Stay at home: Isles of Scilly

Go forth and discover this archipelago's hidden depths and best-kept secrets, including fine food, a balmy climate and picture-perfect beaches.

By Charlotte Wigram-Evans
Published 24 Sept 2018, 16:00 BST, Updated 9 Mar 2022, 14:25 GMT
 These rugged, unspoilt islands ease on at a gentle, unhurried pace.

 These rugged, unspoilt islands ease on at a gentle, unhurried pace.

Photograph by Isles of Scilly

Why go

Deserted bays, wild heathland, waves crashing against towering limestone cliffs — welcome to the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of almost 150 islands, 28 miles off the Cornish coast. But don't let its proximity to the UK fool you; these islands feel like a different world. Just like the islands themselves, the glorious sunshine and balmy heat are positively Mediterranean, and the flight on a tiny 16-seater plane that bumps along at just 7,000ft feels like a step back in time. And it doesn't change after touchdown: cars are a rare sight; supermarkets are non-existent; and these rugged, unspoilt islands ease on at a gentle, unhurried pace.

Don't miss

Even in the height of summer, there are enough secluded coves for everyone. On the islands of Bryher, Tresco and St Martin's especially, wander just a little off the path and find a deserted stretch of white sand with views of battle-scarred rock formations against the Atlantic Ocean. While the water's chilly, a dip is a must.

We like

Head to Tresco Abbey Gardens, a 17-acre maze of cobbled walkways winding through tropical plant life, from palm trees and juicy succulents to cacti of all shapes and sizes. It's a riot of colour and smells — and hats off to the gardeners who keep it looking so spectacular all year long.

What to do

There's no better way to explore the smallest islands — empty save for seabirds and seals — than by kayak. Set off from Higher Town Bay on St Martin's and paddle out to any one of the teeny islets dotted off the shoreline. Drag your kayak up a sandy shore and revel in just how far away civilisation feels.

Where to stay

Hell Bay Hotel on Bryher is a relaxed affair, with its blue-and-white cottages looking out to sea, and ever-helpful staff on hand for advice on what to see and do on the island. Don't miss the lobster in garlic butter sauce at dinner before walking it off in time for sunset from the hill beside the hotel.

Where to eat

Fraggle Rock Bar on Bryher makes good use of the archipelago's seafood. Prawns, lobster, crab all feature, and for those after the ultimate seaside classic, the fish and chips are delicious.

Published in the October 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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