One visit is never enough
Breathtaking views, white sandy beaches, miles of trails and a never-far teahouse make every day on the Isles of Scilly a delight. But it’s on the water that you will have the most fun.
45 kilometers from Land’s End are the tiny and beautiful Isles of Scilly. From the coastal path to St Mary’s – the largest of the islands – tantalizing glimpses of offshore islands foreshadow adventures to come. From the vast beaches of St Martin to the rocky coves of Bryher, the subtropical skyline of Tresco to the wild and windy St Agnes. Each island has its own unique character.
The best way to explore Scilly is on foot, but the water is always close by. The St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association operates the daily inter-island boat service from Hugh Town, as well as marine life tours to the smaller rocks and islands. Departure times depend on the tide.
The shallow water between the islands is more suitable for dinghies than for keelboats. Nevertheless, yachts are welcome in Scilly. âYou have to be confident and plan your passage to get here,â says Pete Hicks, coxswain and mechanic at St Mary’s Lifeboat Station. “If the wind picks up and there is a little swell, the conditions can become quite uncomfortable.”
The summer racing calendar includes a 3-day Penzance Around Scilly and Back yacht race hosted by the Penzance Sailing Club and a round-the-island race hosted by the Scillonian Sailing Club.
Scilly Adventure hosts yoga, sea swimming and trail running events, and a stage of the prestigious ÃTILLÃ Swimming World Series is also held here. When swimming you will not encounter breaking waves, so it is mostly cold water and the tide that you will have to contend with. When the wind is against the current, it can become quite violent in places.
Abi Wrigley is the deputy press secretary for St Mary’s Lifeboat. âMy favorite places to swim are Porth Mellon, Old Town Beach and Porth Hellick. âIf you are a beginner, it is better to swim across the bay rather than going into open water. I would recommend swimming at high tide, taking a float with you and not going alone. ”
The wildlife of Scilly
“Annet has the only breeding colony of Storm-Petrels in England,” says Julie Love, local wildlife expert and RNLI community safety officer for the islands. âOn Bryher, there are beautiful dwarf thoughts, so small that you have to get on all fours to see them.
At the other extreme, Scilly is home to the Atlantic Gray Seal. The best place to find them is around Ganilly and the Eastern Isles. Get on a Scilly Seal Snorkeling boat trip, which takes about 3 hours.
With crystal clear water, numerous wrecks and rainbow reefs, there are dive sites for all skill levels in Scilly. For more information contact Dive Scilly, St Martin’s Dive School, Isles of Scilly Underwater Center or Island Underwater Safaris.
To enjoy the best of both worlds – views both above and below the water – book a seat on board Quest for the sea, the only glass bottom boat commercially operated by Scilly.
Other water sports
âScilly has fantastic kitesurfing,â says Pete, an avid kite enthusiast for 12 years. âMy favorite spots are Samson Flats and St Martin’s Flats. The whole area south of St Martin dries up roughly at low tide.
The knee-deep flat water between the main islands provides ideal conditions for sports such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Boats and boards can be hired at Par Beach in St Martin’s and Bryher Shipyard. âBe aware of the wind against the tide,â says Pete. âIf the tide goes out and the wind blows against it, it can get rough. “
The Isles of Scilly is a hiker’s dream, with well-marked trails on the five inhabited islands and wide, gently sloping beaches. You can walk all around St Mary’s in 4 to 5 hours, past the Bronze Age burial chambers. The main channel between Bryher and Tresco dries up completely during the biggest spring tides, allowing you to walk safely in between. Rangers of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust perform guided walks through the seabed.
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