When you travel to the Isles of Scilly, it is not just the destination but the journey which is important. It can be a bit of a trek to get to Scilly, unless you live in Cornwall, but the trip really is part of the holiday experience. This introductory guide takes you through the different transport options available, with details of the different operators, prices and times, and gives you some information about travel on and between the islands once you have arrived.
Getting to the Scilly Isles
In order to get to the Scilly Isles, you will need to get to one of the ports which operates services to St Mary’s and Tresco islands. You can fly from places such as Bristol, Southampton, Exeter, Newquay or Penzance by plane, or take the helicopter from Penzance, or catch the ferry from Penzance. Once you have arrived at any of these ports, whether by train, car, coach or bus, you can choose between any of the following options to get to the islands:
British International Helicopters fly from Penzance. This is probably the most spectacular way to arrive, with the turquoise water glistening beneath you, the sun shining overhead and the rocky outcrops of secret islands emerging in the distance. However this option is certainly more expensive, and flights to or from the Scilly Isles may often be cancelled due to bad weather (in which case you will probably be shipped onto the replacement ferry without being refunded the difference).
Unlike the plane and the ferry, you can buy discounted return trips on the helicopter. Singles will cost you ?100 per adult, ?65 per child and ?38 for infants. Period returns cost ?190 for adults, ?119 for children and ?65 for infants. Saver returns – those at special times – are cheaper at ?162 per adult, ?104 per child, and ?62 per infant. Day trip returns cost ?110, ?72 and ?52 respectively.
You can get direct or connecting flights to the Scilly Isles from the following locations: Bristol and Newquay (Air South West connections to the Scillies), Penzance, Southampton, Land’s End, Exeter, Aberdeen, Alderney, Cardiff, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Jersey, Leeds-Bradford, Isle of Man, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Plymouth, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland or New York.
Isles of Scilly Travel runs flights from Southampton, Newquay, Exeter, Bristol and Land’s End to St Mary’s island. The downside of this option is that flights are sometimes cancelled due to bad weather (if this happens you will hopefully board a replacement ferry, but will not be refunded the difference).
Unless you are returning from the Scillies on the same day, then you will have to get two one way fares. The Skybus to or from Land’s End costs ?60 for an adult, ?46.50 for a child, ?27.50 for an infant, and ?12.50 for a dog. From Newquay it is ?75 per adult, ?59 per child, and ?36 per infant. From Exter it is ?100 per adult, ?55 for a child, and ?32 for infants. From Bristol it is ?115 per adult, ?62.50 for a child, and ?36.50 for infants. Flying from Southampton will cost you ?135 per adult, ?79 per child, and ?43.50 per infant.
Alternatively you can take the Scillonian III ferry, a much cheaper but a much more lengthy and less comfortable option. This passenger ferry is run by Isles of Scilly Travel and sails 6 days per week between March and October each year. This is much more reliable than the helicopter and plane, as these may be cancelled due to bad weather, but if you are accustomed to P&O ferries or fancy cruise ship liners then you are in for a rude awakening. It may be basic, but it is regular, reliable and it gets you there and back!
Unless you are returning from the Scillies on the same day, then you will have to get two one way fares. The ferry from Penzance costs ?42.50 per adult, ?21.50 per child, ?11 for infants, and ?12.50 for dogs.
Getting Around the Scilly Isles
Once you arrive at the Scilly Isles, most of your transport will be my mini-bus taxi, bike, boat or on foot. Mobility scooters are also available in some places. You can take day trips to the different islands, in addition to exploring the island where you are staying. Here is a summary of these different options:
Bryher Boats provide regular crossings between the islands from February to November each year: daily between Tresco and Bryher; Monday-Saturday to St Mary’s; Monday, Wednesday and Friday to St Martin’s; Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to St Agnes; and circular trips around the islands Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
St Agnes Boating runs a twice daily service between St Agnes and St Mary’s from April to November, in addition to return trips to Bryher, Tresco and St Martin’s. Return journeys will cost you in the region of ?8-?8.50. Or you can opt for a weekly pass which will cost approximately ?30.
Bicycle hire on St Mary’s with Book a Bike is priced at ?12 per day or ?60 per week, and you can cycle round the whole island in just a few hours. St Mary’s Bicycle Hire charges ?10 per day or ?50 per week. You can also hire bikes on Tresco through the Tresco Estate, which again charges ?10 per day or ?50 per week.
Bus and Coach Tours
These last around 1 hour 10 minutes and cost ?8 per person, allowing you to see all of St Mary’s island in no time at all. This options is perfect for some – including day trippers – who want a convenient way to see everything. The tours are operated Monday-Saturday, twice per day, by Island Rover.
Thanks for reading about how to travel to the Isles of Scilly, and about the kinds of transport within and between the islands of Scilly. Now that you know how to get there, take a look at the different islands…