Finding Adventure: Isles of Scilly
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Outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded and unspoilt
The Isles of Scilly lie just off the coast of Cornwall but are a world apart in every way. A natural wonder, like a cluster of precious ocean jewels, where nature thrives and the soul is inspired; a sophisticated island escape with a layer of luxury.
Spend a whole week in this amazing little archipelago warmed by the gulf stream where everybody wears clothes in soft, faded pinks and blues, deck shoes and floppy hats – and doesn’t have an unkind word to say about anything.
You will get the chance to explore all five of the populated islands (a serene crossing by boat is required to four of the islands) with plenty of time to walk around each of them. We may even be able to cross between two islands on foot during the Spring tide on Sunday; as tiny marooned fish bury themselves to avoid the gulls; and beds of seaweed lie in clumsy heaps like an abandoned harvest in Bronze Age farmland, it will be incredible to consider that only six hours earlier the vast expanse of sea bed was under as much as 5m of water!
With many full days of exploration we definitely won't miss a thing - and an opportunity to laze on all of the startlingly white beaches washed by intensely turquoise water, redolent of the Caribbean, for a relaxing swim...
Other optional activities might include trips to the unpopulated islands to observe the seals and birdlife. There are also boat trips to see Bishop Rock Lighthouse which is located in the most western part of Britain which is famous for marking the end of transatlantic boat challenges. You can also take a boat and a wetsuit to snorkel with the seals. And you will certainly want to visit Tresco Abbey Gardens which is like a perennial Kew without the glass, and home to thousands of exotic plants from around the world flourishing on the Isles of Scilly. Bikes may be hired and this is the perfect place to cycle around if you just want the sea breeze in your hair and to take in the scenery with ease.
This is an unmissable opportunity to explore everything the Isles of Scilly has to offer. Everything looks and feels quite different on Scilly - simpler, kinder, more innocent.
Life moves at an easier pace.
We have exclusive hire of a delightful and recently refurbished boarding house located in Hugh town, St Marys. The centrally located building gives easy access to all the amenities on the island: 3 minutes walk from a beach, 6 minutes walk from the main supermarket, and just 10 minutes walk from the harbour. The airport is just 20 minutes walk or a cheap and eager taxi service will be available on your arrival.
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.
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 beach; 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 taking any tripper boats for a day to the "off islands" which depart at 10am each morning.
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, and a local 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.
Boat Trips, etc
The boat trips to the "off islands" are short hops and will cost approximately £10 return with a small discount for group travel. We will need to buy 4 daily boat trips (around £40) to see all of the populated islands. These islands are: St Agnes, Tresco, St Martins and the combined half day trip to both Bryher and [uninhabited] Sampson. There are other trips you can go on too, and they all represent good value for money by supporting the local economy. On Tresco there is a boutique 'Tresco Stores', not to be confused with a Tesco store, where prices of indulgent goods exceed even those of Waitrose!
All of the islands are quite small so you really can't get lost! You are free to explore the islands at your own pace, or partake in some of the proposed day activities as follows:
Saturday 3rd August
Arrive and drop your bags into the accommodation from 12.30pm. If you are arriving on the island by boat then we will stop for lunch and then walk around the Garrison Walls together. With a history that spans 350 years, the defences of the walls form one of the most remarkable and impressive coastal defence systems in England.
You may also explore the main town at your leisure when you arrive and pick up some local produce which we will cook and share in a joint Outdoorlads buffet at the house in the evening. This will be followed by a full welcome briefing.
Walking between the islands of Tresco and Bryher on a spring tide is one of the unique activities Scilly has to offer. As you walk across the channel you are walking through a submerged landscape of Bronze Age farmland, and if the weather conditions are right then today we may have the opportunity to do this!
The islands of Tresco and Bryher may be close neighbours but they are most definitely two separate islands. Each island has its own identity that goes beyond the stretch of water that lies between them, from their landscapes to their churches. Yet, for a few hours each year the respective insularity of Tresco and Bryher dissolves as the islands’ natural barrier disappears and the two become one.
We will take a boat to one of the islands in the morning and return on boat via the other island. You will need something on your feet that you don't mind getting wet as there could be Razorfish lurking in the sands, and then we will attempt the crossing between the islands along the sand bars as the tide lowers for an hour just enough to make this event possible.
Bryher may only be one-and-a-half miles long and half-a-mile wide, but the walk around its perimeter is a gratifying mix of rocky high points giving dramatic, sweeping views over the sea and the sculpted stacks of rock that lie just off shore, with gulls surfing the thermals. There are grass-covered slopes that the dogs race down with unabashed delight, swathes of wild flowers, tiny, picturesque coves, pretty cottage gardens, and beaches from where you can look over to the neighbouring island of Tresco.
Note: Our crossing to these islands will depend on the latest tide prediction from the harbourmaster and the local boat services running today. If this is not possible then there is an alternative plan to explore the area.
On our return, you can relax at the house and enjoy an evening meal provided.
We will spend the full day visiting St. Agnus by boat. You can purchase a packed lunch before we head off, meet on the Quay at 9.50pm. 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. There is a small distillery on the island that produces a scrumptious Rose Geranium gin and many other unique flavours. There is also a cafe and a pub on the island.
On our return, relax at the house and enjoy an evening meal provided.
We will spend the full day visiting St. Martins by boat and there will also be a chance to snorkel with the seals in the morning from this island (weather permitting).
You can purchase a packed lunch before we head off, meet on the Quay at 9.50pm. There is also a cafe and a pub on the island.
St Martin’s is one of the larger islands, it is renowned for the beaches that fringe much of its coastline. There are miles and miles of uninterrupted sand, marram-topped dunes, flowering gorse with its coconut smell, palm trees and huge blue spikes of echium.
Afterwards, we will relax at the house and enjoy an evening meal provided.
A leisurely day on St Marys to explore two Bronze Age burial cairns and Bant's Carn Burial Chamber and Halangy Down Ancient Village with fine views of the Isles of Scilly. The upper cairn is the best preserved on the islands. You may hire a bike or join a walk to discover the rest of the beautiful coastline of the largest island. Or you can purchase a packed lunch and we will explore on foot. We will have plenty time for a swim, a picnic and laze on the beach.
On our return, relax at the house and enjoy an evening meal provided.
We will return to Tresco by boat for a full day of exploration. You may hire a bike or walk to explore the beautiful coastline. Lose yourself in the unmissable sub-tropical splendour of Tresco Abbey Gardens during your trip here and it's Valhalla museum. Ticket price is £15.
The evening meal is not included tonight, but the local fish and chip van will be parked 4 minutes walk away from the house. We can all buy some hot food to eat on the nearby beach or at the house - or you may choose a local restaurant / pub to eat out instead.
A day at leisure. You can unwind on a beach or take a sight seeing boat trip to two more islands: Bryher (the least inhabited island) and Samson (largest uninhabited island) which is £13.
Samson, on the western edge of the main group, is the largest of the uninhabited islands. It takes its name from Saint Samson of Dol, who visited the islands in the sixth century.
Nestled in the narrow strip of land between the twin hills of Samson stand the roofless remains of stone cottages and boathouses. Long walls section off parts of the island and, around the ancient burial sites that top the hills, flints, pottery and other echoes of an intriguing history of human habitation have been unearthed.
But since the mid-nineteenth century no one has lived here; the buildings and former deer park have crumbled into ruins and the island lies swathed in ghostly tales.
In the evening we will enjoy our final meal eating out together at one of the local restaurants or pubs and finish with some star-gazing or a moonlight walk.
Snorkelling with Seals (optional)
This is a fabulous opportunity to see the islands wildlife and experience snorkelling with the seals near St Martins. You will see these elegant creatures in their natural environment and they may even come close enough to nibble at your fins! A half day including travel to St Martins will cost around £75 with limited places. Please message the leader now to reserve your space!
Dogs: This event is not suitable for dogs.
How to book: You can book on this site as per a usual OutdoorLads event. However, should you wish to pay in instalments over several months, contact the OutdoorLads office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 420 0001. There will be additional terms and conditions for paying in instalments, which we will explain to you when you enquire, however, the full cost of the trip must be paid by the time the event starts.
"This is a place that encapsulates the essence of Swallows and Amazons, of lashings of ginger beer and honey for tea; where the shackles of cynicism, of having to be sensible, of saying no before even considering what it might mean to say yes, fall away. Where old fashioned things like courtesy and good service and talking to strangers are the norm.
And in a world that is so often dominated by brutality and strife, to discover a little corner of it that isn’t, is wonderful indeed." - Telegraph Travel.
So with the space and freedom to do everything, or nothing - this enchanting archipelago guarantees a magical, unforgettable experience. Join me in August for the purest of island escapes, and do message me if you have any queries.
Syllan a'gas Dynnergh [Welcome to the Isles of Scilly]
Photo credits with kind permission:
Mundesley House image from Five Islands School
Images taken April 2018 by OutdoorLads:
Scilly Puffin by fletch
Aerial photo of Hugh Town by Jdwatson32
All other images by findingnemo
What to bring
Please bear in mind that temperatures could be approaching 20 degrees at this time of year.
Comfortable walking shoes with good grip are advised for coastal waking as some of the terrain will be rocky. Light weight waterproofs are handy and a small daypack. The weather should be warm but they do have rain just like the rest of the UK, so be prepared! Bring breathable light coloured clothing, shorts and a pair of flip-flops too.
Pack as you would for any summer holiday - don't forget your sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, swimwear, towel, toiletries, beach towel and a good book. A torch will be handy if you wish to go star-gazing as the area can be dark at night with very little light pollution.
Please remember to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and sheet. Whilst this is not very heavy, if you are flying you will want to tightly roll it to meet the strict bag size allowance! An inflatable travel pillow would be a good choice.
Whilst you do not require a passport to travel to the Isles of Scilly some form of identification will be required at the airport and photographic ID is preferred. Passengers are requested to check in 1 hour before their scheduled departure time and the luggage allowance is a total of 15kilos per person, which you can split into two bags no bigger than 75cm X 50cm X 30cm and also have a small cabin bag: 30cm X 15cm X 15cm and a coat, small camera, binoculars or book.
If you are going by Ferry then you are allowed to take a bit more luggage:
2 x Hold luggage
- Max 20kg per person
- 85cm X 60cm X 40cm
- Combined total less than 25kg
1 X Hand luggage
- Max 5kg per bag
- 40cm X 55cm X 20cm
There are cash machines on the island and many places accept cards including ApplePay. However, you will want to have some cash handy for purchases in small cafes, art galleries, the fish and chip van and also to help pay for any group meals or boat trips that we organise. The main supermarket is a Cooperative which has most of the standard items you would expect in a small Cooperative store, albeit an inflated price, and very few of the fancier items you might find a larger store.
Food & drink
Breakfast is included every day, plus 4 evening meals:
Saturday Evening - Please bring something from the local Co-op supermarket and we will have a joint buffet at the house in the evening.
Sunday - Breakfast and evening meal provided.
Monday - Breakfast and evening meal provided.
Tuesday - Breakfast and evening meal provided.
Wednesday - Breakfast and evening meal provided.
Thursday - Breakfast included only. Optional evening meal of fresh fish and chips to enjoy together on the beach.
Friday - Breakfast included only. We can optionally have a final evening meal out together at one of the local restaurants or pubs.
Saturday - Breakfast included only.
Drinks: Tea and coffee are provided all week. You may wish to purchase any other drinks from the local Co-op supermarket.
Lunches and snacks: You may wish to purchase packed lunches and snacks for your day walks as this is the easiest and cheapest way we can all eat together at scenic viewpoints. This may be combined with an opportunity to have a swim or relax on a beach. The leader will advise you on which days a cafe will be available as an alternative.