Scilly Times

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.

5 Must Do’s in Mull

5 Must Do’s in Mull

I’ve just returned from a holiday on the Isle of Mull* in Scotland with family and friends.

View of loch and mountains on Mull, Scotland

It was one of the best holidays we have enjoyed together for ages. After being delayed by a year, due to the pandemic we were all really up for an adventure and Mull did not disappoint.

Here are my 5 must do’s in Mull:

Stay in a fabulous location

To be honest, this is not difficult on Mull. Everywhere is so beautiful, with stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife, and exceptional beaches.

You have the option to be completely off the beaten track (our preferred choice), or to stay somewhere where you can eat out or visit the odd shop (in and around Tobermory).

We were armed with anti-midge bracelets, spray, cream, and nets are we received dire warnings of non-stop rain and midges. In reality, we had great weather and I’ve seen more midges on my local dog walks in Hertfordshire than I ever experienced on Mull!  

View of Loch Usig and hills from Craig Ben Cottage, Isle of Mull
View from our bedroom window of Loch Uisg

That may influence when you wish to visit. We were incredibly lucky with our good weather, as the area has a very high rainfall rate. The good weather must have kept the midges at bay. Win, win!

Our accommodation was booked through Isle of Mull Cottages and was fab.

Book a wildlife tour

Mull is all about the wildlife.  

A friend recommended Nature Scotland’s Wilderness Tour to us, so we booked a day out and it is such a worthwhile thing to do. As well as spotting some white-tailed eagles, golden eagles, and red deer, we were fascinated by the smaller natural details too. 

Burrowing wasps, tiny carnivorous plants, butterflies and so much more.

Not only do you learn so much on the tour, but you will also then be tuned into seeing things for the rest of your stay.

On our travels around the island, we also managed to see many more birds, otters, and even some dolphins from the ferry on the way home.

It’s great to invest in a decent pair of binoculars, they will be well used!

Don your walking boots

You may wish to climb a mountain, Mull has one official Munro (mountain), Ben More, but many other wonderful climbing options too.   

If you take a drive to Fionnphort you can grab a foot ferry to Iona. It is only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long. Iona is known as being ‘The Cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland with its much-visited Abbey and Nunnery. 

Wonderful walks and beaches are on offer here too.

Maybe ditching your walking boots at this point, you can wander along a deserted beach. We had a beach to ourselves at one point, but even if others are there too, it will never be busy.  

Laggan Sands beach on the Isle of Mull
Laggan Sands, our local beach

Most of us went swimming too. Our holiday cottage was based next to a freshwater loch. I enjoy a bit of wild swimming and presumed this would be a challenging option due to the coldness of the water. It was one of the warmest wild swims I’d ever enjoyed!

The sea loch was a little more bracing (we went swimming from Laggan Sands), but still manageable and refreshing!

Enjoy some seafood

There was a mussel farm not too far from our house. It is operated by an honesty box, so if you got the urge to eat mussels at any point, you could drive up, pop your pennies in and grab your mussels to munch. They were the freshest, sweetest, tasty morsels!

Dishes and plates of mussels on the table

We also managed to order some langoustines, which we got straight from the boat as they were landed. 

I can honestly say I would prefer a chef to prepare them for me. However, it was down to us, and once prepped we popped ours on the bbq. They tasted wonderful, so sweet again and obviously as fresh as it’s possible to be.

In Tobermory, we enjoyed some fish and chips on the harbour. We actually saw the fish being delivered to the café, just a bit before we ordered. 

Totally delicious. There is a real fresh theme here!

We didn’t manage to eat out at any restaurants – they were a bit too far of a drive from us.  

We did enjoy some lovely cakes (and wonderful farm shop meats) from a local cafe.  

Take what you need with you

There are a couple of small local shops on the island – and a small supermarket in Tobermory. As we were an hour’s drive from there, we needed to take all the food and drink that we needed for our week’s holiday.

Talking of driving, the roads are an experience in their own right. Singletrack roads mostly with passing places – sometimes it could be quite challenging depending on who you met coming the other way!


It’s quite a feat doing a shopping list for a large household of hungry people. All the meals and snacks required. How many bottles of wine or gin and tonics are you going to need? 

All important questions. Allow plenty of planning time.

I would not wish to put you off supporting local businesses as this is a must, but you will not be able to do a giant shop – so make sure you bring a decent general shop at least.

There are some cafes, hotels, and the odd pub here and there – but we were surprised how little was on offer. This is a little different in Tobermory with several eateries and gift shops on offer too here.

I even found a chocolate shop in Tobermory and have bought home some dark chocolate whiskey squares to try!  

You may wish to take some chocolate with you or make your own treats.

I’m sure this would not be a holiday that would suit everyone – but if you do fancy a trip, I hope my 5 must do’s in Mull will provide some inspiration.  

Come and tell me your tips over on my Facebook page.

*The Isle of Mull or just Mull is the second-largest island of the Inner Hebrides and lies off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute. Covering 875.35 square kilometres, Mull is the fourth-largest island in Scotland – and also in the United Kingdom as a whole. (Wikipedia)