2012 – The Isles of Scilly

We had decided to keep July and August free from trips away so as to watch the Olympics and go to a couple of folk festivals. Thinking about a June holiday, Colin remembered several holidays he’d spent as a youth in the Isles of Scilly. Pat had never been there, so we booked a week’s B&B on St Mary’s and aimed to spend a few days either side holidaying generally in the south-west.

Monday 11th June

Set off in time to call in for lunch, and catch up with news, with friends at the Black Horse, Hulland Ward. Then a leisurely drive down to Bristol to stay with Gaile, Colin’s cousin, and her husband Gordon.

Tuesday 12th

Into Bristol with G&G for a look round SS Great Britain, the first iron ship. Really interesting and very well restored. We’d time for a nice pub lunch and a stroll along the cliff above the Clifton Suspension Bridge with Gaile and Gordon before heading off for Bodmin.

Since we planned to visit the Eden project next day, it was on with the satnav to find a B&B. No joy in Bodmin but we eventually found a lovely room in Lostwithiel, not far away.

Wednesday 13th

Ten minutes down the road to the Eden Project,

Eden Project

Eden Project

where we spent most of the day. This exceeded both of our expectations. We managed both Tropical and Mediterranean domes before lunching in the latter, then wound our way round the outdoor gardens. All gorgeous but no ideas to bring home; none of their plantings would be likely to survive in the north-east climate.

After dropping our luggage at the Hayle Travelodge we nipped into St Ives for a stroll around the harbour, followed by the first of a number of cream teas the holiday would bring. The café was just closing at 5:00 but allowed us to have our tea at an outdoor table.

Later we headed for Penzance. Colin fancied a curry and Penzance, being the biggest town around, seemed the most likely place to find one. No such luck. The place was both dead and curry-less. We settled for fish and chips.

Thursday 14th

Up and off early to the park-and-sail we’d booked into, to leave our car and get the minibus to Penzance and the Scillonian. The driver told us that the seas were so rough the Scillonian was not planning to return that afternoon as usual but to moor up at St Mary’s for at least a day.

The crossing was pretty rough, and Pat lost her breakfast halfway across. Colin had had a huge bacon butty so felt fine. Once on dry land, Pat was feeling better, and we both warmed up on soup in the café next to our guesthouse in Hugh Town. We were staying in the Evergreen Cottage Guest House. This was a real find, well situated, comfortable and with excellent hosts (Ben and Kirsty). Ben gave us a key for our room with the words ”You might just leave it in your room. We never lock the front door either”. Culture shock!

The foul weather brightened up a bit late afternoon, so we were able to stroll round the headland that forms the Garrison.

Friday 15th

Strong winds and sharp showers were forecast, so no boat trips today. We headed up round the harbour

St Marys harbour

towards Telegraph Hill at the opposite end of St Mary’s from yesterday’s walk, admiring the flowers in some of the gardens as we went.


The hardest and most prolonged shower of the day came just as we reached a glade under several tall trees, which was handy.

We explored the Neanderthal village

Neanderthal tomb

Neanderthal village

and then scrambled back along the rocky coast to Juliet’s Garden Café for lunch overlooking the sea. The scenery was very pretty, as due to the sunshine and showers the off-islands were presented in all sorts of different lights while the sea was providing spray at every rock and white horses everywhere else.


We spent the afternoon wandering round the island’s museum and sharing another cream tea (by the skin of our teeth – we arrived just before the café shut at 4:00), before Colin had a jamming session with Ben. Curry night at a nearby hotel followed by watching England beat Sweden in the European Cup rounded off the evening.

Saturday 16th

Still stormy. Pat’s eye was giving her trouble, so we popped in to the island’s Health Centre to have a word with the pharmacist. Some eye drops were duly prescribed.

Back to town to buy Pat a proper rain jacket and a warm sweatshirt. Foolish woman had brought summer clothes for a holiday in June. We also picked up huge pasties from the baker to eat overlooking the bay at Old Town. We’d already noticed the birds in the islands were very tame, but now we saw just how bold they were. A thrush landed on Colin’s outstretched foot, then his knee, then had to be brushed away as it lined up for a bite of his pasty.

We were on our way to the dog show just outside Old Town.

Dog Show

Great fun, not spoilt by a light shower. We reckoned the spaniel was robbed of victory in the waggiest tail competition. And we liked the transport provided for the local radio’s reporter.


Sunday 17th

A calmer sea so off we went in one of the sight-seeing boats to Tresco.

We spotted a cruise ship moored off the end of St Mary’s and guessed the passengers would be coming ashore later.

First and foremost on Tresco was a good wander round the Abbey Gardens. These are world famous for their amazing collection of tropical and semi-tropical plants, and deservedly so.

Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens

After lunch in the Gardens’ own café, we hiked across the island and up the coast

Tresco beach

to Old Grimsby. We’d been puzzled by the large arrows marking much of the path. All was explained when some cyclists raced into view. Tresco was hosting a triathlon.


This was so exhausting to watch we needed a cup of tea before recrossing the island back to the quay.

Back on St Mary’s the quay was busy as tenders were arriving to ferry people back to the cruise ship. We were surprised to find Hugh Town quiet and the cafes closed. Yes, several hundred passengers from the cruise ship had been in town but it was a Sunday, and the cafes are closed on Sundays!

Dinner at the Mermaid, followed by a short stroll along the harbour wall to admire the sunset.


Monday 18th

The sea was calm and the sun out so we thought we’d take the boat touring the Eastern Islands before landing at St Martin’s. We were rewarded by the sight of several groups of seals sunbathing, all of whom allowed the boat to get quite close, and (much to Colin’s delight) a peregrine falcon with two almost-grown chicks.

The boat then took us to St Martin’s. We stopped for a coffee by the quay, then walked across the island and found a nice spot overlooking the Great Beach at which to picnic and chill out.

St Martins

Making our way back over the island we fancied a cream tea. How unusual! The main café wanted £8 each, so we went on to the bakery – which had run out of scones. Back on St Mary’s, the only café still open after 4:00 p.m. had also run out of scones! We felt like pointing out that scones freeze very well against the day. After similar experiences in the New Forest we’re getting used to tea being unavailable at tea-time.

Tuesday 19th

A gloriously sunny day for a trip to St Agnes.

Colin had been really looking forward to seeing St Agnes again. He, together with mother and brother, had spent several Easter holidays there as a teenager, and he was looking forward to seeing how much of the island he could remember. The answer was “very little”, apart from the path to the quay and possibly identifying where they used to stay near the lighthouse. However, we soon saw why his mother had picked this particular island. We decided it was the nicest of the islands, being quiet and pretty.

St Agnes

We walked west across the island, and trained the binoculars on Annet, the bird sanctuary. A dozen Great Black-backed Gulls were perched on various vantage points, which together with the distance explained why little else was to be seen. We turned south and headed round the coast admiring the local barometer

St Agnes

and the Western Islands, with the Bishops Rock lighthouse in the distance (to the right)

St Agnes

before making our way to Horse Point (the southern end of Wingletang Down), where we had our picnic lunch.

St Agnes

By the time we’d completed the circuit we were ready for a cream tea (!). This proved to be the largest we’d come across (one of these each)

Cream tea

and we were both pushed to finish it.

We were amused once more by the island birds. A whole flock of sparrows descended on the next table the minute the people left. They not only hoovered up crumbs, they feasted on left-over clotted cream and strawberry jam. We even spotted one parent bird feeding its chick a bit of strawberry.

For our last dinner in the IOS we went back to the Mermaid, which we’d like best of the restaurants we’d patronised.

Wednesday 20th

On our last day we had a wander, pausing to chat to a couple of Hugh Town’s residents

St Marys residents

up to the Carreg Dhu community garden

Carreg Dhu

then back to Hugh Town for a leisurely picnic lunch overlooking the harbour. A short stroll along past the Garrison and it was time to head for the Scillonian and the voyage back to the mainland.

We were sorry to leave the IOS, but we’d done the things we’d wanted to and we were starting to resent the absence of cheap eating places.

It rained most of the way back to Penzance, but Colin found a sheltered spot on deck to watch the Cornish coast go by.

Once back on dry land we headed straight for the same nearby Travelodge, and ate at the adjoining Brewers Fayre (sic).

Thursday 21st

The forecast was for showers in the morning, more persistent rain in the afternoon, so we headed for Tintagel. We climbed up the cliff opposite the castle for the best (and free!) view


then headed into the village


for a beer and, in Colin’s case, snack.

Noting that the weather had already taken a turn for the worse we decided to head a bit further up the coast and find a nice hotel in which to hole up. Bude Tourist Information came up trumps with the Hartland Hotel. They were almost empty due to a cancellation so we were given the best room. We rounded the day off with a nice meal at Bude Tandoori.

Friday 22nd

We continued to make our way, via typical and seductive Cornish lanes, along the north coast. At our landlord’s suggestion we were heading for Dunster, but we decided to stop off at Lynmouth, one of our favourite spots, for a stroll and some lunch.

The road thereafter has to be one of the prettiest in the country. As we neared Dunster we remembered we’d been there before, eschewing the castle due to the high admission fee. As we pulled off the main road we discovered there was an archery competition in progress, including a few archers shooting traditional English longbows. So we stopped to watch that for a while.

Then off to Mike (Gaile’s brother) and Patsy’s, near Tewksbury, for a nice dinner, long chat and (late) bed.

Saturday 23rd

A late breakfast and it was off home.

It had been a great holiday. There had been only one day when it didn’t rain at all, and a day or two when the weather had been pretty horrid, but in all honesty it had barely affected our enjoyment. Whether we return to the IOS will depend largely on costs (opportunity and monetary) compared to other places that beckon!

A slightly larger selection of the photographs we took on the trip is here. To see full-size images, right-click on open image.