Peace and tranquility is closer than you might think…

Words and images Jo Jepson-Davies

Forget trekking to Tibet for a retreat when you need to get off the modern day merry-go-round, peace and tranquility is much closer to home than you think. 

Chances are you probably have heard of the Isles of Scilly, you just aren’t entirely sure where they are. Off the coast of the UK somewhere right? Or wait, is it the ball to the boot that is Italy… no wait that’s Sicily. It’s confusing.

To put the record straight, the Isles of Scilly are an archipelago (a group of islands to you and I), 28 miles off the Cornish coast. Five inhabited islands, out of 145, but I think that covers a lot of rounding up and some big rocks.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well that’s just it. No-one makes a fuss, because when you unearth something this good you want to keep it to yourself. It boasts amongst the mildest and warmest climate in the UK. It’s uncrowded and unspoilt for a reason. It’s the Fight Club of UK destinations. The first rule about the Isles of Scilly is you don’t talk about the Isles of Scilly. 

Snorkellers with a seal in the water
Snorkellers with a seal. Image credit Tim Allsop

In essence, each island is like your perfect village spread out over a stunning setting with its own personality; a cracking local pub, small selection of restaurants and cafes and post office/general store. 

Two people stand looking out to sea on a beach, a few small boats in the distance
St Mary’s, the “hub” of the islands

St Mary’s is the granddaddy of brood, the hub where everything starts and ends. The Scillonian III, the daily ferry docks here from Penzance along with small aircraft in and out of St Mary’s airport.  It’s a great place to start, but the “off islands” are where that true escape feeling kicks in. Small boats take you back and forth to these four magical beasts. 

Tresco is the sophisticated one (Dame Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders and Kate Winslet are visitors).

Colourful flowers line a path leading to the water on Tresco, one of the Scilly isles
Tresco in bloom

It’s beautiful and includes the sub-tropical Abbey Gardens (ask your mum). Hire a bike and whizz around the island (apart from golf buggies there isn’t a car in sight.)

At a good pace you can cycle around the whole island in about 20 minutes. You can motivate each new lap with a flat white, pint or lobster salad.  And when you tire of Tresco, neighbouring Bryher is only a short boat ride away, offering five restaurants to try out including the highly rated Vine Café and Fraggle Rock Bar.

The rocky coastline of St Agnes. Stones in the foreground and people sitting at picnic tables
St Agnes

St Agnes is the rocky one. Unashamedly untamed and rugged with views and sunsets to die for. A lighthouse in the middle, amazing ice-cream (Troytown Farm) and a gin series that is causing quite a stir (Westward Farm). Frankly it’s amazing the locals leave the island with such riches on their doorstep.  

St Martin’s is the stunning one. Home to fantastic beaches, perfect for hunting cowrie shells that bring good luck and a slightly smug feeling with each discovery.

Blue sky and palm trees on St Martin's, with a beautiful coastline in the background.
St Martin’s

This is where you’ll find Great Bay, voted best beach in the UK. As industrious as their St Agnes cousins, here they make their own wine (St Martin’s Vineyard and Winery), salt (SC Salt) and jewellery (Fay Page).

It has the best pub on the islands (Seven Stones) with the friendliest staff, an outside pool (table!), amazing food, cool beer and a view to die for.  Why not hire a kayak and discover the Eastern Isles or take a trip to snorkel with the seals? This island has it all. 

And you know what? You’d expect it to be majorly busy especially during the Summer months, but it isn’t. The beaches remain uncrowded and the biggest queue is at the only ATM on the islands at St Mary’s. After a few days if you see more than six people on the beach at any one time and you start declaring it’s a bit busy! 

A pint of beer sits on a table with views of palm trees and water in the background
The Seven Stones on St Martin’s

It’s the slower pace and relaxing vibe that appeals most. Also phone signals are ropey so you really can truly disconnect. Very dog friendly on the ferry and almost all pubs, cafes and beaches.

Read a book, sink a pint in the pub garden with a stunning view, eat amazing food (often grown on the islands with fish caught that very day) or just fall asleep on the beach. When life spins so fast that you want to get off, this is the first place to go. 

To discover more about the Isles of Scilly, go to visitislesofscilly.com.

Scilly Laughs Comedy Festival hits all the islands 8-11 June 2019. Search Scilly Laughs on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for details

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