The Isles of Scilly were just as great as we expected. They were definitely the highlight of the summer.
The Isles of Scilly consist of 10 small islands spread over the area of 5 x 8 miles. The islands are located 25 miles southwest from Land’s End of England and five of them are inhabited. We arrived on the early afternoon from the southern Ireland after 140 nautical mile sea voyage. The day was still young so we quickly put the dinghy down and went exploring Hugh Town.
The biggest island of the Isles of Scilly is St Mary’s where the capital is Hugh Town. We spent two nights at the mooring buoy on the St Mary’s Bay in front of Hugh Town. Our dinghy Pikku Suwena was whisking us to the dinghy pontoon and back.
On a chart it looks like the St Mary’s Bay is well sheltered from prevailing south-western winds. It even seems that the mooring buoys are a little behind the ferry quay. However, in a reality the Atlantic swell coming from southwest will enter to the bay swaying all the boats. The island protects against southern swell but the western component of the SW swell will easily enter the bay. To make things more interesting the southwestern wind turned Suwena broadside to the swell. It was nothing dangerous, just a bit uncomfortable and even more uncomfortable when some larger waves arrived every now and then.
There are warnings in many pilot books that there are no completely sheltered anchorages on the Isles of Scilly. Visiting yachts should be well equipped and have good anchoring gear. In case of gales, yachts should seek shelter by changing anchorage according to the weather forecasts. We can add a recommendation of not thinking about staying at the St Mary’s Bay if the blow have any W in its forecast.
On these islands we enjoyed the summer at its best and were just relaxing. We had long walks, picking up sights here and there. One of the most interesting things was walking around the Star Castle. Up in the castle hill we could see the whole Isles of Scilly like a lagoon on our palm. Down at defence wall we had good views from various defence gunnery positions over the straits between the islands. We should also not forget the verdant nature with so many astonishing flowers and trees.
The castle wall also had a hidden passage. Sally’s Gate secret passage dwindled under the thick castle wall to downtown and could be closed in war times. It could be used to send troops behind enemy lines and make surprise attacks gaining victory over besiegers. For us the Sally’s Gate led us to the residential area where small streets took us to the town’s beach.
The holiday feeling was even more intense when one evening we found a moving Thai kitchen on top of the truck in the middle of Hugh Town. Three Thais was making authentic Thai food. We happen to like Thai food very much, indeed. Of course we purchased a takeaway for bringing back onboard. It was lovely to have real Thai food in cockpit as the Sun was warming and the boat was slowly swaying on the mooring.
There is an awful lot of green on the sea chart of the Isles of Scilly. For the landlubbers, green means drying land at the low water. For example it is possible to go from St Mary’s Bay to the Tresco Island only during the high water. The harbourmaster joked to us that, “On the Isles of Scilly there is a rock for each boat and you have to take care about the tide.”
The next two days we spent at the mooring between Tresco and Bryher islands. What a welcoming change, no swell anymore. There is no dinghy dock at New Grimsby and going ashore meant getting our feet wet and sandy while doing a beach landing. We also had to pull Pikku Suwena above the tide line. Otherwise we could have the surprise with the rising tide 🙂
The Isles of Scilly have their unique microclimate and many tropical plants grow there that otherwise cannot be found on the British Isles. There is an unbelievable tropical garden on the Tresco Island where we could admire the plants and trees from all around the world. The Tresco Abbey Gardens have samples even from New Zeland, Australia and China. Especially there was an intriguing flower by name of Aeonium Undulatum or saucer plant from the Canary Islands whose leaves are like giant roses.
Tresco Island has quite a few holiday apartments for letting and the other islands are reachable by ferries. This would be an idea for holiday, arrive to the Isles of Scilly by plane and spend a wonderful vacation there. There are also a lot of birds, especially during the migration periods in spring and autumn which bring plenty of birders then as well. Also the seals can be observed on the St Agnes Island. The Isles of Scilly is a real paradise to who loves exploring nature.
We found an incredible seafood restaurant when walking to the east coast of Tresco. The Ruin Beach Café was so popular that a table reservation was available only to the next evening and then we got lucky because somebody had just cancelled his booking. We noticed already in St Mary’s island that the popular restaurants were really fully booked and reservations must be made at least a day or two beforehand.
The French yacht Delnic had also arrived to the same anchorage of Tresco. We spent a good evening together chatting about sailing destinations in England and France. Delnic was on a way to the Isle of Wight for participating in Round the Island Race. Our journey continues to the south coast of England, followed by Channel Islands and finally to Brittany in France.