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!

Archive for Travel

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: and also the MV Explorer Cruise Ship.

For more on visiting the Isles of Scilly, see

Isles of Scilly welcome the MV Explorer May Bank Holiday Weekend

The Isles of Scilly are welcoming over 40 Cruise Ships this summer, and the latest scheduled arrival is the MV Explorer.

The MV Explorer has a history dating back to the early 1970s when, as part of Lindblad Travel, she was the first custom-built expedition ship.  She is a small ship (100 passengers), whose ownership has changed over the years, and she has great experience and over the years has operated many cruises with success. She is small enough to visit small inlets and bays, yet large enough to ensure a comfortable and secure voyage.      

Visiting the Isles of Scilly by cruise ship is a great option for many visitors.  With over 40 ships, sailing between April and September, there are a range of options to suit everyone.

Travel to Scilly with the official Isles of Scilly Tourism website –

Arriving on the Isles of Scilly is a special experience. Whether it is a helicopter, light aircraft, or passenger ship, getting here is just the start of a truly distinctive holiday experience. We are an easy journey from the mainland, but may seem a world apart. And our inviting climate, outstanding natural history, and timeless approach to life will entice you to come back again and again.

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:

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.”

The Sun is Shining and the Gardens and Fields are Blooming!

It’s a beautiful warm sunny day here on the Isles of Scilly.  With three wonderful ways to get here (helicopter, airplane, passenger ferry) Easter break could be truly amazing for any visitor.  What will myself and my two little boys be up to?… playing on the beach (they love Porthmellon as the sand is the finest vanilla coloured sand, the rock pools are amazing, and there are many treasures to be beachcombed) … having a pub lunch on an Off-Island (all the Off-Islands have pubs that are open now, with amazing views and ganstronomic treats – fit for grown-ups and little ones) … horse-riding (they started at aged 4 and love being able to trek the fields of Holy Vale … visiting the museum (with a full rigged gig inside!) … spending an afternoon in the atmospheric ruined castles of King Charles, and Cromwell on Tresco enjoy superb views down Tresco Channel and over to Golden Ball ledge then on to the Eastern Isles …  exploring the sub-tropical paradise that is Tresco Abbey Garden … shop for some fishy trinkets at some of the art galleries or maybe try a chocolate, stained glass, or beach souvenirs craft class… playing pirates at the playpark atop the Garrison … and of course, doing an egg hunt!

Find out more at

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 With a range of exhibitions, concerts, and workshopes, there’s something for everyone.

Hell Bay Hotel has launched their new website at:

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

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:

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:

WalkScilly 2010 is well underway.  You can read more at or follow the BBC coverage on:

Love a local Scillonian restaurant?  Then why not nominate it for a new Gordon Ramsay TV series?  Find out more at:

The ArtScilly 2010 Itinerary is now available online!  You can find it at:

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:

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.

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

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

“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

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 :

For more about why the Isles of Scilly are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, which manages much of the Island environment, can be found at:

More on ArtScilly 2010 at

WalkScilly is at:

Spring on The Isles of Scilly

A beautiful walk into work today, along the coastal path and Porthcressa Beach, with some magnificent cherry trees in full blossom.  Spring has truly sprung across the Islands, with wonderful birdsong, amazing blossoms, and the hotels and shops coming to life for the start of the season.     Tresco Abbey Garden looks truly amazing, with a vast number of species in bloom!  Next week, the Scillonian III (the passenger ferry that sails from Penzance, Cornwall)  has her first sailing of the year.  Though most of next week is freight only, she accepts her first passengers of the season on March 27th under the command of her new Captain, just in time for the start of WalkScilly2010 – which runs until easter weekend and also co-incides with the Isles of Scilly Folk Festival.  (You can follow the WalkScilly 2010 blog at: )  We are also full tilt into the planning of ArtScilly 2010, in this inaugural year, for this all encompassing arts festival with venues, events, and exhibitions across all of the Islands (more on  The festival will showcase the diverse and exciting range of talent from music to fine art to photography!

Do keep in touch for more online news and information about the Isles of Scilly or checkout (for information about all types of accommodation from self-catering to bed and breakfast, travel by boat or helicopter or airplane, day trips, short breaks, activities and more).