The Scilly Isles are made up of 145 islands, five of which are inhabited.
The islands of Scilly – St Mary’s, Tresco, Bryher, St Martin’s and St Agnes – are home to over 2,000 people. They are situated in the Celtic Sea and are a place rich with a history dating back to the Stone Age.
This brief summary aims to introduce you to the different islands, summarise their main features and help you to decide upon which ones to visit. Together, the Scilly Isles are one of the most beautiful parts of Britain and offer future visitors the opportunities for plenty of wonderful and memorable experiences.
Here is a map of the Scilly Isles (Image provided by Ordnance Survey Open Data Licence) showing all the inhabited areas. Bryher, Tresco and St Martin’s run from left to right at the top of the picture, whilst St Mary’s and St Agnes are situated below. As you can tell, the proximity is highly conducive to island hopping!
St Mary’s is the largest island, with a population exceeding 1,500 people. It is a vibrant and attractive place, offering diverse activities and beautiful beaches. There are various accommodation options, ranging from camping to the luxurious Star Castle Hotel, as well as many shops and restaurants. It is here that you will find the only Scillonian airport and, would you believe it, the only cash point. If you want a taste of the island experience whilst enjoying flexibility and the usual conveniences of life, then St Mary’s is a perfect option for your stay. After all, the other islands are just a short boat ride away for day trips and it is here that you will find the most complete and convivial experience.
Tresco is the second largest island, measuring 1.15 square miles in size. The population numbers around150-200 people, so it is sufficiently quiet to enjoy a tranquil island experience, whilst there is certainly plenty to do. Indeed Tresco is perfect for historical adventurers, with its own medieval monastery, an abbey, a church, an arch, a monument and even a castle. With a range of facilities and accommodation options available, you can combine comfortability with seclusion, and natural beauty with activity. If this appeals, Tresco is the ideal choice.
St Martin’s measures 0.92 square miles and has a population of around 150 people. It features one pub, one guest hotel, one camp site and a bakery. Its three main settlements are originally named Higher Town, Middle Town and Lower Town, whilst points of interest include the two churches and granite tower. Like all the islands, St Martin’s is wonderfully picturesque and a delight to visit, though of course it makes for a much less vibrant atmosphere than St Mary’s. If you are after a tranquil escape with a taste of beauty and comfort, then St Martin’s could be for you.
Small but eclectic St Agnes has a lighthouse, a rock formation that looks like an elephant, a pub, a fish restaurant, the only Scillonian dairy farm and various accommodation options for different budgets. A hotspot for wildlife, the island numbers short of 100 people. Activities include a treasure hunt and a maze, whilst the island is also connected to Gugh, one of the uninhabited islands. Perhaps St Agnes will have less obvious appeal to most tourists than St Mary’s or Tresco, but it is well worth reading more to find out if it’s a place you would like to visit.
Made famous by Michael Morpurgo’s beloved novel, The Wreck of the Zanzibar, Bryher also starred in the films of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and When the Whales Came. It is the smallest of all the inhabited islands with a population short of 100. It therefore provides a secluded, private and tranquil holiday experience. Nonetheless it boasts a community centre, bar, restaurant, hotel, camp site and holiday cottages, along with spectacular beaches, cliffs, wild horses and attractive scenery. A lovely place for a day trip or to stay, Bryher is well worth a visit.
The uninhabited islands include Hunter’s Lump, Kettle Bottom, Annet, Great Ganilly, St Helen’s, Round Island, Tean, Great Cheese Rock, Men-a-vaur, the Western Rocks, the Norrard Rocks and the Eastern Isles. Samson was actually inhabited until 1855, but of course these isles are mostly more suitable for birds than humans!
Thank you for reading this short overview about the Islands of Scilly. If you would like to know more, please follow the links provided to take a deeper look around the site.