Sailing into the Isles of Scilly from Penzance, it’s clear that I had underestimated the breadth of the islands available to explore. With only 3 days until I was back at work, Dad and I decided it would be good to try to find one boat which did a bit of a tour, instead of getting the individual boats which serve each island offered on the main harbour.
Hanging on the harbour railings were the details and times of all the different boats leaving the harbour, and we spotted the Calypso would visit 3 islands in one day – Bryher, Tresco and St Agnes – perfect!
After a peaceful night at our superb hostel, we made an early start, making our way back down to Hugh Town where we picked up our tickets from a souvenir shop and made our way to the harbour.
We were welcomed on board by two eccentric characters, the cheeky, chappy skipper Tim, and his chilled out right-hand man, Mike. Joining us on the trip were 3 sets of couples, all from the UK.
After spreading a map out on the deck floor and showing us the route for the day, it was a short hop off to our first island of Bryher.
Phone box museums and Scillonian cake: A morning on Bryher
We landed on the tiny jetty and made our way up to the single track road, where I got ridiculously excited about an awesome honesty box from Veronica’s Farm, full to the brim with homemade jams and dried herbs. Whilst I dithered over which jam to buy, Dad had struck up a conversation with a lady heaving kitchen supplies and oil into her car on the harbour dock.
“It’s been my first time to St Mary’s since March, I have everything I need here on the island”. I smiled at how content the lady was, the owner of a fish restaurant on the other side of the island.
Bryher is the smallest of all of the habited islands in the Scillies, a tiny 1 mile by 2. We promised to pop in for a drink on our walk from one end of the island to the other, where the boat would pick us up again in an hour and a half.
After a nose in the church, we made our way up a small hill to the main village, lined with little succulents poking out of the grey stone walls, a sign of the Scillies unique microclimate. Crimson blackberries signposted the start of autumn.
The main hub of the village has a small art gallery and a store/post office which sells slices of the famous Scillionian cake, a fruit cake handmade on the island. I also picked up Veronica’s fudge, which uses the butter and cream from a dairy on neighborouring island of St Agnes.
The path then descended back down to the other side of the island, passing a red phone box which has been converted into a tiny museum about a film made on Bryher in the 1980s. Honesty boxes selling arts and crafts also dotted the path.
True to our word, we popped in to see the lady at Island Fish and I couldn’t resist a cheeky crab sandwich, enjoyed on the outside table decorated by locally grown dahlias.
On our way to the pier, we stop to have a nose in the gig boat shed, which has a replica of a gig boat, a six-oared Cornish rowing boat which is a popular sport amongst the islands. Each May, the islands also host the World Pilot Gig Championship.
Back on board, Tim pops out to offer us the free ‘cocktails’, which turn out to be jelly babies!
It’s a short 10-minute ride over to Tresco, and Mike explains the significance of the Cromwell Castle on Tresco, as we cross over to our next island. Built in 1651, it is one of the few surviving Crowellian fortifications left in Britain.
Golden Pheasants and Botanical Gardens: 3 hours on Tresco
Tim handed out maps as we moored up, explicitly telling us not to return to the same pier for the return journey and explaining the most scenic route up to the famous botanical gardens. Set to go, we pass the cutest little fundraiser I’ve ever seen.
Tresco immediately felt a lot more ‘polished’ than the surrounding islands, smart looking cottages and the neatly paved road leading up to a fancy shop and deli.
We continued on Abbey Drive, a wide shady road full of unusual trees which led up to the abbey and botanic gardens. After a quick lunch refuel of quiche and salad in the cafe, we spent a blissful hour exploring the amazing array of tropical plants in the gardens, a meandering maze of pathways and sculptures.
Luckily enough, not only did we catch sight of a red squirrel, but also the technicolour golden pheasant which roams in the gardens. This guy looks ready for the party.
Feeling at peace, we make the 15-minute walk back to the pier, the autumn sun now sparkling across the islands, but dark clouds loomed ahead.
Lighthouses and homemade ice cream: An afternoon on St Agnes
As we made our way to the last island of the day, St Agnes, the heavens opened and we ducked into the driver’s cabin part of the boat and take shelter from the fat rain droplets.
Black shags had gathered on the rocks just outside the island, where we bobbed up and down momentarily waiting for the rain to pass.
Skies brightening, we disembarked and resisted the temptation of having a chilled drink at the Turks Head on my uncle’s recommendation. Instead, I’m on a mission to find a geocache close to the Gugh, a narrow strip of land accessible at low tide to an adjoining island.
First mission complete, we now had a brisk walk over to the other side of the island for a good reason: homemade ice cream at Troytown Diary. And wooow, it was sure worth the quick walk, the ice cream was creamy and delicious and we paused on a picnic bench to enjoy the views.
St Agnes had such a quirky little feel about it – honesty boxes again selling fruit and veg but also little crafty touches of reuse and upcycling which gave the island an alternative vibe.
A brisk walk back, we paused on the pier and remarked and what a super day it had been.
As we sailed back to St Mary’s, the main island in the Isles of Scilly where our hostel was, I reflected on just what a magical place the Isles of Scilly are – each island has it’s own little personality and style, and I was thoroughly glad to be able to experience the three islands on one day.
Jumping off the boat, I thanked Tim for a super day, remarking on my reflections. He smiled, and replied ‘You’ve been bitten by the Scilly bug’.
Please note, this is not a sponsored post – I just really enjoyed the 3 Island Trip!
Check out my video highlights from the trip!
Heading to the Isles of Scilly? Catch up with my other posts