Located just 25 miles from Lands End in Cornwall, these magical islands sparkle like jewels in a silver sea, surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters, adorned by soft white sandy beaches which back onto lush tropical gardens, crowning pink granite cliffs. Life here is unhurried. And this unique holiday destination is a well kept secret by all who visit, and what better way to explore the archipelago than by sail?
Just a short hop from mainland Cornwall, passing the infamous Wolf Rock lighthouse, the islands seem to be born from the sea. St. Agnes is often a favourite anchorage where you can kick off your shoes and take a relaxing walk up to the lighthouse before heading to the cosy Turks Head, a charming traditional pub with stunning views across the water.
Life’s simple pleasures are the name of the game here. Swim – you must – off the sand spit between Gugh and Aggie, shake yourself off with a short walk to the Bronze Age burial mound, Obediah’s Chamber, before climbing back on board. Sailing out round Western Rocks, Bishops Rock lighthouse stands tall and proud, defeating Atlantic storms, protecting ships against the jagged teeth-like rocks for over 100 years. It is here you may see the endearing puffin, along with countless dolphins feeding in the shallower waters around the coast.
No Scilly voyage is complete without a stop at the narrow channel between Bryher and Tresco. Here, dominated by Hangman’s Rock, the clear waters are sheltered from the booming Atlantic swell beyond and a sense of calm reigns. Don’t be fooled by the small size of these two islands, there’s plenty to entice you onto dry land and explore. The world famous Tresco Abbey Gardens are home to a plethora of subtropical flora and fauna, plus a red squirrel population. If the botany isn’t for you then simply let your eyes absorb this natural wonder. Striking Agapanthus are everywhere along with brightly coloured tropical flowers which line the walking paths – where no cars are allowed.
You will soon discover that foraging is an important part of life afloat and shrimping in the shallow channel here at low tide is the best way to spend a few hours getting to know your fellow crew . Not to worry if you don’t succeed, we head across to Bryher and get hold of a feast of freshly caught lobster or crab for your supper back on board in the cosy cabin.
Exploring the seas around Scilly provides plenty of excitement for the mariner, strong tidal currents make navigating the narrow passages challenging, so your skipper would love to get you involved in plotting courses to those secluded beaches that beckon. All the channels are well marked, however some of the more remote anchorages use rocks as beacons, so a good lookout is imperative, adding to the thrill of holidays afloat.
Life on Scilly is not all quiet however and busy St Mary’s harbour is a hub of activity with rowing pilot gigs, famed as wreckers, the daily arrival, and departure of the Scillonian ferry (during high season), a supermarket and of course locally made clothing. Busy pubs and great cafes make St Mary’s a great day out but do hire a bike to see the best of this island. Quaint Old Town and the church where Prime Minister Harold Wilson is buried, Porthellick where Admiral Cloudesley Shovell washed ashore after wrecking the Naval fleet. Perhaps make for Juliet’s Café, deemed to have the best view in the Scillies, where you can’t help but be drawn to stop, sit and take a moment to reflect on life.
Once really cannot describe the magic of Scilly, it’s what you make of it, the sunsets, the peace, your ship rocking gently at anchor, the smell of nature and of course the beauty of your little ship and all who sail in her. Arrive home in Newlyn, utterly relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world once more. But sshhh, don’t tell everyone your secret.