The Isles of Scilly, A Place That Time Forgot

The Isles of Scilly, A Place That Time Forgot

Vacation News » Europe Vacation News Edition | By Steve Winston | October 3, 2012 8:00 AM ET

Thirty miles off Land's End, on the southwestern coast of England, lies an England that time delightfully forgot, where there are no cars and people are friendly and the countryside is filled with quant cottages and green hedgerows. And where you can walk for miles without coming upon another soul.

The Isles of Scilly are a chain of a hundred islands, only five of which are inhabited - by a total of only 2,000 souls. You can breathe here; there's no industry, and the sea-spray and salt air make for an invigorating climate. The doors of the shops have little bells that ring when you walk in. The hiking and biking trails will take you through beaches and meadows and heather.  And everyone says hello.  

In the Isles of Scilly, small wonders reveal themselves at every turn. Here, you can explore the old castles like those of King Charles or Cromwell, or the old cannons salvaged from the wreck of the HMS Colossus.

You can stop in at the artists' studios, to watch them create beautiful stained glass. You can relax on a bench on the quay near Holgates Green, while munching on a "pasty" (a type of pie native to the Cornwall region) or some home-made cake or "butties" (a local breakfast dish, often made with bacon). 

You can get a bird's-eye view of these scenic islands from a small plane or helicopter, as you pass over old lighthouses and ferries and fishing boats. Or you can go horseback-riding through meadows filled with purple heather. And, on a clear day, you can see nine lighthouses from Scilly.

Eventually, your heart will tug you toward the uninhabited isles, such as Samson, whose deserted cottages stand like silent sentinels to the village that once stood here.

Deserted ruins aren't unusual here. The Isles of Scilly have more ancient sites per capita, in fact, than anywhere else in Britain. There are 800 special sites here, and 60% of the lands are considered archaeologically significant. A local archaeologist/historian named Katherine Sawyer can take you to many of them, tracing the footsteps of the islands' early inhabitants. You'll come upon the sites of early Christian chapels, prehistoric huts, and Iron Age settlements. And you'll hear amazing stories.

Each of the five inhabited isles has its own distinct charm. St. Mary's is the "urban" center, with 1,600 people, and its "capital," Hugh Town, filled with shops, restaurants, and pubs. Outside of town, there are beaches, nature trails, and coastal paths that'll take you through ancient burial chambers and 16-Century fortifications. Tresco, with a population of 165, has an interesting diversity of landscapes; the northern end is wild and barren, save for the ruins of two ancient castles. The middle has pastures, quaint cottages, and farmland, leading down to the beautiful Tresco Abbey Garden, on the site of a 10th-Century Benedictine abbey.

St. Martin's (110 pop.) seems more Caribbean than English, and is rimmed by beaches and cliffs. St. Agnes (pop. 90) is surrounded by rocks and reefs, its interior filled with neat little cottages and fields. And Bryher's 81 residents have the aptly-named Hell Bay (because of shipwrecks) on the northern end and secluded, peaceful beaches on the southern.  

Accommodations on the isles range from stylish old hotels to B&B's to cottages to a Sixteenth-Century castle to...a threshing mill.

For upscale travelers, though, the Star Castle Hotel is the place to stay. The 8-point Star Castle was built in 1593 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It stands on the fortified Garrison Hill to the west of Hugh Town, St Mary's, and commands magnificent views of the sea and isles.

If you go to the Scilly Isles, walk. Take in the sea air, the aromas of the little bakeries, the waving heather, the tiny towns without cars. You may never see a place quite like it again. 

In the Scilly Isles, the way it the way it was.  

Real Estate Listings Showcase

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent in accordance with our Cookie Policy. Read More