A quick guide to visiting the Isles of Scilly, off the south-west coat of England

48 hours on the Isles of Scilly

Until about five years ago I wasn’t aware of the existence of the Scilly Isles, but after they were brought to my attention they immediately joined the Travel Wishlist. Prepare to fall in love–and prepare for a big post (you might want to pop the kettle on for this one).

This British archipelago lies in the Atlantic ocean, 45km off the Cornish peninsula, and is the most southern and most western location in England. The Isles are made up of 140 islands but only five are inhabited (2011 population: 2,203). The main one is St Mary’s–that’s where you’ll arrive as a visitor (info on how to get here, and my other tips, summarised below!).

Leaving Penzance on the Scillonian III ferry, CornwallMorning sea mist over St Michael's Mount, CornwallOn board the Scillonian III ferry to the Isles of ScillyLands End, CornwallThe first sighting of the Isles of Scilly, EnglandHow to get to the Isles of Scilly, UKArriving at the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, EnglandArriving in the Isles of Scilly, UK by boat from CornwallScillonian III ferry in St Mary's Harbour, Isles of Scilly, EnglandArriving at St Mary's Harbour, Isles of Scilly

How to travel to the Isles of Scilly

First thing’s first: getting to the Scilly Isles is fairly tricky (though the silver lining is that it’s pretty un-touristy).

You can fly or get the boat but all options only depart from south-west England: the Skybus flies out of Newquay, Land’s End, Exeter and Penzance, while the Scillionian III ferry only goes from/to Penzance. You can also get a fly and sail combo ticket or go on a day trip, but that only gets you 4½ hours on the islands.

As a plane-hater, I opted for the boat (from £90pp return). Turns out I’m not great on boats in rough waters either, and 2.5 hours stuck on the sea can be really not fun. (I apparently missed dolphins *cries forever*)

Take a boat trip from St Mary's Harbour, Isles of Scilly, UKStar Castle, St Mary's, Isles of ScillyOld-fashioned store fronts on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, EnglandTraditional Cornish pasties on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, CornwallSaltwater Sandals on the Isles of ScillyHugh Town, St Mary's, Isles of ScillyThe capital of Hugh Town on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, UKTips for visiting St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, EnglandView over St Mary's harbour on the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of EnglandExploring the main island of St Mary's, Isles of ScillyA beautiful UK beach on St Mary's, Isles of ScillyBritish beaches in the Isles of ScillyThe view over St Mary's, Isles of ScillyMorning on the Scilly Isles, CornwallPost box on the Scilly Isles, 45km off the coast of Cornwall, England

Things to see & do

One of the things I struggled to get my head around while on the Isles of Scilly was the fact that it’s technically England. There’s a Co-Op and you’ll find Lloyds and Barclays banks on the high street. You pay in GBP, there are Union Jacks, everyone speaks English (and is super friendly)…but the weather is generally great and the sea SO blue. It messes with the mind.

Clearly, it’s beautiful here. The Isles of Scilly have been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1975 and there’s an amazing variety of wildlife with puffins, seals, the (unique) Scilly shrew, and hundreds of sea birds–even dolphins and whales! Besides all the fauna, flora is a big part of the local economy and Scilly is famous for trading cut flowers.

Telegraph Tower, Isles of Scilly, CornwallFresh seafood sold by the road in Isles of Scilly, CornwallWalking to Bant's Carn burial ground, Isles of Scilly, CornwallWildflowers growing on the Isles of Scilly, EnglandBant's Carn Burial Chamber, Isles of Scilly, EnglandThe prehistoric Bant's Carn Burial Chamber, Isles of Scilly, EnglandVisiting Bant's Carn prehistoric burial chamber, Isles of Scilly, UKView from Bant's Carn burial chamber, Isles of Scilly, EnglandVisiting the Bronze Age settlement of Halangy Down, Isles of Scilly, UKHalangy Down, Isles of Scilly, EnglandVisiting the prehistoric Halangy Down on the Isles of Scilly, EnglandBant's Carn and Innisidgen burial chambers, Isles of Scilly, England

Where to stay

As we booked our trip only a few weeks before we went, there was just one hotel on St. Mary’s with availability. It was well-rated and we could redeem our Hotels.com Rewards but it was honestly not good–and still overpriced even considering one night was free.

Be organised: book as far in advance as you can and/or check out local Airbnb listings (click here to get £25 off your booking!).

Places to eat & drink

It almost goes without saying that there’s good seafood to be had. It was a happy accident that we visited during the annual Taste of Scilly Festival, so we also visited the market for some local produce to bring home. We enjoyed some good grub at these places, too:

Flower bulbs for sale on the Isles of Scilly, EnglandThe prehistoric Innisidgen burial chamber, Isles of Scilly, EnglandInnisidgen burial mound, Isles of Scilly, EnglandBeing silly on the Isles of ScillyHiking on the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, EnglandVisiting prehistoric sites on the Isles of Scilly, EnglandVisiting the Isles of Scilly, EnglandPorthcressa Beach on the Isles of Scilly, EnglandBeaches on St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, EnglandBeautiful Cornish beaches: St. Mary's island, Isles of Scilly, EnglandHugh Town, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, EnglandDon't feed the seagulls!

Further reading

Read my other posts about the Isles of Scilly.

TL;DR

The Isles of Scilly are amazing and you should book your next holiday there right now.

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1 thought on “48 hours on the Isles of Scilly”

  1. I’m shocked at the price of the ferry O.o but judging from your pictures, it really looks like it’s worth every penny (recently watched the 70s children programme ‘Children of the Stones’ and some of your pictures reminded me of it, which I dig, a lot!)

    Like

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