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Things to do in the Isles of Scilly

things to do in the isles of scilly

Coming here is an adventure itself, but what are the best things to do in the Isles of Scilly? This post will give you some great ideas, bit if you have any other suggestions, please do put them in the comments below!

Suggestions for great things to do in the Isles of Scilly

Craving scenic beaches, historic charm, and a touch of the exotic? The Isles of Scilly archipelago ticks all the boxes.Explore Tresco Abbey Garden’s subtropical flora, wander the ramparts of Cromwell’s Castle, or delve into island history at the Isles of Scilly Museum. Kayak hidden coves, try coasteering for an adrenaline rush, or spot playful seals. Sunbathe on pristine sands like Porthcressa on St. Martin’s, or unwind at a traditional pub. With its relaxed pace and natural beauty,Scilly offers an unforgettable island escape.

St. Mary’s: Where History Meets Idyllic Beaches

helicopter to isles of scilly

St. Mary’s, the largest and most populated island, serves as the heart of the archipelago. Upon arrival in Hugh Town, the vibrant harbour town, colourful houses with granite roofs greet you, exuding a quintessential English charm. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich past at the Isles of Scilly Museum. Explore intriguing exhibits showcasing shipwrecks,maritime traditions, and archaeological finds that whisper tales of bygone eras.

For a dose of nature, head to Porthcressa Beach, a haven for sunbathers. Stretch out on the pristine white sands, bask in the sunshine, and let the turquoise waters lap at your toes. Feeling adventurous? Try coasteering, a thrilling activity that involves traversing the coastline by swimming, scrambling, and jumping across rock formations.

No visit to St. Mary’s is complete without scaling the ramparts of Cromwell’s Castle. Built in the 17th century under the reign of Oliver Cromwell, this imposing fortress offers panoramic views of the island and surrounding waters. Imagine the fierce battles it has witnessed, and lose yourself in the captivating history. For a touch of the exotic, explore the enchanting Tresco Abbey Garden on nearby Tresco Island.

The “Isles of Scilly Guidebook: Exploring Cornwall’s Hidden Gems” offers an insightful and comprehensive guide to the Isles of Scilly. It features detailed maps, local tips, and stunning photography, making it an essential companion for travelers looking to explore the natural beauty and unique charm of this Cornish archipelago.

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isles of scilly

Tresco Abbey Garden: A Subtropical Paradise

tresco abbey gardens palm trees

A short ferry ride from St. Mary’s whisks you away to a botanical wonderland – Tresco Abbey Garden. Created from a former monastic site, this remarkable garden boasts a collection of over 20,000 plants from around the globe. Wander through a maze of vibrant flowers, exotic palm trees, and towering cacti that thrive in the islands’ unique microclimate.

Lose yourself in the Valhalla Collection, a sunken garden showcasing a staggering array of ferns and mosses. For a dose of history, explore the ruins of the 12th-century Tresco Abbey, remnants of a once-thriving religious community. Don’t miss the enchanting woodland walks, perfect for spotting colorful birds and indulging in a moment of quiet contemplation amidst the lush greenery.

Tresco also offers pristine beaches, ideal for swimming and picnicking. For a touch of luxury, indulge in a stay at the Tresco Island Hotel, offering stunning views and impeccable service.

Bryher: Island Tranquility Awaits


Craving a truly off-the-beaten-path experience? Bryher, the smallest inhabited island in the archipelago, offers a haven of peace and serenity. With a population of just around eighty, life on Bryher revolves around the rhythm of the tides and the simple joys of island life. Rent a bicycle and explore the charming lanes, stopping to admire the colorful wildflowers and breathtaking coastal vistas.

For a dose of history, visit the Bryher Chambered Cairns, prehistoric burial mounds dating back to the Neolithic period.Explore hidden coves ideal for kayaking or simply relaxing on the warm sand with a good book. Bryher offers a limited selection of accommodations, mainly self-catering cottages, perfect for travelers seeking a true escape from the hustle and bustle.

These are just a taste of the treasures waiting to be discovered in the Isles of Scilly. With its diverse landscapes, rich history, and laid-back charm, this enchanting archipelago promises an unforgettable adventure for every visitor.

St. Agnes: A Wildlife Watcher’s Paradise

st agnes isles of scilly

St. Agnes, a car-free island adorned with golden sands and crystal-clear waters, is a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Renowned for its diverse birdlife, the island attracts birdwatchers from across the globe. Keep an eye out for oystercatchers, guillemots, and razorbills nesting on the dramatic cliffs. Explore the intertidal rockpools teeming with colorful marine creatures like starfish, anemones, and crabs.

For the more adventurous, head to the north coast for some of the best coasteering in the archipelago. Kayaking offers a unique perspective of the island’s rugged coastline and hidden coves. Feeling peckish after your adventures? St. Agnes boasts charming cafes and pubs serving fresh seafood and local delicacies.

One of the island’s highlights is the shipwreck of the RMS Agnes, a passenger liner that ran aground in 1978. The skeletal remains of the ship offer a haunting reminder of the power of the sea. For a touch of history, visit the Troyte’s Gully, a fascinating network of tunnels carved by hand in the 18th century for growing vegetables. Climb the slopes of Gugh, the island’s highest point, and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views.

St. Martin’s: Idyllic Beaches and Island Charm

st martins

St. Martin’s, often referred to as the “Island of White Beaches”, is a sun-worshipper’s paradise. Pristine sands like Great Bay and Little Bay are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles. Watersports enthusiasts can indulge in kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing in the turquoise waters. For a unique experience, visit the Isles of Scilly Vineyard, the only vineyard in England that produces award-winning wines. Take a tour, sample their delectable wines,and learn about the unique challenges and rewards of viticulture on an island.

History buffs can explore the fascinating ruins of Star Castle, a 16th-century fortress offering panoramic views. For a glimpse into traditional island life, visit the St. Martin’s Museum, showcasing exhibits on the island’s rich maritime heritage and way of life.

St. Martin’s offers a delightful selection of shops, cafes, and restaurants – perfect for browsing local crafts, savoring fresh seafood, or indulging in a traditional cream tea. Whether you seek relaxation on pristine beaches, exploration of historical sites, or a taste of local wines, St. Martin’s offers something for everyone.

Tean on St. Mary’s: A Natural Oasis

st marys

St. Mary’s boasts a hidden gem – Tean, a nature reserve overflowing with beauty and tranquility. Nestled between the villages of Hugh Town and Old Town, Tean offers a captivating escape for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle. Wander through a network of well-maintained paths adorned with vibrant wildflowers, lush greenery, and tranquil ponds teeming with dragonflies and damselflies.

Tean’s crown jewel is the Higher Town Quarry, a disused quarry transformed into a haven for wildlife. Keep an eye out for a variety of birds, including kestrels and buzzards, soaring overhead. The quarry floor is home to a diverse array of wildflowers, creating a kaleidoscope of colors throughout the spring and summer months.

For a touch of history, explore the remnants of a gunpowder store dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. Continue your walk to the western edge of Tean and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Pack a picnic basket and find a secluded spot to soak up the tranquility and rejuvenate your senses surrounded by nature’s beauty.

Samson: A Tiny Island with Big Charm


For the truly adventurous, a day trip to Samson, the smallest inhabited island in the archipelago, offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Accessible only by boat during high tide, Samson exudes an aura of serenity and remoteness. Explore the island on foot via a network of well-marked paths, passing by picturesque cottages and sweeping coastal vistas.

Birdwatchers will be enthralled by the abundant birdlife, with oystercatchers, skylarks, and linnets creating a symphony of sound. Samson boasts stunning beaches, perfect for a picnic or simply relaxing and soaking in the serenity. For a touch of history, visit the Garrison, a collection of well-preserved 17th-century buildings that once served as a defensive outpost.

The island has a unique claim to fame – a miniature railway built by a former resident. While no longer operational, the remnants of the railway add to the island’s quirky charm. Samson offers limited visitor amenities, so ensure you pack everything you need for your day trip. This tiny island promises a true escape from the ordinary, leaving you with a lasting sense of wonder.

Island Hopping: Unveiling Hidden Gems

The magic of the Isles of Scilly lies not just in the individual islands, but also in the experience of island hopping. Regular boat services connect the inhabited islands, allowing you to discover the unique character of each. Spend a morning exploring the bustling harbor town of Hugh Town on St. Mary’s, followed by an afternoon basking on the pristine sands of Great Bay on St. Martin’s.

For history buffs, delve into the past at the Star Castle on St. Martin’s or Cromwell’s Castle on St. Mary’s. Nature lovers can embark on a birdwatching expedition on St. Agnes, followed by a rejuvenating walk through the Tean nature reserve on St. Mary’s. Whatever your interests, island hopping unlocks a world of possibilities, allowing you to truly experience the diverse tapestry that the Isles of Scilly offer.

Cromwell’s Castle: A Fortified Legacy

cromwell's castle
Cromwell’s Castle

Towering over Hugh Town harbor on St. Mary’s, Cromwell’s Castle stands as a testament to the island’s rich history. Built in the mid-17th century under the reign of Oliver Cromwell, this imposing fortress played a crucial role in defending the strategically important Isles of Scilly. Explore the ramparts and gun emplacements, and imagine the fierce battles fought for control of these islands.

Climb to the castle’s highest point and be rewarded with panoramic views encompassing the harbor town, the turquoise waters stretching towards the horizon, and the neighboring islands. Within the castle walls, a fascinating museum showcases exhibits detailing the island’s military history, from the days of pirates and privateers to the more recent World Wars. Interactive displays and historical artifacts bring the past to life, offering a glimpse into the lives of soldiers and civilians who inhabited this fortified structure.

Star Castle: A Guardian on St. Martin’s

star castle hotel

Across the turquoise waters on St. Martin’s, Star Castle stands as another impressive example of island fortification. Built in the 16th century by Henry VIII as part of a chain of coastal defenses, this star-shaped fort played a vital role in protecting the island from potential invaders. Explore the well-preserved ramparts and bastions, each offering unique vantage points of the surrounding landscape.

Descend into the castle’s dungeons and imagine the lives of prisoners who once resided within these dark and damp spaces. An informative museum housed within the castle walls delves into the history of St. Martin’s, including its role in maritime trade and the everyday lives of islanders throughout the centuries. Star Castle provides a fascinating glimpse into the importance of coastal defense in bygone eras, making it a must-visit for history buffs and anyone interested in the island’s rich past.

Garrison on Samson: A Remote Outpost

For a truly unique experience, venture to the tiny island of Samson and explore the Garrison, a collection of well-preserved 17th-century buildings that once served as a defensive outpost. Unlike the larger castles, the Garrison offers a more personal and intimate historical experience. Imagine life on this remote island, where a small group of soldiers stood guard against potential threats.

Explore the stone cottages used as living quarters, the gunpowder store, and the watchtower that provided a panoramic view of the surrounding waters. The Garrison offers a glimpse into a simpler time and the strategic importance of even the smallest islands in the archipelago. Combined with the island’s natural beauty and secluded atmosphere, the Garrison adds to the charm and historical intrigue of Samson.

These three fortified structures – Cromwell’s Castle, Star Castle, and the Garrison on Samson – tell a captivating story of the Isles of Scilly’s past. From grand fortresses to more intimate outposts, each played a crucial role in safeguarding the islands and their people. Exploring these historical gems allows you to step back in time and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich heritage of the Isles of Scilly.

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