Simply Scilly Blog

About the Isles of Scilly … everything from events to news to pictures to how to get here and have a great holiday!

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World Pilot Gig Championships – Isles of Scilly

When Ships were made of Wood and Men were made of Iron!

The First Pilot Gig Boats were built in the 18th century with the purpose of taking a pilot out to a sailing ship and putting him aboard to carefully navigate ships into safe waters. Pilotage on Scilly was for many years the main source of living with a general rule that the first man aboard got the job and of course the rewards that came with it.

All Scillonian gigs and Cornish gigs were made of Cornish Elm and are approximately 30 feet in length and 5 feet in beam. They were built for hard work; had to withstand heavy seas, yet were required to be fast and stable.

Gigs were sometimes used in conjunction with Pilot cutters. These are larger boats that would tow the Gig closer to the oncoming ship then they would transfer the crew of the gig onboard for the race to the ship.

Pilotage in Scilly was a hazardous occupation and until the arrival of a lifeboat on St. Agnes Scillonian gigs were synonymous with saving and loss of life.

Pilot gigs were also used for smuggling and salvage. Gigs often rowed to France and contraband tobacco and spirits were also exchanged for fresh vegetables and eggs. In fact gigs were banned from having eight oars as the custom and excise couldn’t catch them!

Gigs were also used in salvage. Anything that could be salvaged from the sea from cattle to grand pianos brought in wealth to the islands, and the church on St. Agnes was built in the nineteenth century using the proceeds of the sale of a wreck. The church bell was also taken from the same wreck.

World Pilot Gig Championships

The Isles are awash with gig and rowers!  Over 120 gigs will be patricipating in this weekend’s races, which are  a vital part of the Islands’ culture and tourism economy.  This year’s races boast a team from the Netherlands, several new gigs in their first Championships, and rowers ranging in age from 20 – 85.

The Isles of Scilly will also be hosting two additional ships this weekend:  the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Campbeltown (find out more at: www.royalnavy.mod.uk/operations-and-support/surface-fleet/type-22-frigates/hms-campbeltown/) and also the MV Explorer Cruise Ship.

For more on visiting the Isles of Scilly, see www.simplyscilly.co.uk

The Marco Polo Arrives on the Isles of Scilly on the 27th, just days ahead of the World Pilot Gig Championships (May Bank Holiday Weekend).

The Marco Polo Arrives on the Isles of Scilly on the 27th, just days ahead of the World Pilot Gig Championships (May Bank Holiday Weekend).

The Marco Polo is a fully stabilised and air conditioned classic ocean liner, extensively re-built in 1993 for the discerning premium cruise market. She can accommodate up to 820 guests and has eight passenger decks, serviced by three main lobbies and four lifts.  She also boasts two main restaurants, five principal lounge areas, a library, card room, internet café, gallery, wellness centre, outdoor pool, three whirlpools, and a traditional walk around promenade.   For more on Marco Polo cruises to the Isles of Scilly, see www.cruiseandmaritime.com

Cruising to the Isles of Scilly  — Escape.  Wander.  Daydream.  Explore.

This year, the Isles of Scilly will welcome more than 37 cruise ships from around the World.  Cruising offers a wonderful opportunity to arrive at, and experience the Islands, in a magical way.  Once you’ve experienced a taste of the sub-tropical climate, explored the white sandy beaches, and explored some of our many gardens, cafes, local galleries, or heritage sites, you will want to come back for a longer stay.  Many cruise ship passengers do just that!

The unique Isles of Scilly, Britain’s only island archipelago, just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, are a haven for those dreaming of open spaces, relaxation and tranquility.

With over 100 islands, there’s so much to explore. How about a sailing trip to visit seals or puffins or a picnic on a uninhabited island? For the more adventurous, there are many challenging dive sites around Scilly such as the HMS Association, a 300 year old ship wreck near the famous Bishop Rock Lighthouse, Britain’s tallest. For all who visit, the Islands offer a real escape, with many quiet coastal paths, nature reserves and coves to enjoy.

There are 5 inhabited Islands:  St Mary’s the largest and the hub of activity, Bryher, St Agnes, St Martin’s and Tresco. There are more detailed descriptions on each under “The Islands” tab above.

Due to the mild climate, a result of the Gulf Stream that passes close by, colourful displays of exotic plants and flowers abound; their scents accompanying the visitor on many a coastal walk. Indeed, numerous rare species found nowhere else in Britain, thrive here as a result.

So special are the islands, historically and environmentally, that the whole area is a protected Marine Park, a Heritage Coast and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Preserved, so that it can be enjoyed by islanders and visitors alike for many generations to come.

So, breathe in that air and enjoy your visit!

For more on the Isles of Scilly, see www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Tips for a Great Cruise Holiday

1. Planning your cruise:  plan as early ahead of time as you can; select your cruise by destination first, then time of year; find a cruise line that suits your needs and wants.

2. Don’t forget to pack some cruising essentials:  a basic first aid kit; bottled water; chewing gum; travel-size alarm clock; mini stereo; electrical extension lead/power strip/surge protector (it’s always good to ensure that you can use all your devices, especially as the advent of mobile phones, MP3 players, and laptops came after many ships were originally built), and fabric softener sheets (place between your clothes and in your shoes to help them stay fresh).

3. Explore with a European cruise option.  European cruises are a good holiday option for first-timers and for those who have been to Europe before.   They are ideal for those who want to see the history, art, and natural beauty of Europe without having to drive, change trains and train stations, or engage in extensive planning.

4. Take advantage of this efficient way to ‘Taste’ a destination. Europe is relatively compact and you can see many cities and sites easily. Most cruise ships sail at night and arrive in the next port of call early in the morning, giving you a full day to sightsee.   You will also then get planned excursions to see the local sites which you can book onboard, and often passengers can also alight and explore on their own.  European cruising is also very convenient.  You only have to unpack once and knowing different languages is not as important when you are cruising.

5. Take care of the Cruise staff and they will take care of you.   The cabin steward and other staff can really contribute to making the most of your cruise, and given the length of time of your cruise, they will have a daily impact on your comforts, planning, and special arrangements you may request.

6.  Research your cabin carefully.  There is a great deal of diversity among cruise ship cabins, so be sure to study the layout and architecture of the ship’s deck plans before selecting your cabin.   Ask your travel agent for advice and research online for others who have sailed the ship. Think about what is important to you and consider benefits of upgrading for additional cost.  If your holiday is limited, you might want to spend a bit more for a better cabin.

World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly this weekend!

PILOT GIGS … When Ships were made of Wood and Men were made of Iron!

The First Pilot Gig Boats were built in the 18th century with the purpose of taking a pilot out to a sailing ship and putting him aboard to carefully navigate ships into safe waters. Pilotage on Scilly was for many years the main source of living with a general rule that the first man aboard got the job and of course the rewards that came with it. 

All Scillonian gigs and Cornish gigs were made of Cornish Elm and are approximately 30 feet in length and 5 feet in beam. They were built for hard work; had to withstand heavy seas, yet were required to be fast and stable.

Gigs were sometimes used in conjunction with Pilot cutters. These are larger boats that would tow the Gig closer to the oncoming ship then they would transfer the crew of the gig onboard for the race to the ship.

Pilotage in Scilly was a hazardous occupation and until the arrival of a lifeboat on St. Agnes Scillonian gigs were synonymous with saving and loss of life.

Pilot gigs were also used for smuggling and salvage. Gigs often rowed to France and contraband tobacco and spirits were also exchanged for fresh vegetables and eggs. In fact gigs were banned from having eight oars as the custom and excise couldn’t catch them!

Gigs were also used in salvage. Anything that could be salvaged from the sea from cattle to grand pianos brought in wealth to the islands, and the church on St. Agnes was built in the nineteenth century using the proceeds of the sale of a wreck. The church bell was also taken from the same wreck.

World Pilot Gig Championships

The 21st World Pilot Gig Championships will take place from Friday, 30 April until Monday, 3 May 2010 on the Isles of Scilly.  The Islands extend our invitation to you to come experience this unique event. The format will remain much the same as in previous years, but with some changes.   The wonderful spirit of competition and camaraderie that endures during this weekend is what makes this such a momentous occasion. Please join us to celebrate all that is good about rowing.

Programme of Events 2010

Friday 30th April

5.00pm Coxswains Meeting and Registration Town Hall
All coxswains are requested to attend
6.30pm
8.00pm
Ladies Veterans
Mens Veterans
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.59 nautical miles)
     

Saturday 1st May

12.00noon
1.00pm
2.15pm

3.30pm
5.15pm

Coxswains Briefing
Ladies Round 1
Mens Round 1

Ladies Round 2
Mens Round 2

Holgates Green
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.59 nautical miles)
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.16 nautical miles)
     

Sunday 2nd May

10.00am
11.45am
1.30pm
3.30pm
5.00pm
8.00pm
Ladies Round 3
Mens Round 3
Ladies Final
Mens Final
Presentation of Trophies
Barbecue
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Holgates Green
Porthmellon Gig Sheds (Bar until 1am)
     
     

Monday 3rd May

10.30am
10.30am
11.30am
Rugby ‘International’
Gig Sail Race Briefing
Gig Sail Race
The Garrison
Holgates Green
For the Pilots Widows Trophy

You can find more about the 2010 World Pilot Gig Championships at: www.worldgigs.co.uk.

You can find out more about the Isles of Scilly at www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Easter on The Isles of Scilly ….

sandy beaches, children frolicking in the sea, turquoise waters, boat trips to an almost deserted Island …

It’s good to be back on the Isles of Scilly.  Having been away for a week, coming back is truly coming home to a community that is warm and like no other.  Hugh Town is bustling, cafes and galleries are opening up, pub gardens are awash with colour, horse-riding on the weekend was amazing. 

The trip away certainly filled the gap for modernity (a trip to the cinema was a delight, as there are none here) but travelling the 28 miles back, we could see the Islands from the air, like a jewelled necklace rising from the sea, and the feeling of getting-away-from-it-all comes flooding back.   No traffic, shopkeepers who know your name, passersby on the street who wave and shout hello, boatmen who remember your favourites from last year, no amusement arcades or crowds or litter.  They boys look forward to coming home almost as soon as they leave, knowing they can run and play with freedom like no other place.   And the Easter Bunny even left some surprise eggs, hidden around the house.

And the weather has been stunning, the suncream has been cracked open, summr hats firmly on.  It’s been warm and sunny, with wonderful inter-Island boat trips (only 15 mins) and dazzling sunsets.  The narcissi field outside the kitchen window is a blaze of yellow, with the sea in the distance and Samson gently rising behind.  You can hear the bees until sunset, and wake with the gentle bird calls (and those of the chickens just down the drive too!)  I can’t imagine a better place to welcome Easter, and the Springtime, than on these beautiful Islands.

For more about the Islands, just visit:  www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Our Favourite Quotes About the Isles of Scilly

“I went for the Easter break  to find not only heat but also empty beaches — and, on the right side of peak season, there were enough people to keep the islands alive but too few to make a crowd…  How else can you make summer longer? While the rest of the country was being smothered by clouds, the Isles of Scilly, sticking out as they do on the very southwestern tip of England, were sitting under improbably clear skies…After several British breaks that ended in rain, I felt as if I too had been fished out and saved from despair. The shipwreck archipelago will rescue you — and that’s the best contradiction of all”     Kathleen Wyatt – The Times

“With the biggest town the size of a village and place names such as Grandfather Hugh’s Point, the whole place can seem like something from a storybook”    Mail Online, Amanda Riley Jones

“It reminds me of all the good things, not only about England, but the world on which we live. My family never feel safer than there.”  The Mail, quoting Jude Law

“In the Scilly Isles, myth and reality seem to blend in a cocktail of romantic escape”  The Guardian, Richard Waters

 “There are fresh delights around every corner: a deserted cove; a windy headland; a hedgerow speckled with wild flowers; a necklace of other islands shimmering in the distance”   The Telegraph, Max Davidson

 “The sea has that translucent end-of-the-day glow as it lazily folds back and forth across the sand. I perch on a rock, close my eyes and revel in the sense of having stopped, of having reached the end of my journey. The end, as it feels when I open my eyes, of the world”   The Observer, Annabelle Thorpe

 Tim Smit of the Eden Project: “I adore Tresco; it makes me feel I have returned to my childhood”

Michael Morpurgo, in The Telegraph:  “We found a nice little b & b on the Isle of Bryher, and had the most marvellous holiday. There was something for everyone – the beach for the kids, the island’s abundant flowers for my wife, and a little deserted isle I found nearby where I could get some peace and quiet and do a bit of writing.  That was 28 years ago and my wife and I have been going back every summer, and in particular to the little isle of Bryher, which has become a home from home. I’ve written several books there over the years, among them Why the Whales Came, which was turned into a film.  As you approach the Scillies they look a little like dumplings in the ocean – they’re very low-lying – but the seas around them are a shade of blue like nowhere else in the British Isles.  Holidaying there is all about messing about in boats, messing about on the beach, and now, at my age, sitting with a glass of wine on the beach and enjoying the view. It also boasts wonderful wildlife: dolphins porpoises, birds. The funny thing is you can walk around Bryher in an hour but we never tire of this lovely little spot – and if you do want to venture farther afield there are the other islands.”

Today’s Scilly News and Information

Today’s News from the Isles of Scilly (Cornwall, UK)

The ArtScilly 2010 Itinerary is now live.  You can download it from www.simplyscilly.co.uk. With a range of exhibitions, concerts, and workshopes, there’s something for everyone.

Hell Bay Hotel has launched their new website at: www.hellbay.co.uk

Good weather returns for WalkScilly2010 – 4th day of the festival – today’s walks featuring The Sky At Night and Off the Beaten Track

Love Scilly?  Why not recommend a visit to the Isles with the NYTimes .. at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/travel/2010-places-to-go.html

News from the Isles of Scilly … Easter ideas and more!

What’s the latest news from across the Isles of Scilly?  Thinking of taking an Easter Break?  …

The BBC have recently filmed a wonderful piece about the Tresco Abbey Garden, which will air on Friday April 2nd (Good Friday) at 8:30 on BBC2.   The tropical Abbey Garden is a glorious space – a perennial Kew without the glass – shrugging off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host 20,000 exotic plants.  Many would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Yet even at the winter equinox more than 300 plants will be in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.  You can find out more about Tresco at:  http://www.simplyscilly.co.uk/site/isles-of-scilly/tresco

The BBC are also filming the pilot of a new series, based on learning to draw 13 different species of UK wildlife, here on the Islands at the end of April.  The Isles of Scilly episode will feature our local seal colony and will air in September.  You can read more about our exceptional environment at: http://www.simplyscilly.co.uk/site/about-scilly/exceptional-environment

WalkScilly 2010 is well underway.  You can read more at www.simplyscilly.co.uk or follow the BBC coverage on:http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cornwall/hi/things_to_do/newsid_8534000/8534247.stm

Love a local Scillonian restaurant?  Then why not nominate it for a new Gordon Ramsay TV series?  Find out more at: http://www.simplyscilly.co.uk/site/gordon-ramsays-best-restaurant

The ArtScilly 2010 Itinerary is now available online!  You can find it at: www.artscilly.com

Come for an Easter Break  and enjoy …   Music: There is a vibrant, island-wide music scene, with a variety of bands playing anything from jazz and folk, to rhythm and blues and rock. Concerts and gigs provide a real showcase for the talented acts. Indeed, many up and coming national bands kick start or end music tours on Scilly, with the location perhaps adding an extra something to the performance.    Creative: The Isles of Scilly offer a wealth of creative options, with artisans of every type imaginable. From local chocolate makers to jewellery designers, our arts community is strong, vibrant, and ever-growing! Also, if you are interested in developing your artistic skills, just e-mail the Tourist Information Centre for more information of courses and creative holidays that are on offer across the isles.

The Scillonian III (the passenger ship running between St. Mary’s and Penzance) is now sailing her regular spring schedule.  The harbour looks delightful now that she’s back, and the majority of boats are back in.  Regular Off-Island excursion are well underway now.  More at:  http://www.simplyscilly.co.uk/site/travel-to-scilly

Travel to the Isles of Scilly for an Amazing Holiday in Cornwall

A Visit to the Isles of Scilly is an Unforgettable Experience ..  why you should come and how to get here …  The Isles of Scilly are a small archipelago, 28 miles off the southwest tip of Cornwall (England, UK).   Boasting turquoise seas, almost deserted beaches, and a wealth of amazing discoveries, Scilly  has something for everyone.  Look on any map and you can see why our location provides: over 25 stunning white sandy beaches, sub-tropical weather, unique flora and fauna, a time-less quintessential English holiday experience.   Indeed the whole of Scilly is a reminder of a slower, kinder and more genteel England.   You can arrive by boat, airplane, or helicopter … however you travel here your journey will leave an indelible impression.  Accommodation here ranges from 5 star self-catering to Green bed & breakfasts to luxury hotels that leave you wanting for nothing.  Activities and events range from walking festivals to amazing art galleries; from great pubs to quaint restaurants; from swimming with seals to fishing for sharks; from relaxing on a beach to unwinding with local wine and a fabulous view.    With some of the best beaches, accommodation, events, and activities available in the southwest, the Isles of Scilly are truly spectacular.  Like Cornwall? Love Scilly!

About the Isles:    At16km2 the Isles of Scilly are the smallest AONB designation in the UK and possess a diversity of scenery that belies their small scale. Panoramas of sea and sky are punctuated by lenses of low-lying land. The archipelago combines rugged granite cliffs and headlands, sparkling sandy bays, hidden coves, shifting dunes and saline lagoons. The sea surrounding Scilly is remarkably clear with translucent azure and turquoise shallows and darker blue and green hues in deep offshore waters. www.simplyscilly.co.uk/site/about-scilly

Getting here:   Whether you arrive by helicopter, fixed-wing aircraft, or passenger ship, getting here is simple… and just the start of a truly distinctive holiday experience. You could be overlooking an island panorama by lunchtime!   Flying to the Isles of Scilly starts from either the UK (Land’s End, Penzance, Newquay, Southampton, Exeter, Aberdeen, Alderney, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Jersey, Isle of Man, Leeds-Bradford, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Plymouth ), continental Europe (Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland) or the USA (New York).  Each of these airports features a connecting or direct flight to the Isles of Scilly, leading to St. Mary’s or Tresco.    You can also drive or take the train to any of the connecting air or sea departure points in the Southwest of England. All departure points are easily accessible by rail or road, each airport offers parking facilities, pets are welcome on Land’s End flights, and there are many convenient train connections from the Midlands, London, and the South.www.simplyscilly.co.uk/site/travel-to-scilly

Where to stay:   The perfect holiday starts with the perfect place.  Waking up on Scilly – when you look out onto the sea for the first time that day, your horizons broaden, vistas open up, and the sky is huge.    You will find that our range of accommodation offerings make the most of our architectural heritage.  From converted barns to castles, from 4-star hotels to 2-star self catering, we offer a range of options to suit everyone.  Hotels:  Four of the Isles of Scilly offer hotels that are truly individual.  St. Mary’s, Tresco, St. Martin’s and Bryher all offer full-service hotel options.  You will find a variety of hotels ranging in architectural style, star rating, and breadth of services on offer.  And you will always find a welcoming smile, local knowledge, and comfortable accommodation.  Guest Houses:  Guest houses abound across the Isles of Scilly, offering an array of accommodation and services.   You can stay close to the quay or in the heart of the countryside.  You can stay in a traditional cottage or a converted barn.  Some offer the best sea views imaginable and others offer wonderful home-cooked evening meals.  B & B:  Bed and Breakfast accommodation is available on four of the Islands, and offer a huge array of architectural styles and services.   If you are interested in Green accredited accommodation, we have welcoming and unique options.  If you love a chat with a native Scillonian across the breakfast table, in a small B&B facing the beach, we have options for you too.   If you love a lush modern bathroom, or a Laura Ashley style bedroom, you will find something that suits.   Self-Catering:  Self-Catering options are widely available across all of the Islands.  From 2 people to 10, from a romantic short-break to a relaxing three week holiday, you can find the ideal accommodation to suit you.   From modern to traditional, from 4 star to 2 star, your tastes and budget will be satisfied!    Camping:   Camping is a unique and fun way to experience the Isles of Scilly.  Our 4 campsites (one on each island, except Tresco) boast a range of amenities as standard, making your outdoor experience quite a comfortable one.  You will find the following as standard, across all the sites:  showers, toilets, wash-handbasins, hot & cold water, washing up facilities, freezer packs, washing machines, tumble dryers, hair dryers, transport of equipment, gas exchange.  As regards to food, all our campsites either have a food shop or are within a few minutes walk of one, and are also very close to warm and inviting pubs and eateries.  For more on where to stay, see www.simplyscilly.co.uk

“There are fresh delights around every corner: a deserted cove; a windy headland; a hedgerow speckled with wild flowers; a necklace of other islands shimmering in the distance”  The Telegraph, Max Davidson  www.telegraph.co.uk

94% of our visitors* say they are going to return again.  Why?  Lying just 28 miles off the southwest tip of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly is an island paradise, providing stunning white sand beaches, azure waters and a wonderful climate where subtropical plants thrive in a truly unique environment.   Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the islands enjoy a microclimate that attracts rare birds amongst the colourful hedgerows where exotic plants thrive. Such is there importance that the islands are protected by various environmental designations and is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.   Quite simply – the Isles of Scilly are a stunning and unique area of the UK.

Some of the great reasons to come and explore the Islands include:

Golfing: on the UK’s most south-westerly golf course

Sailing and Boating: on our translucent seas, around secluded islets and coves

Diving: over 900 wrecks lie beneath the waves, challenging all abilities

Kayaking: tranquil explorations around headlands and beaches

Windsurfing: getting between the Islands has never been so much fun

Fishing: anglers have never had it so good

Bird watching and wildlife: unique species and special migrants

Walking: enjoy our annual walking festival or roam alone at your own pace

Cycling: from easy lanes to more testing trails

Horse-riding: trek vivid purple heathlands or along a beach

Special Interest: everything from Line Dancing to Bowls

You can find more information about the Isles of Scilly, find a place to stay, search for activities, and more online at : www.simplyscilly.co.uk

For more about why the Isles of Scilly are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at:www.ios-aonb.info

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, which manages much of the Island environment, can be found at: www.ios-wildlifetrust.org.uk/

More on ArtScilly 2010 at www.artscilly.com

WalkScilly is at: www.walkscilly.com.uk