The Isles of Scilly are located around 28 miles off Cornwall’s coast, and although there are many islands, only five are inhabited by humans (though you may find the odd barn or boatshed from years gone by). This area resembles the Caribbean with warmer weather (though not that warm!), blue seas and white sandy beaches, along with tropical gardens and artists using the painter’s light to sketch migrating birds, who often stop here as the first resting point, to give their wings a rest! Other wildlife abundant here include grey seals, puffins and dolphins. Due to the warmer weather, many people buy flowers later in the year from Scilly florists, but know that all bulbs (including daffodils) are toxic to pets.
However, do not be fooled. The sea bed is littered with shipwrecks due to high winds (Bishop Rock lighthouse has seen many tragedies). And the sea is not as pristine as it appears. One local sailor who got straned on the bird nesting islet of Annet for three days (living off seaweed and limpets) was shocked to find dead birds, seals and dolphins entangled in nets, along with car tyres and fridges. As a result, he set up Clean Ocean Sailing, which now has 100 volunteers who have collected 15,000 items of rubbish from 68 Cornish locations. Find more ways to help your local wildlife rescue and animal shelter.
The 5 inhabited islands are:
- St Mary’s has around 2000 people. Less than 6 square miles, Hugh Town is surrounded by beaches, ferry docks, white sandy beaches and beautiful nature trails.
- Tresco is known for its tropical gardens, here you’ll find 20,000 plants that grow mostly nowhere else. The lovely beaches and rugged nature is perfect for watching birds.
- St Agnes is the most southerly tip of the British Isles, and faces out to the second lighthouse (the first washed away in a storm and 3000 miles of sea). Filled with little cottages and flower fields, you’ll also find shipwrecked treasures on the beaches.
- Bryher has a windy side and a calm sandy side. This island has less than 100 residents. Visitors can walk around the island, but watch out for choppy waves.
- St Martin’s is a tiny island (just 2 miles long) with rock pools and lovely beaches, perfect for spotting dolphins and seals. This is the first island you spot, if travelling from Penzance (a 3-hour ferry journey).
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. Max Davidson
Scilly Organics offers organic veganic (no animal manure) produce buy 1kg of potatoes, courgettes, salads and apples, and your footprint goes down by 6kg!) Also grows strawberries, apples, peaches and grapes.
SC Salt (St Martin’s) is evaporated in Scilly sunshine (chilli, garlic, salt & pepper, smoked salt). Avoid salt on doctor advice and don’t feed salty leftovers to pets, garden birds or wildfowl). Their Isles of Scilly Navigation Chart marks where pirates once roamed. Shiver me timbers!
Scilly Spirit Distillery (St Mary’s) is made with classical botanicals, balanced with pepper and cardamom (Atlantic Strength version is best served with a sprig of dill or fennel). Refills are delivered in cardboard packaging by electric van. SC Dogs Distillery makes local booze (all bar one is vegan), each bottle dedicated to the memory of an ancient ‘sea dog’ who sailed the ocean waves (and sometimes smuggled rum!) Avoid tonic water (quinine) for pregnancy/nursing, abnormal heart rhythm, kidney or liver disease or low blood sugar.
Phoenix & Providence (St Martin’s) sustainably harvests bladderwack 100 metres away from where made, trekked from the sea by wheelbarrow! Try seaweed clay mask, bath salts and midwinter body oil (with oils of orange, pine and vetiver). Do not eat/use seaweed for thyroid issues. Avoid Epsom Salts for diabetes, open wounds, burns/skin infections or kidney/heart disease, pregnancy and children. Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing, epilepsy, asthma or heart conditions (avoid rosemary, citrus and sage oils for high blood pressure).
Never harvest seaweed if you don’t know what you’re doing, as the ecosystem is home to shy little seahorses (keep dogs away from seaweed as they like to play with fronds, but it can be a medical emergency, it it dries and expands in the stomach).