A 6 day Isles of Scilly Staycation – A Hidden UK jewel.

I spent the last days of August summer sunshine on an Isles of Scilly staycation and fell in love.

I am a Cornish girl, born and bred until the age of 18. Living in Penzance in the same house for entire childhood with my mum until age 16, then my dad until 18 when I left for university.

I go back at least once a year and August was my first trip back in 2020, thanks to Covid-19. If this was my only holiday of 2020 I was going to beautiful Isles of Scilly for a week.

My wonderful friends Al and James own an apartment on St. Marys the main island of the Isles of Scilly , as soon as I saw signs of Lockdown ending I called them up and booked the last week of August. Fully paid for with a teeny mates discount BTW.

Our Boat is delayed

All great plans sometimes don’t quite work out. I arrived in Penzance late on the Wed night, driving the entire 5 hour journey in the biggest rain and wind storms ever. Our boat to St.Marys from Penzance the following day was cancelled and postponed by two days.

My friend Neil and I ended up staying in Penzance an extra two nights, We had a ball, we went to Porthcurno (my favourite ever beach), we had crab, scallops and squid at Mackeral Sky, we had the best and cheapest Thai ever at Sukothai and visited many of the pubs I hung out at as a teenager. We also visited the house that I grew up in, and met the people currently living there. It was a gift of two extra days in the town I grew up in reliving those years of teenage joy and pain.

Day 1 Travelling and on the Scillies

Saturday, two days later than planned arrived. We had to be on the boat for 9am, and the reported sea swell was 4 metres, BIG. We arrived to announcement of ‘please ensure you have sick bags next to you at all times’. Not helped by the 3 hours of sleep I had got the previous night;-) But greatly helped by taking kalms tablets an hour before boarding.

I know it doesn’t look rough, but once in the open sea….wow! big waves.

The journey was very rough, but we were fine, we got a lush spot with all the dog owners on the boat and spent the 2 3/4 hr journey holding on tight to the side of the boat. We even got the Cornish coast side of the boat for views, where we saw DOLPHINS! OMG two dolphins joins us as we passed Lamorna. We passed Porthcurno, Minack theatre and Lands End leaving main land Cornwall.

You can get to Scillies many way, the boat is the cheapest (I paid £65 one way) and longest way leaving from Penzance, or get the Skybus (I paid £90 one way) from Lands End, Newquay or Exeter. Plus there is the helicopter from Penzance, the most expensive option.

It wasn’t long until we spied the Isles of Scilly and made our way slowly to St. Mary’s harbour. By 1pm we has been released from the boat and many hours of mask wearing. Al and James had given us a ton of reccomendations for place to eat, visit and drink. We jumped off the boat and headed straight to the Atlantic pub roof top bar for drinks.

Finding our accommodation & Food

Neil had booked the Star Castle Hotel for his shorter stay, off he went to climb the steepest hill ever to his hotel and I did the short walk to Church St to find Kenwyn. We met up 30 minutes later to find our first recommended restaurant. Juliette’s was a 30 minute walk away from my apartment.

Juliette’s is a beautiful hill top restaurant with a huge outdoor seating area. You walk in for lunch and sit far away from others thanks to social distancing. I had cider and a chicken salad, Neil had wine and mackeral pate and fat chips. Lush food and the most amazing view of St.Marys from afar.

We wondered back to Hugh Town via the coastal walk and beaches and found the Hall hotel with a beautiful lush garden for another drink (this holiday does include a lot of drinks). And realised that this was the hotel that Al and James has said was their favourite for dinner, I begged them for a reservation, and was added to waiting list for later in the week.

Dinner that night was booked at Neil’s hotel Star Castle. A bit of confusion at the main desk, saying that we had no booking. We took a chance and walked into the Conservatory restaurant who were able to seat us. Sometimes you have to be cheeky and ask.

We ate the most amazing dinner, possibly the best that I have had this year, bearing in mind that we’ve not really been able to eat out. I had figs, blue cheese and sald bits for starter and the most AMAZING beef wellington for main. We had bottle of my favourite Polgoon wine (a vineyard a mile away from my sisters house in Penzance)

Day 2 Tresco Island

Day 2 was Sunday and we had pre-booked Sunday Lunch at the New Inn on Tresco Island. There are five inhabited islands on the Isles of Scilly that you can get to by boat from the harbour in St.Marys. A short boat ride costing £10 return. These boats run weather permitting.

Tresco is famous for its tropical gardens, white sandy shell covered beaches and I can highly recommend the roast beef in The New Inn. It was amazing, we loved it and very much needed the 20 minute walk to the other side of the island afterwards to wander the tropical gardens. They really are stunning, at time you feel like you are in another country.

The island feels slightly too perfect though, its the only privately owned island and is inhabited by millionaires, its very expensive to stay there.

We returned to Star Castle for dinner again on the Sunday night, making it two huge meals in one day! The best bit was drinks in the dungeon bar learning about the history of the Star castle hotel with a very lovely bar man and a round of free drinks.

Day 3 Seal trip and time alone

Day 3 was Neils last day, although I left him to go on a seal boat trip in the morning. A storm was forecast meaning that the boat trips might be cancelled later in the week so I took the chance. It hammered down on the walk to the boat, then as soon as I climbed aboard it stopped!

The seal trip was amazing. We saw SO MANY seals, I adored it and loved every minute. They were on the rocks and bobbing around in the sea really close to the boat. Plus we spotted lots of bird too, although no puffins, Mar/Apr is the best time to spot them. Highly recommend a seal trip with the St.Marys Boatmen.

I returned to St.Marys for lunch and met Neil where had our goodbye lunch at the Mermaid saving 50% as it was eat out to help out time. Crab sandwich and a pint of cider it was. Neils boat wasn’t until 4pm so we made the most of our time and took out kayaks out into St. Marys harbour. Such fun and actually hard work!

i couldn’t book anywhere for dinner on Monday night so I got mac n cheese from the Co-op.

Day 4 The Storm Arrives

The second huge storm of August arrived during the night and i was stranded on St.Marys for the day. the waves were huge, there was no way I was getting a boat to another island.

I grabbed brunch at the amazing café Dibble & Grub on Porthcressa beach and had the most amazing vegan breakfast. I was set up perfectly for my long walk planned around the coastal paths of St. Marys. I headed for Penninis Head where the waves were huge and it was so windy. I loved it.

Like magic I walked around the head and found Old Hugh town beach which was sheltered and calm with blue skies and sunshine. The beach was covered in shells and I went straight in to the sea for the a swim.

I carried on around the coastal paths until the next bay and sheltered beach. you can walk from empty beach to empty beach. It was amazing and one of my favourite days. Its impossible to get lost as the island is pretty small.

By mid afternoon I was starting to get hungry and with no open shops I decided to figure out the way back to my apartment via another empty white sand beach and another dip in the sea.

Yet again I failed to get a dinner reservation and even the Thai takeaway van said I needed to have phoned through with an order. So I ate a leftover pasty that I had in the fridge for emergency reasons.

Day 5 the storm broke and Island hopping was allowed

The storm more than broke day five was a beautiful sunny day. I got the earliest boat possible to St. Martins island for a day of island exploring. I adored St. Martins, my favourite island of the Scillies.

My first stop was the St. Martins Vineyard close the quay where the boat landed at high tide. I took the self-guided tour and ended with tasting a few of the wines from the vineyard. Holly the owner took some time to chat and share her story of buying the vineyard, just one year ago and what they are doing to develop it and produce amazing wine and juice.

I started the walk along the only road of the island through the teeny pockets of houses and honesty shops. The isles of scilly has these everywhere, places to buy food, crafts and you pay in the honesty box. I stopped at Polreath café for a cream tea, tick, another essential part of a visit to Cornwall.

Finding totally deserted beaches was my goal, laying in the sunshine reading. I swam, collected shells, (and taking pictures for the gram) for several hours.

I randomly found a place very near to my apartment that could fit me in for a massage so I hot-footed it to the quayside and got a boat back to my island. After my massage I was booked in for dinner at The Hall for my last night on the Scillies. I had beautiful cocktails and beef wellington with a seafood gratin for starter.

I left the restaurant at sunset and walked to the harbourside and caught the most incredible views.

Day 6 The SkyBus home

I decided to fly back to Lands End rather than sail, the extra £30 was worth the much shorter 15 minute journey. But I did have enough time to grab another brunch at Dibble and Grub, and a quick visit to the Foredeck jewellery shop to buy a coveted Fay Page shell pendant.

The most wonderful holiday to Isles of Scilly. I will be back again to visit St. Agnus and Bryher, the two islands that I didn’t manage to get to. It really was one of my favourite holidays ever. My Isles of Scilly staycation was amazing and is a true hidden gem of the UK.

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Lynn Beattie

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