Travel Guides

Isles of Scilly | Adventure Destination Guide

Some useful information to help you plan your trip to the Cornish paradise known as the Isles of Scilly

If you’ve always fancied going to the Caribbean but don’t fancy the hassle of a long haul flight and / or are currently trying to cut down on your carbon emissions, then the Cornish paradise known as the Isles of Scilly might just be the thing you’re after.

Situated off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, and slap bang in the middle of the Gulf Stream (bring your suncream and your shades), the Isles of Scilly are an archipelago made up of five inhabited islands and 140 other ones. With a population just over 2,000, the majority of whom reside on St Mary’s island, it’s a great place in the UK to come and get away from it all; a sun-soaked utopia 28 miles from the Cornish coast and officially an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1975.

How To Get There

To connect with the Isles of Scilly, your options boil down like this. You can fly to St Mary’s Airport from Land’s End (20 minute flight), Newquay Airport (30 minute flight), or Exeter Airport (60 minute flight). For more information on the Isles of Scilly Skybus, visit the official website.

Alternatively, you can get the Scillonian Ferry from Penzance Harbour to St Mary’s island. Overall, the crossing takes about two hours and 45 minutes, and provides passengers with a unique perspective on Cornwall’s beautiful coastline. Another popular travel option worth considering is to pick ‘n’ mix it; fly out, ferry back (or vice versa).

“The Cornish paradise known as the Isles of Scilly might just be the thing you’re after”

In terms of getting around the Isles of Scilly themselves, the St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association runs a very useful island hopping operation from St Mary’s. Whichever island in the archipelago you fancy visiting, you can simply hop on one of the association’s “tripper” boats. They post the itineraries on Twitter (@scillyboating) and Facebook (@stmarysboatmensassociation). The price of return fares are £10 for adults and £5 for children. Buy your tickets at the kiosk on St Mary’s Quay or at the Tourist Information Centre.

There’s also St Agnes Boating, who post online @stagnesboating as well as the St Agnes noticeboards (on the quay, the island’s shop, and campsite). Similarly, there’s also an inter-island boating service run by Tresco Boat Services for those staying on Tresco and Bryher.

Pictured: The Isles of Scilly, from above. Photo: Annie Spratt

Things To Do on The Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly are peaceful, relaxing, and the perfect destination for those who like tranquil island walks; walks where you’re never more than a nostril hair away from the smell of the sea.

Wildlife enthusiasts will be in their absolute element here as Scilly’s natural environments are home to a fascinating variety of animals. Up in the sky, there’s Black-backed gulls, Herring Gulls Kittiwakes, Oystercatches and Guillemots (to name a handful). Under the water, meanwhile, the islands’ climate and offshore reefs have resulted in an amazing cast of fish species, invertebrates and marine mammals. The islands are legendary among divers, who come in great numbers to see Scilly’s stunning reef walls, its marine life, and its various shipwrecks.

Pictured: Atlantic Grey Seals hanging about on the Isles of Scilly

Speaking of nature, as well as checking out the islands’ wildlife, the Scilly’s flora scene is probably worth the cost of a visit alone. Home to 20,000 plants from more than 80 countries, for example, Tresco Abbey Garden is consistently rated as one of the best things to do on the Isles of Scilly.

Briefly touched upon the walking stuff already, but the Isles of Scilly’s coastal paths are also a lovely place to go running and a great way to get a sense of the island’s terrain and layout. The lack of people and cars around also means the roads are perfect for cycling and, if you’re that way-inclined, horse riding.

The islands are also a Mecca for scuba diving (mentioned already but we thought we’d say it again), snorkelling, and coasteering. Kayakers, paddle boarders and sea swimmers will also  be in there element here. Speaking of sea swimming, challenge enthusiasts should check out Scilly Swim Challenge for updates on open water swimming events.

Pictured: Flowers at St Mary’s Bay, Isles of Scilly. Photo: Suzanne Elliot

Where To Stay

Whatever kind of accommodation you’re looking for, the Isles of Scilly have you covered. If you’re looking for an award-winning hotel, check out the Isles of Scilly’s most highly-rated hotel over on Bryher. It’s called Hell Bay and, despite its name, is actually a little slice of heaven. On top of its yoga studio and a heated outdoor pool offering, Hell Bay is also home to a triple AA Rosette restaurant and aptly-named Crab Shack (the Crab Shack, for those that are interested, reopens in May 2020 – with bookings being taken from March).

Other good, highly recommended, hotel options on the Isles of Scilly include the idyllic beachside Karma St Martin’s on, you guessed it, St Martin’s island and Star Castle Hotel on St Mary’s (perfect if you feel like going a bit of Game and Thrones by staying in a castle). These aren’t the cheapest options by any means, but they are some really nice ones if you are tempted to treat yourself.

“If beach camping in the UK is your thing, the Isles of Scilly will be right up your… street”

Plenty of very nice, comfortable, bed and breakfasts on the Isles of Scilly. For example, the Grade II listed 300 year old captain’s cottage on St Mary’s island known as Evergreen Cottage. See also Porthenor B and B and Wingletang Guest House, both found on St Mary’s as well.

If beach camping in the UK is your thing, the Isles of Scilly will be right up your sandy camping street. In terms of campsites, Bryher Campsite and Troytown Campsite on the remote island of St Agnes, and St Martin’s Campsite are all great seaside options. If glamping’s more your vibe, check out the Peninnis Farm Lodges or, alternatively, the shepherd hut at 95 Watermill.

Eating and Drinking

There’s a number of fine places to eat and drink on the Isles of Scilly. When you’re on St Mary’s though, be sure to grab a drink or three at The Mermaid Inn.

Located down at the harbour, The Mermaid Inn is as iconic as it comes round these parts. Formerly the stomping ground of smugglers, pirates, and fishermen, the pub is still very much connected to its maritime past (a “H.M.S Mermaid” sign taken from a wrecked fishing vessel hangs above the bar, and is surrounded by artefacts, model ships, flags, and framed pictures). Come here for the fine variety of beer, stay for the “From The Sea” options on the menu where beer battered fish and chips and whole tail scampi sit alongside crab bisque mac ‘n’ cheese and the ‘Mermaid Fish Burger’.

Check out our other adventure travel destinations for 2020.

This destination guide was brought to you in association with outdoor fashion retailer Blackleaf.

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