Warmed by the Gulf Stream and situated just 28 miles off the Cornwall coast, the Isles of Scilly are a haven for those seeking peace, quiet, and stunning natural beauty. Five of the Isles of Scilly are inhabited - St Mary's (the largest Scilly Island), Tresco Bryher, St Agnes and St Martin's. As well as these five larger islands there are over 100 other islands forming part of the cluster. Blessed with a mild climate, the Isles of Scilly are adorned with a range of subtropical plants, and beautiful gardens. They are designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
There's something to do all year round on the Isles of Scilly from beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, bird watching opportunities (including puffins which nest on Annet annually), underwater diving, and scenic coastal walking! If you're looking for romantic retreats, you'll find plenty of luxury hotels, B&Bs and idyllic self catering cottages across the islands. Most visitors arrive on the Isles of Scilly via either the Sky Bus or the Scillonian III Scilly ferry boat. A helicopter service also runs from Penzance to Tresco, and the other islands are easily accessed from St Mary's through numerous boat trips.
Getting to the Isles of Scilly is simple! The Isles of Scilly Travel Company provide ferry boats to Scilly Isles and also the Sky Bus aircraft that departs from Newquay, Lands End, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton.
If you prefer to take a helicopter from Penzance to either Tresco or St Mary's see the Isles of Scilly Helicopter web link right. The cheapest way is by ferry from Penzance (dogs are welcome on the boat too), and the scenic journey taking in the west Cornish coast hotspots such as Newlyn and Mousehole near Penzance only takes about 2 1/2 hours. Flying time for the Sky Bus from Lands End is just 15 minutes.
With so many beautiful beaches on the Isles of Scilly it's easy to find your own secluded spot! The pleasant winds make the islands perfect for bathing and sunbathing, and crystal clear waters offer excellent visibility for diving. Find beautiful sea shells across the beaches of the Scilly Islands. St Mary's, the largest of the Scilly Islands offers several themed walking trails around the island taking in historic sites, Peninnis Lighthouse and more.
Sailing, with rowing in particular, are big sports on the Scilly Islands. There's a history here, as old wooden rowing boats used for racing are the islands traditional sport.
St Mary's is the largest of the Scilly Isles (two and a half miles across at the widest point), and the island that most visitors arrive at first. The bustling port of Hugh Town, St Mary's and the Scilly Isles' capital is a good base for exploring the other islands, with easy access to beautiful beaches, 6 hotels and a choice of pubs and restaurants, plus easy access to further boat trips to the rest of the islands.
The Isles of Scilly Museum is here in Hugh Town, and well worth a visit to find out more about traditional island sports such as rowing, and if you arrive in May you'll collide with the annual World Pilot Gig Championships. Hugh Town's Tourist Information point is a good place to start, with advice on boat trips and walking trails available. A circular bus runs regularly round St Mary's from May to October, so it's easy to get about and explore all St Mary's has to offer.
On arriving in Hugh Town you'll love the friendly reception - there's a real community feel on the islands and visitors are welcome. Porthcressa beach on the south side, with toilets adjacent, is the much better of the two St Marys areas offering perfect bathing and fine white sands - Town beach on the North side is very close to the harbour and arriving ships and is used by fishing boats. Hugh Town has all the shops you'll need, including banks, a post office, a choice of restaurants and pubs and a selection of pretty arts and crafts and clothes shops.
Other marked trails include the Garrison Walk, which takes in Star Castle (constructed originally between 1593 and 1594. Great views can be seen from this high point, with the two hills of Samson and Bryher visible in the distance. Further along this trail there's some superb views of Annet, a renowned Scilly bird sanctuary and a breeding base for Shearwaters and Puffins! Plenty of Battery and fortifications can also be viewed on this walk. The third recommended St Mary's trail is the Old Town to Porth Loo trail, taking in beautiful beaches and the superb Porthloo Studio which offers a range of arts and crafts and is home to St Mary's perfumery.
The Isles of Scilly Museum in Hugh Town, St Mary's sprung up after the 1962 storms and gales threw up numerous Romano-British finds! About 60% of the Scilly Islands are prime archaeological territory, with many Bronze Age sites and monuments scattered across the Islands. The Isles of Scilly Museum is a good place to start on you exploration of these precious sites. As well as Bronze Age monuments and burial grounds there are also many examples of Roman, early Medieval, Tudor, Civil War, and 18th, 19th and 20th century defence works to see.
One of the most famous prehistoric sites on the Scilly Isles is on St Mary's, just north of the golf course at Halangy Down. There's an ancient village here dating back to 2000BC, with stone huts, a burial chamber and a standing stone.
There are about 700 shipwrecks under the seas around the Isles of Scilly - if you take one of the diving trips you may see some. Scilly Maritime History and shipwrecks are well covered in the museum. The social history of the Scilly Islands is also well covered here at the museum, with a selection of video and audio archives held here. For further information check the Isles of Scilly Museum website link to the right.
The Isles of Scilly Museum, Church Street, St Mary's Tel 01720 422337.
Outdoor activities on St. Mary's include numerous water sports and leisure pursuits. Take your pick from the choice of facilities available, which include squash, golf, cycling, tennis, horse-riding, windsurfing, sailing, scuba-diving, fishing, snooker and shooting. Cricket is also popular on St Mary's, and there are numerous arts and crafts studios and centres scattered around the island.
Diving and snorkelling at it's best is to be found around the Isles of Scilly. Check out Sea Safaris (based on St Mary's) weblink right for details on diving with seals day trips and courses. The Isles of Scilly has wonderful clear and protected waters, offering superb visibility for diving to view jewel anemone walls, a choice of reefs and shipwrecks and of course the seals. Check the Scilly Diving weblink too (right), which has information on diving and snorkelling around St Martin's particularly.
St Mary's has it's own golf club and 9 hole golf course on the North of the island. Expect panoramic views of Tresco, Bryher, Samson and St.Martins from this 18 tees golf course. The club house has a licensed bar, sun terrace and offers evening meals. You don't need a handicap for this golf course either.
Isles of Scilly Golf Club on St Mary's, Carn Morval, St. Mary's, Isles Of Scilly TR21 0NE. Tel: 01720 422692.
For boat trips from St. Mary's to the other Scilly Isles, there are a selection of services to choose from: Sea Safaris, Tel: 01720 422732, and Calypso boat trips Tel: 01720422187 & M: 07778198454, are just a few companies in the area.
For boat trips from St Agnes and Bryher contact St. Agnes Boating Tel: 01720 422704, and for Bryher, Bryher Boat Services Tel: 01720 422886 or Bennett Catamarans Boat Hire Tel: 07979393206.
For Tresco and St Martin's, contact Ravensporth & Pentle Bay sailing bases in Tresco on Tel: 01720 422060 or for fishing trips and information contact St. Mary's Kingfisher Shark & Fishing Trips Tel: 07768662229
St Mary's offers a superb choice of beaches, many of which are situated close to the main hub - Hugh Town. Porthcressa Beach is Hugh Town's south facing beach, offering beautiful white fine sands, and perfect conditions for bathing. This beach is popular with families, has toilets adjacent and all the amenities of Hugh Town close to hand including ample pubs, cafes, restaurants and specialist arts and crafts shops.
Check out also Porthmellon Beach in Hugh Town's 'old town' area - also an attractive family beach, and centre for the Isles of Scilly Sailing Centre where you can hire equipment for not just sailing, but also windsurfing.. Windsurfing fanatics should head north to the Bar Point area, after checking in for equipment hire at the Sailing Centre on Porthmellon Beach.
For total seclusion head towards Pelistry Bay on the east side of the island. This area of St Mary's coast, including Toll Island is indeed an idyllic spot. Word of warning though, NO SWIMMING is allowed here because the sandbar can cause dangerous rip tides.
Isles of Scilly Sailing Centre, Porthmellon, St.Mary's, Isles of Scilly, TR21 0NE. Tel: 01720 422060.
A key centre for arts and crafts on St Mary's, and a good beach, is Porth Loo and the Porthloo Studio. Conveniently it's only a short 10 minute walk up from Hugh Town, and the Isles of Scilly Perfumery is based here at Porthloo Studio.
Highly recommended, you can watch soap and perfume being made here, using local Scilly flowers. Check out the gift shop with pot pourri and perfumes galore - including a Lavender range - magic!
Also at the Porthloo Studio is Peter Smith Paintings, Tel. 07789 933183 and Sue Woof's superb Beadwork. Tel. 01720 422154.
For a complete list of St Mary's art and craft studios see the weblink right - there's quite a few offering everything from ceramics to paintings.