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Bucket list destination:

Isles of Scilly

  • Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 20 June, 2023

The ‘Scillies’ are a Gulf Stream-warmed paradise 28 miles off Cornwall’s Land’s End. Awaiting you at these gorgeous, unspoilt islands – some uninhabited, all surprisingly undiscovered – are white-sand beaches, exotic flora and fauna, turquoise seas and mild, sunny days.

For the adventurer, the islands offer a wealth of pristine land- and seascapes to explore, be it cycling country lanes, kayaking, walking, cycling, swimming with seals, or scuba diving in crystal clear waters. The coastline views en route are spectacular.

Remote as they are, the Isles of Scilly have nonetheless been inhabited since the Stone Age, with subsistence living being the way of life for islanders right up to the early 20th century.

The islands’ location in the path of the Gulf Stream ensures a milder, sunnier climate than mainland Britain and a stunning range of local flora. The whole of the Scilly Isles is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Orientation

The Isles are an archipelago of 140 islands, but only 5 are inhabited.

St Mary’s is the largest and most populous island, serving as the main hub. It’s home to the main town of Hugh Town. St Martin’s is the second most populous. It has some of the best beaches and is a popular destination for water sports and nature tours.

Tresco is known for its lush gardens and subtropical climate, with exotic plants from around the world. Bryher is the smallest of the inhabited islands and is perfect for those seeking a quiet retreat.

Finally, St. Agnes is the southernmost island, and it is home to some of the most dramatic coastline and stunning natural scenery in the region.

Travel advice

When to go

The islands, often called the ‘Sunshine Isles’ have the warmest and mildest climate in the UK, with more hours of sunshine that any other region.

April and October can also be very pleasant as spring comes early and winter late here. It’s especially lovely here from May to September, though May and September are the two best months as they are much quieter than July and August.

Winter sees the strong winds and gales roll in from the Atlantic to the unprotected shores.

Getting there and away

Skybus offer flights departing from Land’s End, Exeter or Newquay airports to St Mary’s all year round (15-20 minutes). Note, Skybus run a transport pick-up for Land’s End Airport at Penzance Train Station approximately 1 hour before scheduled flight time. Ferries depart from Penzance Monday-Saturday in season, taking about 2.5 hours.

For other islands, including Tresco and Bryher, it’s a further boat ride from St Mary’s Quay. The quay is a 20-minute walk from the airport, or a taxi ride.

Getting around

The islands are small and can be explored on foot, but for St Mary’s it’s better to hire bikes. Hire from St Mary’s Bike Hire.

Where to stay

On St Mary’s island, book into the Star Castle, an atmospheric and authentic Elizabethan castle, built in 1593. On the highest point of St Mary’s, it has 38 historic rooms and views-a-plenty.  Or try the Wheelhouse Guesthouse or Tregarthen’s, both excellent.

On the rugged island of Bryher, opt for the lovely Hell Bay Hotel; on St Martin’s try the beachfront Karma St Martin’s and on Tresoc the cosy New Inn.