Tresco is the only island of the Isles of Scilly that is run privately and not by the Duchy of Cornwall. This picturesque island is now leased to the Dorrien-Smith family who are descended from Augustus Smith, once Lord Proprietor of Scilly and a hugely influential figure in the history of the Isles.
Arriving on Tresco on the tripper boat from St Mary’s my friend and I were greeted by blue skies and crystal clear water that we both wanted to jump straight in to. Turning a corner I couldn’t help but squeal with delight as the most beautiful view over turquoise sea was revealed. We casually strolled along the lane towards the Tresco Abbey Gardens, our first port of call, past purple heather-dusted dunes and agapanthus flowers swaying regally above the sea grass.
On first entering Tresco Abbey Gardens we came to the blue bridge that crosses over to the main garden. The trees that surround the bridge were full of scurrying red squirrels. We stood and watched them nibbling at their nutty finds – I love their rusty colour and their tufty ears. I didn’t get any great photos as they move so quickly and I didn’t want to get in their space and startle them.
The subtropical climate of the Isles of Scilly allows plants to thrive that would otherwise struggle elsewhere in the UK. For that reason alone it’s fascinating to walk around outdoors among succulents, aloes, agave, palms numerous flower varieties and tall cypress trees. Of course there were plenty of agapanthus otherwise you’d have to question whether you were even on the Scilly Isles anymore. We spent a while meandering around the paths, marvelling at the weird and wonderful flora.
Aside from the plants, the ruins of the old Benedictine priory are still part of the garden, and there are a number of other historical artefacts around the grounds. One that I found particularly interesting was a Roman altar thought to be from a shipwreck as very few other Roman items have been found on Scilly. The shell mural is a focal point of the gardens which I thought was quite pretty although I’m not sure of its historical significance. The Valhalla museum is where you can see the figureheads and name boards of ships that were wrecked in the surrounding waters, each with a plaque detailing how the ship met its end. It’s weirdly interesting if a little morbid.
Once we had worked our way round most of the gardens, we had a lovely walk along the empty country lanes to Ruin Beach Cafe following a recommendation for great pizza. It was certainly popular, but we managed to get ourselves a table outside with a view of the beach. We shared two pizzas, one with British pepperoni, mushrooms and red onion, and another with prosciutto, mushrooms and Gorgonzola. Both were delicious and the crisp Cornish cider that washed it down wasn’t too bad either!
After our substantial lunch we headed over to the beach near to where our boat would pick us up and relaxed on the sand until it was time to leave.
Tresco’s reputation of being the more “well-heeled” of the islands isn’t undeserved, and you can’t help but feel that the clientele are somewhat more *ahem* highbrow than on other islands. However the beautiful Tresco Abbey Gardens are such an impressive showcase of Scilly’s subtropical plant life, and the coastline is so stunning that I do think it was well worth the day trip from St Mary’s.