Scilly Times

Imagine a place in the UK that takes longer to get to than most of your standard foreign holidays, costs more than travelling to somewhere sunny in Europe, and has many restrictions and difficulties due to its size and location.  

Yes, it’s the Scilly Isles. 

Not the main island of St Mary’s – that’s got roads, cars, shops, and restaurants! We are talking about one of the off islands. So remote, so beautiful and so worth the effort.

Here’s a little account of our recent Scilly Times.

The Journey

This is a UK holiday, how can it take longer than going abroad?

We live in the Southeast and we need to travel to Penzance in Cornwall to get the ferry over to St Marys.  That’s about a 5 – 6 hour drive, depending on the traffic (sometimes much longer).  

View from our overnight stay to St Michael’s Mount

The ferry, The Scillonian, leaves for St Mary’s around 9am and check-in is approx an hour beforehand. 

If you are camping, you need to deliver your camping equipment to the harbour about an hour before check-in, around 7am.

It’s not much fun travelling through the night, so we booked into Scilly Parking for an overnight stay. 

It’s still an early start, but so much better than being up all night!

The ferry takes approximately three hours to St Mary’s. Once there, all of your luggage is loaded onto the relevant off-island boat. Each boat comes alongside The Scillonian and they slide your luggage down a hatch and manually load up each boat.

Once this is completed, your off-island boat will head to the quay and pick up the foot passengers.

Next a 20- 30 min boat ride over to your chosen island.

Luggage is handed up the quay onto the waiting tractor and is transported to the campsite. The passengers walk!

Journey time: approx. 28 hours (with overnight stop and pub dinner en route!)

St Agnes

St Agnes is on the most south-westerly edge of the Isles of Scilly. It measures just a mile or so across, and its closest neighbour is Gugh. Gugh is joined by a sand bar at low tide. The island has about 85 residents, no proper roads and no cars (the odd car is sometimes used by a local for transportation, but there are not cars in the way we are used to on the mainland).  

There is one pub, one café, and one post office with stores as well as one gift shop. The campsite is housed on the farm and does have a small shop selling produce and some camping essentials.  

St Agnes is the only island on the Scillies not to have a hotel, although there are some self-catering options. Forget these in high season, as they are repeatedly booked by the same families year after year. If you are able to travel out of high season, you might get lucky.

If not, you will need to try your hand at camping!

The Campsite

Troytown Farm, home of St Agnes campsite, is the southernmost settlement in the United Kingdom! 

It is the most incredible setting with stunning views across to the island of Annet, the Western Rocks, and out to Bishop Rock and the Lighthouse. The view is constantly changing along with the tides. It’s very exposed – next stop USA – and the storms regularly blow in.  

View from our tent

The facilities are basic but good. Water is always in short supply, so there are timed tokens for the showers, and everyone is very conscious of water conservation. No electrical hookups are available, and a limited number of dogs are allowed.

The farm produces its own milk, yoghurt, meat and incredible ice cream – there is always an amazing choice of flavours on offer.

Night skies are truly amazing – you have never seen the stars like this before as there is no light pollution.

The Sunsets

Sunsets need their own special mention. They are truly incredible if the weather is kind, and you can see the magical event unfold. 

I think it best to let the pictures speak for themselves.

St Agnes sunsets

The swimming

I’m a keen wild swimmer. 

I much prefer a lake or the sea to a pool, so the swimming on St Agnes is especially good.  

You will often have a beach to yourself, or only be sharing with a couple of others. Crystal clear waters and bright white sand – you can forget you are in the UK and imagine you are on a Caribbean island! The water is fairly fresh, many swim in a wetsuit. Pick your time to swim as the tide turns and comes over the warm sand and it’s almost barmy (promise).

A Day on St Agnes

Pop to the campsite shop for some milk, eggs, yoghurt, top up your ice blocks and get the coffee on back at the tent.

4 pints of beer on a table with a view of the sea at The Turks Head, St Agnes

A slow start, a shower, and a walk around the island with the dog. The scenery, the terrain, the wildlife never fail to amaze each and every day. Usually, lunch back at the tent, or perhaps pop to the café for a crab roll as a treat.

Nip to the Post Office and pick up some food and wine for the evening (the supplies boat arrives around lunchtime so stocks are always better later in the day).

A read and relax and head off to the beach for a swim. A stop at the pub on the way back for a pint with a view. In fact, a pint with the best view ever!

Back to the campsite shop before it closes for some ice cubes and a cheeky gin and tonic while preparing dinner. Eat and watch the sun go down. Maybe light a fire on the beach and chat with some fellow campers.

Some days, you might be stuck in the tent for a while listening to the rain.

The competition

Chat to anyone you meet on St Agnes and they will ask you if you’ve been before.  

Many will tell you how many years they have been coming to the island. Most start enjoying holidays on St Agnes and fail to do anything else. 

It’s that sort of place.

What’s quite funny is the assumption that they have been coming longer than you! My hubby, who would never boast about such things, has been returning to St Agnes for 53 years and counting. We’ve had some years away, but recently returned after an 11-year gap. Too long, the magic starts seeping in as soon as you step off the boat onto the jetty…….

My other travel blogs include the Isle of Mull and eating/drinking our way around a little bit of Spain and Portugal.

As the summer draws to a close and you return to work after a break, maybe it’s time to start plotting the next adventure.