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The Isles of Scilly - The Main Islands

  • St. Mary's at 629 hectares (1554 acres) is the largest of the Isles of Scilly. It is home to about 1600 residents or three-quarters of the population of the whole island group. It is also the only island possessing any motor traffic, excluding the tractors on Tresco and Bryher. The ferry from the mainland 'The Scillonian III' docks here at the quay in front of Town Beach. It is only a short walk from the quay to the 'capital' Hugh Town. There is something for everyone on St. Mary's. Apart from the usual souvenir shops you can take a walk out around The Garrison or down to the lighthouse on Peninnis Head. There is a small airport at Salakee Down in the south east of the island and the remains of an Iron Age village at Halangy Down in the north. Fine Bronze Age chambered tombs are found at Innisidgen Grid Ref. SV922126, Bant's Carn and The Giant's Tomb above Porth Hellick Grid Ref. SV929108. The Giant's Castle is an Iron Age cliff castle dating from the 5th Century BC. Pelistry Bay, Toll's Island and Porth Hellick offer good beaches, but all around the coast the the landscape is quite rugged due to the granite bedrock. The only campsite on St. Mary's is at Garrison Farm - for details telephone (01720) 422670. A full day's walk around the 9 miles or so of coastline on St. Mary's would take about 5 to 6 hours - not really feasible on a single day trip. Why not check out our recent photographic excursion to St. Mary's . To learn more about what makes a Scillonian why not purchase Cornwall: People of the Isles of Scilly by A Wigglesworth.

    Tresco (copyright Tom Corser)

    Photo: Tom Corser Licenced under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 England & Wales (C) 2005

  • Tresco is the second largest (735 acres) of the main islands and has become world renowned for its sub-tropical 'Tresco Abbey Gardens' currently under the stewardship of the Dorrien-Smith family. Visitors arrive at the island either by helicopter landing at Abbey Green or by passenger boat normally docking at New Grimsby. The north of the island offers good cliff walking near Cromwell's Castle and there is an ancient (Bronze Age) chambered tomb at Tregarthen Down whereas the south and east of the island is made up almost completely of beaches and wide sandy bays such as Appletree Bay, Green Porth and the large Pentle Bay where there are remains of Bronze Age hut circles. It is quite common to find seeds from the Caribbean making their landfall on these beaches and the island air is tremendous. A full day's walk on Tresco would take about 4 to 5 hours - the same as for St. Martin's below. Incidentally, St. Helen's and Tešn lie between Tresco and St. Martin's at the northeastern end of the island. Congratulations to Bob Brown and Angie Sadler winners of the Tresco Marathon 2007.

    St Martins from the air

    Photo: Tom Corser Licenced under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 England & Wales (C) 2005

  • St. Martin's; White Island and Tešn St. Martin's is the third largest island of the group (586 acres) and lies to the NE of the others. The island is somewhat crescent-shaped with the horns of the crescent being the cliffs of the north and south. The body of the crescent being the excellent wide sandy beaches of Lawrance's Bay and Higher Town Bay (Par Beach) to the west and Great Bay to the east. Once again there are some Bronze Age tombs just south of Higher Town and a standing stone or mÍnhir near Carn Weathers on Chapel Down. Just to the south of the island lies Nornour and its partner Great Ganilly. The former being the site of a Romano-British shrine dating from about the 1st Century AD. The island's coastpath runs for about 6 miles so a full day's walk could be undertaken. Why not take a walk to visit the daymark tower on Chapel Down or maybe even rough it under canvas at Middle Town Campsite for details telephone (01720) 422888. White Island lies off the north east of the island and is connected to St. Martins by a stony bar only accessible at low tide. The main beach on White Island is called Porth Morran. Tešn (pronounced Tee-Ann) is a small irregularly shaped island lying about 200m offshore west of Lower Town There are several small beaches including Yellow Porth, Black Porth, St. Helen's Porth, West Porth and East Porth.

  • St. Agnes and the Gugh are joined at their mid point by 'The Bar' - a coarse sand and shingle causeway only accessible at low tide so please be aware of the tide. Once again, as with all the other main islands, there are traces of our Bronze and Iron Age ancestors here especially on the northern part of Gugh around Kittern Hill. The two most famous monuments being the mÍnhir or longstone - the 9 foot high 'Old Man of Gugh' and also 'Obadiah's Barrow'. The best beaches on St. Agnes are Cove Vean, Periglis and Porth Coose, whereas Gugh only really has Dropnose Porth. The island's coastpath runs for about 3 miles so a full day's round trip takes about 2 hours. There is a campsite on St. Agnes at Troy Town Farm - for details telephone (01720) 422360. Just northeast of Gugh lie the infamous 'Bartholomew's Ledges' - the scene of many a shipwreck. The islands have a combined area of 366 acres.

  • Bryher is an island of contrasts. On a fine, calm day there is nothing better than relaxing on the rugged granite landscape. On a stormy day or in winter however, the island changes its character completely. A storm approaching the north of the island is a terrifying sight and you can really see why Hell Bay got its name. Indeed the 'Maipu' was wrecked here in 1879. The channels between the islands are quite shallow and so waves can be whipped to a froth on a windy day. Bryher is another island divided into southern sandy bays and northern rocky cliffs. The only campsite on Bryher can be contacted on (01720) 422670. There are once again several ancient Bronze Age monuments (1500BC) on Shipman Head Down and at Green Bay. Bryher has an area of 327 acres. Gweal is a small islet mid way along the western side of Bryher. It lies just offshore north of Great Porth and east of the Norrard Rocks.

  • Samson lies just to the south of Bryher and is now uninhabited. The 95 acre island is basically two hills joined by a low saddle. Apart from the now deserted houses there are quite a few indications of prehistoric settlers. There are Bronze Age chambered tombs on the ridges of the hills and a recently excavated settlement near West Porth. West of the island the sea is littered with smaller islands and rocks such as Castle Bryher, Illiswilgig, Mincarlo, Seal Rock and Maiden Bower. This was a scene of many a shipwreck, the two most famous being 'The Colossus' which ran aground on the south of the island in 1798 and 'The Delaware' wrecked in the channel between Samson and Bryher in December 1871.

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