Isles of Scilly: Everything You Need To Know Before You Visit

Let’s face it, it’s not the easiest place to get to, pretty darn remote, and the weather can be unpredictable at times, but there is an unmistakable charm of the Isles of Scilly. There isn’t anywhere else in the UK with the subtropical climate and calm, untouched white beaches to rival this cluster of islands off the coast of Cornwall. Go not only for the weather and beautiful landscapes enjoyed during coastal walks, but also for the watersports, subtropical plant life, local food, and arts & crafts. And if you make it during the agapanthus season? Even better!

How do you get there?

This was by far the thing that confused me most about visiting Scilly. There seemed to be so many different options and combinations and none of them are particularly cheap. I went for what felt like the cheapest and reasonably convenient option of getting the sleeper train from Paddington to Penzance, and then getting on the Scillonian ferry for the 3-hour crossing to St Mary’s. The sleeper to Penzance was glorious! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience in my solo cabin complete with breakfast in bed on our approach to Penzance.

As for the ferry though…The Scillonian didn’t seem like a big deal at the time of booking it, but I was comparing this ferry to the ones that take you from Dover to Calais, or Wales to Ireland…this is not one of those ferries. The combination of the flat-bottomed boat designed to fit into the shallow harbour of St Mary’s, some rather unpleasant currents along the way, and some less-than-clement weather on the day of my journey made for some of the most horrendously nauseating hours of my life. I’ve never seen so many people vomit during a single journey.

The cheapest journey would be to get the sleeper without a cabin followed by the Scillonian ferry. However, for me it seems entirely worth the extra money to get a cabin on the sleeper otherwise you’re spending the night in a plane-style seat. Then I would transfer to Lands’ End on arrival in Penzance (you should be able to book a transfer when you book your flight) and get over to St Mary’s by air instead of the ferry. It’s much quicker and far less uncomfortable. If you do decide to get the Scillonian then stock up with travel sickness medication and ginger biscuits and make sure you head straight down to the lower saloon and lie down if you can even if it’s on the floor – absolutely nobody will judge you and you’ll thank me!

For more information on travelling to the Isles of Scilly, visit the Isles of Scilly Travel website.

Where should you stay?

It depends completely on what kind of holiday you’re looking for. I stayed with my friend on St Mary’s which is the biggest, most populated island with by far the most going on. There are great restaurants and shops to keep you busy when you’re not island hopping. Mincarlo is a great little family-run guest house and there are plenty of self-catering options around too. If you’re looking for something slightly more up-market then I would say that Tresco is the more “well-heeled” of the islands. If you enjoy camping and prefer somewhere quieter and more untouched then the Troytown Farm Campsite on St Agnes is beautiful.

How do you get around?

Boats run between the islands on most days, weather permitting, although the times change every day depending on the tides. The boat times are posted on the St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association website every day, so you can find out when the boats are running. Then you can either buy a ticket at the kiosk on St Mary’s quay, or you can pay in cash on the boat. It’s important to listen carefully when they announce the timings for return boats, and particularly which quay they will return from as the boats don’t necessarily return from where they drop you off as the tides move.

I feel like this answers the big questions I had when visiting the beautiful Isles of Scilly, so I really hope you’ll find it helpful. It’s a truly stunning place to spend a holiday and I hope you will consider going!

Is there anything else you want to know about visiting the Isles of Scilly? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best.

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