRAMATIC CONTRAST
Pounded by Atlantic waves on one side, yet blessed with calm sandy beaches on the other, Bryher is an island of dramatic contrast - the perfect place to enjoy a taste of untamed Scilly that around 80 people are lucky enough to call it home.
Bryher's fame extends far beyond Scilly's shores: the luxurious Hell Bay hotel has won many an award, while Jamie Oliver has hailed the diminutive Fraggle Rock Bar as one of Britain's best "boozers". The little island is also the setting of the film, "When the Whales Came", based on Michael Morpurgo's novel inspired by the island. Samson Hill on the southern end of the island was the site of the birdman's cottage.
Whether you're exploring rocky coves, lazing on white sandy beaches or hiking up one of its small granite hills for some great views, Bryher serves up a wonderful sense of freedom and purity. You can admire the granite stacks on Shipman Head - and get up close at low tide if you're happy to scramble the rocks; you can watch the Atlantic rollers thunder into Hell Bay (spectacular in winter!); and you can enjoy the calm and tranquillity of Rushy Bay overlooking Samson.
The entire island is criss-crossed by tracks and dotted with stalls selling fresh produce including farm eggs, local vegetables, freshly-landed seafood and mouth-watering island fudge. The Bryher shop, the chandlery, artists' studios and the boatyards where you can hire boats and kayaks all combine to enrich the simple pleasures that make up Bryher.
Detailed map of Bryher.
ST AGNES - TOTALLY UNSPOILT & ASTONISHINGLY BEAUTIFUL
On the most south-westerly edge of the Isles of Scilly, St. Agnes is totally unspoilt and astonishingly peaceful. It measures just a mile or so across, and its closest neighbour is Gugh, to which it is joined by a sand bar at low tide.
This is an island of wonderful contrasts, from rocky outcrops on its exposed west side to paradise beaches in its more sheltered coves; the tranquillity of the sandbar between St. Agnes and Gugh is particularly magical. Inland are quaint cottages and a patchwork of flower fields, while a lighthouse stands at the island's highest point.
St. Agnes is also a thriving community of working farms and creative, light industrial flair.
St. Agnes urges your senses to seek adventure. Head off in search of the circular maze of rounded beach stones; marvel at the stone stacks and cairns that dot Wingletang Down, or comb the beaches for shipwrecked treasures at Beady Pool.
Periglis Beach is a fine spot for a picnic as well as a shell collectors' paradise. It also offers stunning views across to the bird sanctuary that is Annet, the Western Rocks and out to Bishop Rock. And then there's the Old Man of Gugh, who stands 3 metres tall and is believed to be associated with Bronze Age rituals.
Of course, there is always the option to simply go for a dip, or sit and watch the world go by whilst sampling the local produce at the restaurants and cafés, or supping a beer at the Turk's Head pub.
Detailed map of St Agnes.