Scilly: secret paradise
Ok, well maybe not completely secret, but seemingly often overlooked. The Isles of Scilly are incredible.
We discovered them right at the start of our big trip to walk our way around the UK. Our first stop was the South West of England, where we headed to Cornwall, pitching our tent in Treen, spending a couple of days enjoying some incredible coastal walking and early morning swims at Porthcurno Beach.
Why Cornwall? Well, it’s a beautiful county, and it’s not a place either of us have spent much time. We’d also learned that the Isles of Scilly were just 28 miles off the Cornish coast. We decided to head over for a long weekend, booking our ferry tickets in Penzance the morning we wanted to travel (Friday) and a return for the Monday, a trip that – we thought – would enable us to see the best of Scilly before heading back to further explore Cornwall.
But soon after the ferry sailed into the port at St Mary’s and we jumped on a boat to St Agnes we realised our terrible mistake. This was paradise and under no circumstances would we be able to leave after only three days. Cue a quick call to the ferry company and a change of return date.
Just five of Scilly’s islands are inhabited: St Mary’s, St Agnes, St Martin’s, Bryher and Tresco. All have a campsite, with the exception of Tresco. Our initial plan was to spend one night on St Agnes, one of the smaller islands, before moving on to St Mary’s, the main island, for the remainder of our time. That would mean we could take day trips to explore the other islands.
But our plans changed the moment we pitched up at Troytown Farm campsite on St Agnes, which is located right on the water’s edge. The beautiful setting and spectacular Atlantic sunsets were something else. The harbour on which the campsite nestles also has two resident seals, Frank and Jemima, a big draw for Ellie, who loves seals. We also discovered that Troytown Farm is famous for its ice cream, which you could buy from the tiny campsite shop. Luckily we were doing lots of walking, which helped us to justify the huge quantity of ice cream we ate!
We spent time on St Agnes exploring the island on foot. We felt as though we could have been in the Mediterranean, with the white sandy beaches and aquamarine water. At only a mile or so across it’s so easy to explore the entire island on foot in a day. It’s also attached to a neighbouring island, Gugh, by a sand bar, which can be walked across at low tide. Once we’d explored every inch of the island on foot we took to the water in a kayak, hired from St Agnes Watersports. Another plus for this enchanting island is its pub, the Turk’s Head. The pub truly is the heart of the community, with a friendly atmosphere, decent food – try the monstrous Turk’s Head burger – and a picturesque setting overlooking the quay.
We spent the remainder of our days in Scilly exploring the other ‘off islands’. It became customary to walk around the perimeter of each island. Each has its own personality and distinct feel. Tresco is famous for its Abbey gardens, a sub-tropical paradise. Our highlight was spending time at Appletree Cove, a sweeping white-sand beach with sparkling clear blue seas. It was the perfect place to take a dip on a hot day. The island had much more of a touristy feel to it than St Agnes, with cruise ships frequently transporting people onto the island, although that didn’t detract from its beauty.
Next was St Martin’s, where we left our bags at the campsite and walked the entire coastline of the island, detouring inland to stop off at the little island bakery to pick up a picnic, which we enjoyed at the aptly named Bread and Cheese Cove. There are so many hidden coves and deserted beaches on St Martin’s, we were sad not to have had more time to explore all of them. We visited the island pub in the evening, the Seven Stones Inn, where we enjoyed an evening of good food, great beer, sea-views and the company of the staff, who described themselves as ‘strange but friendly’! The campsite was far bigger than Troytown Farm, with excellent facilities but high hedges that obscured the sea views.
Our final island stop was Bryher, which we’d saved until last as the campsite had been closed for the weekend (due to the two owners, Tom and Jo, getting married, with a marquee on the campsite. Congratulations guys!). We were so glad we’d stayed on and visited; the campsite was beautiful. You climb a hill from the quay to reach it, but it’s well worth the climb as you get wonderful views of the sea and across to Tresco from your tent. Again we walked around the perimeter of the island, stopping to purchase some fudge from one of the many honesty stalls that are dotted around the island. Our final evening was spent at Hell’s Bay Hotel, where we had some of the best food we’d enjoyed on the island for Ellie’s birthday, and another breath-taking sunset.
Although we’d extended our trip, we still didn’t feel we’d spend long enough on Scilly and will definitely return. And next time we won’t forget the fishing rods either…