Never having been to the Scillies before (and having wanted to for many years) we took advantage today of the bargain £25 return fare for locals in the quiet time of March/April/May, from Isles of Scilly Travel. It meant an early start with a one and a half hour drive and finding parking before check-in by 8.45am, but no problem (we don’t often have to get up early). Our journey was somewhat spoilt by the realisation that we didn’t have our documentation with us to prove we were local. However dire thoughts of paying full-fare were soon allayed by the kind receptionist who believed us (for one reason or another)!
The fact that it was a grey day did not worry us a bit as the day was forecast as ‘changeable’ with some sunny spells, and the ship, the Scillonian III, was all that could be expected…we were soon ensconced in comfortable seats with our newspaper and a coffee and pastry from one of the two restaurant/cafes…
and it was very interesting to see the whole of St. Mount’s Bay, and then the coastline all the way to Land’s End and Bishop’s Rock lighthouse. We caught a glimpse of Mousehole and Porthcurno beach and the Minack theatre, and I was fascinated to see the sheer cliffs for long stretches. My daughter and I had walked from Land’s End to Minack a few years ago and were not at all aware of the miles of precipitous cliffs whose top we were merrily traversing.
The trip across was two hours and forty-five minutes, but for the last hour or so we could see the Scillies coming up. To me an amazing sight, lots and lots of islands seemingly just dropped into the wide, wide ocean. And the closer we got the more we could make out long beaches of white sand, and signs of communities (small though they are).
and, as promised, on cue as it were, the weather changed and became quite pleasant.
Pulling into the harbour at Hugh Town, the capital of St Mary’s, there was a flurry of activity, motor boats, yachts, ferries criss-crossing – everyone bound for somewhere. We had read and been told that the capital of the Scillies was akin to a large village on the mainland, but it seemed quite sizeable to us, and so it proved. It really was quite lovely with several beaches, a good range of shops, hotels, B+Bs, art galleries, and friendly natives.
Due to previous research, we were making for Juliet’s Garden on a hill above the town promising views of all the islands, and good food. It was a pretty and rewarding half-hour walk to get there, what with the white beaches and plentiful flowers…..and glimpses back towards the harbour and our ship, still unloading the containers of supplies of all kinds on which all the islands depend.
and one unexpected sight was an expensive yacht stranded on the rocks…..
Juliet’s was great. As soon as we sat down outside the waitress was there with a menu and chat. The food was tasty and reasonable. The views terrific.
As we had another couple of hours after lunch we climbed the hill, all the time accompanied by lots of planes holding a handful of passengers landing and taking off, and dropped down to the outskirts of Old Town where there was yet another simply beautiful beach….
Back in Hugh Town, we walked westwards to investigate the four star Star Castle Hotel which was right inside the famous fortifications…the castle dates to Elizabethan times and was built by Francis Godolphin, who leased the islands from Queen Elizabeth I in 1571. The castle was constructed shortly after the Spanish Armada as a lookout post to protect south-west England. Built in the shape of an eight-pointed star, it has lots of nooks and crannies, some of which we explored (and very interesting too), deep ramparts, and is surrounded by a dry moat…..a wonderful place to stay if one can afford it, the views immense, the location unsurpassed.
So, all in all, a very memorable day. We can’t wait to return, and would love to stay, and to visit St Martin’s which is small (2 miles long, 120 population) and with the whitest of the white beaches.