Isles of Scilly: The Exotic Archipelago Off the Coast of England

The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of contrasts that hides its unassuming charm and quaint nature behind its raw and rugged exterior. The Scillonian Islands share similarities with Cornwall (they are a minimum of 15 minutes away by plane or three hours with a boat from Land’s End), but also display the lush flora and fauna found on the other side of the world. As we saw, it delivers an exotic getaway right outside our door – hence its nickname, the Cornish Caribbean.

The Scilly Isles are heavily dependent on tourism, but it doesn’t feel like a typical tourist destination. Peace and tranquility are guaranteed with a relaxed pace – a pleasant tonic for us city dwellers. Those who visit year after year returning for decades can be fiercely loyal. It can’t be matched anywhere else, they insist.

The Isles of Scilly are not just a wonderful place for holidays, honeymoons, and family getaways, but they’re also a wonderful spot for weddings, married to both exoticism and convenience (given that they’re part of England). 

Celebrities Turn To Isles of Scilly For Luxury Travel

With the current turn in the world of staycations, a horde of celebrities in the UK have turned to the Isles of Scilly for their luxury vacations. This includes, but is certainly not limited to:

  • Prince William and Kate Middleton (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) who visited for their latest family vacation;
  • Prince Charles and Camilla (Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) who celebrated her 71st birthday on St. Martin’s;
  • Titanic star Kate Winslet was rumored to be enjoying a private getaway in the Isles;

You don’t need to be a celebrity to enjoy a vacation in the Isles of Scilly, but you can vacation like one. This guide will walk you through the top 5 islands to visit to experience the Isles of Scilly in style.

Top 5 Places To Visit In The Isles of Scilly

#1 – St Mary’s Island

Among the five inhabited isles, St Mary’s is by far the largest and busiest, but it still maintains a slow pace dictated by tides. Although there is a significant road network in the region, tourists should consider taking strolls, bikes, or golf buggy rides to get around.

There are a variety of cafes, pubs, and restaurants in Hugh Town as well as the main ferry or inter-island vessel. Garrison, a significant old coastal defense system, is found above Hugh Town. While on your horizon is the archipelago and beyond, you will see restored canons in batteries as you walk around the walls.

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Top Attractions

On the horizon, a restored star-shaped fortress from the sixteenth century watches over St Mary’s Garrison. The Dungeon Bar is situated on the first floor of the hotel, and there are two restaurants (the classic and atmospheric Castle Dining Room and the bright Conservatory Restaurant decorated with vines). This castle dungeon, which used to house notorious prisoners, makes for a memorable nightcap. It is a chilling setting with friendly service and warm walls.

As well as the castle accommodations, guests can stay in cottages with verandas where they can watch the sunset. The rooms are bright, spacious, and stylish, making them ideal for families and those seeking more privacy. You should also try the lobster lunch at Star Castle, or take a stroll at Holy Vale Vineyard and Winery.

In Hugh Town, The Farm Deli offers a variety of lighter lunch options (though possibly indulgent) such as crab quiche, homemade courgette cake, and decent coffee.

#2 – Tresco Island

The second isle you have to visit is Tresco Island. There are several subtropical islands in the Tresco archipelago. The Dorrien-Smith family owns it, and Tresco Estate manages it, so it has a sense of sophistication and luxury. People of wealth and fame tend to flock to this location.

Top Attractions:

Appletree Bay and Pentle Bay, with their fine white sand and vibrant turquoise water, are considered among the finest beaches in the world. Tresco isn’t just known for its beaches; it also boasts the famed Abbey Garden.

The warm Gulf stream water and tall evergreen windbreaks allow thousands of exotic plant species from around the world to flourish here. Plants that cannot survive elsewhere in the country thrive here due to the resulting microclimate, including small ferns and mighty trees. As well as golden pheasants and red squirrels, the Tresco Abbey Garden is home to the ever-evolving species. Birds native to the island are remarkably tame. In addition, its hilltop location provides fantastic views of other islands on the other side of the water. Definitely worth visiting.

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Recommended Way To Stay 

One of the most popular ways to stay on the island is in a luxury cottage. Tresco Estate offers various options for rentals by the night or week (traditional cottages or more modern ones with views of the sea and spa access).

In addition to a wide selection of body and beauty treatments, you’ll find all the wet facilities you’ll need (indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna) at the spa. A swimming pool, gym, and indoor swimming pool were all available at our cottage.

Fortnum’s on Sea is the perfect place to take your barbecue to the waves of the ocean, with its huge selection. There are also cottages only a short walk from Ruin Beach Café, which is well known for its delicious food.

During a ‘Low Tide Event’, we were able to cross the channel between Tresco and neighboring Bryher on foot for a few hours (and with the right guidance). A mini-festival is held on the island to celebrate the occasion, with food and drink stalls set up for the “Party in the Sea”. An afternoon spent exploring Bryher followed the unique experience by a return trip to Tresco by boat.

#3 – St Martin’s and 

Third on our list, is St Martin’s Islands. St Martin’s is known for its unspoiled beaches with soft white sand and aquamarine waters. The award-winning dive school on the island offers snorkeling trips with seals and diving courses that highlight the 155 diving sites.

Top Attractions:

St. Martin’s helps you uncover your inner self. This beautiful island has a length of magnificent white beaches and you won’t see another soul for miles. Get a glimpse of the kestrels and peregrine falcons as they swoop above you in the updraft, take in the iconic red and white Daymark, and snorkel with seals for an unforgettable experience. Kayaks can also be rented, shells can be found at the beach, the vineyard and galleries can be explored, and you can watch Fay Page at work in her jewelry studio.  Afterward, take a walk to the new observatory and view the night skies when the sun disappears behind the horizon.

#4 – St Agnes Islands

Next, we have St Agnes Islands. In contrast to St. Martin’s, St Agnes has an isolated charm. In addition to wildlife and peaceful coves, the southernmost populated island has a community of roughly 70 people.

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Top Attractions:

St. Agnes is renowned for its peace and tranquility! Those who want to discover the quieter coves and beaches can also rent kayaks and SUPs (next to the island’s church) for a day of fun on the water.  A day on the island gives you a chance to observe the Greater and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls breeding.  There are a plethora of sea birds (including puffins) at St. Agnes and nearby Annet during May and June. Gugh’s Bronze Age Obadiah’s Barrow is visible at low tide, or you can walk to Wingletang Bay and Beady Pool – swimming in the sheltered bay is wonderful, or you can search for shipwrecked Venetian glass beads.

#5 – Bryher Island

The final isle that is a must-visit for a luxury vacation is Bryher Island. A wander around Bryher without an agenda is quite magical because it is one of the smallest inhabited islands, containing fewer than 100 people. Despite Tresco’s rugged terrain and hillier terrain, there are picturesque bays with fine sand. View the waves pounding the shoreline facing west.

Recommended Way To Stay:

It is near a couple of cafes, a lovely local shop, a fudge shop, and some art spaces, including a micro exhibition by author Michael Morpurgo (written in Bryher).

Hell Bay Hotel offers luxury accommodations as well as a host of other amenities. The restaurant’s excellent seafood made it even better as you watch a stunning sunset from the terrace. Like the location, with views of the Atlantic, was spectacular, so was the atmosphere.


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