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Published August 19th 2014
St Mary's, Gateway to Isles of Scilly
Dating back 300 million years, the granite foundation that forms the Isles of Scilly is today trodden by modern man.
Rugged St Mary's Coastline
The archipelago of around 140 rocky outcrops has only five Islands which are inhabited.
An afternoon chat with fellow fishermen
The unique and rugged beauty attracts both new and returning visitors, some of whom come back year after year. Tell someone you are going there and you will most likely receive a quizzical look or a blank response.
Bay in Hughtown, St Mary's
This little-known gem, located in the Atlantic Ocean, 28 miles off the most south-westerly point of England, and part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall, is reached by plane or ferry.
Aerial view of Lands End
You can take the SkyBus , from either Exeter (60 mins), Newquay (30 mins) or Lands End Airport (15 mins). It is reasonably priced, offers great views, and is very quick, especially if you leave from Lands End as we did.
St Mary's Airport
The "Scillionian III" Ferry takes about 2 hours 40 minutes from Penzance and can be a little rocky, depending on the sea conditions. All documentation recommends taking travel sickness pills if you are prone to sea sickness.
Whichever way you choose to travel, St Mary's is the gateway to the rest of the islands and definitely warrants at least a two or three night stay.
Speros Restaurant at about 10 pm
Chatting with Local Business Owners at Speros Restaurant
Hughtown is the 'hub' with shops, cafe's, restaurants, a museum and the quay where the Ferry docks. All inter-island departures also go from here, and as walking is a very popular pastime on all islands, you will see many people kitted out with their backpacks and walking staffs, and most likely a dog or two! Dogs appear to enjoy the Ferry and small "tripper' boat transfers between islands as much as the people.
Day-Tripper Inter Island Boats at the Quay
Although St Mary's is the largest island, it is only 2.5 square miles and has a population of less than 2,000, yet offers several white sandy beaches. Hughtown has three of them.
One of many eateries
The Farm Cafe Deli
Great Meals and Views at the Atlantic Inn
Dessert at the Star Castle Hotel
The smaller settlement of Old Town has its own beautiful beach as well as a pub, shop, cafes, and church where former British Prime Minister Sir Harold Wilson is buried. He fell in love with the place and bought a very simple cottage where he and his family could spend their summer holidays. At the time of writing this article, his poet wife, Mrs Mary Wilson, now well into her nineties, and her family still used the cottage regularly.
Away from the towns you will find beautiful walks and nature trails with miles of stunning scenery, interesting seascapes and rocky coves, large stretches of deserted white sandy beaches and some amazing Bronze Age archeological sites.
Take a stroll from Hughtown, towards the Star Castle Hotel. En route you will discover the Garrison Gate, the starting point of the Garrison Walk - a 'must do' gentle one hour walk around the Garrison which was built as an impregnable fortress surround the Star Castle in1593.
Garrison Walk Gates
Garrison Walk - Defending Hughtown
Many people come to St Mary's for a day trip. If that's all you can manage, then so be it. Five to seven days staying on two different islands and visiting the other three inhabited islands would be my advice.
These are Bryher, St Agnes, Tresco and St Martins.
When to visit?
According to "WorldWeatherOnline.com" "The Isles of Scilly have a temperate Oceanic climate, amongst the mildest and warmest climates in the UK. The regular yearly temperature is 11.6 °C. Winters are amongst the warmest in the country because of southerly latitude and moderating effects of the ocean. Summers are not as warm as on the mainland. Most probably, this is the sunniest area in the UK with on average 7.6 hours per day in July. On average, there are fewer than 2 days of air frost per year. This mild climate has resulted in the islands developing a thriving flower industry."Read more ...
If you want to swim, plan to go in summer. We went in early June when the days were long, sunny, mild and beautiful. If flowers are your interest and, then April/May might be your choice.
Being a Scillonian myself (born on the main island, St Marys) I loved seeing your article on Scilly (& also on the island of Bryher). The islands are featured in the book '100 Islands to see before you Die'.