The Scilly archipelago, lying just 25 miles off the SW tip of Cornwall in England, is a jealously kept secret by anyone who has ever set foot here. For yachtsmen, this string of 140 paradisiac isles and islets – only five of which are inhabited – dotted between the channel and the Atlantic Ocean is a real treasure. Boasting a Mediterranean-style micro climate, crystal-clear waters, white beaches, an unspoiled natural environment, and animal reserves, who could resist cruising such exotic and surprising gems? They are well worth a cruise and ideal for seasoned ocean sailors.
The island of St Mary’s is the larger of the archipelago and it counts for one quarter of the inhabitants of the Scilly Isles. With its harbour, shops, and mooring buoys spread out between High Town and Porthcressa, St Mary’s is the ideal place to set out from to visit neighbouring islands. In peak season, the number of ferries might give you the impression that St Mary’s is a busy centre. However, if you walk for a few minutes towards the many footpaths, you will soon find yourself immersed in the very special atmosphere of the Scilly Isles. The coastal paths offer spectacular viewpoints of unspoiled beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters and of impressive rocky creeks. Inland, there is lush vegetation, carpeted with heather. Before returning to your boat, why not drop into the Mermaid Pub, which will remind you that you are still in Great Britain.
The second largest island to the northwest of St Mary’s is a glorious natural paradise. The Tresco Abbey Garden, created in 1830 has a collection of over 20,000 exotic plants, from all over the world and which are very uncommon in these latitudes. However, since the Scilly coasts are warmed by the Gulf Stream, this allows for a touch of the Caribbean in places and in others of the Mediterranean. The Valhalla Museum is also on the same site, with a collection of colourful figureheads. As you go up into the hilly areas in the north of the island, you overlook the channel that separates “chic Tresco” from its neighbour, the island of Bryher. It would be a pity to leave the island without having basked in the sunshine on the beautiful beaches of Pentle and Appletree Bay, or without having enjoyed Tresco’s many gourmet stopovers before spending a night at the anchorages of Old Grimsby (northeast) or New
To the west, Bryher is an island of striking contrasts, offering a spectacular view as you walk along the paths through the rolling green hills: one side battered by the Atlantic and the other fringed with quiet beaches. The island’s many footpaths will offer you a complete change of scene and an opportunity to meet some of its 80 inhabitants. Unspoiled and dramatic, Bryher also has everything it takes to welcome its visitors comfortably. The hotel and restaurants of Hell Bay are worth a stopover.
You are never bored on the Scilly Isles! People who like diving, fishing, watersports, or just lazing in the sun, will find all the necessary facilities. As for anyone keen on wildlife, there are some wonderful surprises in the sea off these unspoiled islands and islets. At the southern tip of the archipelago, the tiny St Agnes and its Periglis beach has a beautiful view of the Annet bird sanctuary, sheltered amid a group of small islands called the Western Rocks. You will be met by colonies of seals to the northeast of the archipelago, off the island of St Martin’s! However, it is more than likely that you will have already seen porpoises, dolphins, basking sharks, shearwaters and razorbills, as you sail from island to island.
To make the most of the weather conditions, it is best to choose from May through to October. Conditions change quickly in the archipelago. Keep up to date with the weather.
What is the quickest way to get to the Scilly Isles?
From Great Britain: Plymouth , Fowey, Falmouth and Helford River.
From France: Cherbourg, Granville, Perros, Guirec, Roscoff and Aber Wrac’h
The islands are spread out over an area of 16 sq km. St Mary’s in Tresco has roughly 80 mooring boys. However, you can drop anchor wherever you want, on condition that you keep out of the main channels and ferry routes. You will feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe lost amid well-sheltered uninhabited islands!