Who says you need to travel half-way around the world to find paradise? The Isles of Scilly have it all and idyllic beaches, abundant sealife, tropical gardens and warm climates are all just a hop, skip and a jump from mainland UK.
Being a Penzance girl, the Isles of Scilly have always been on my doorstep but, apart from a harrowing camping trip with the Brownies when I was little, I’d never so much as explored further than the pub for a couple of measly hours on the main island of St Mary’s. It was high time this changed, so off we hopped in October on the tiny Skybus plane from Land’s End Airport to the quiet utopia of Scilly, with just enough time before the islanders battened down the hatches for winter.
Our journey away from the mainland was one of discovery – we wanted the Real Scilly, the Scilly away from the hordes of tourists and day-trippers. And that’s exactly what we found in the off-season.
Our arrival on St Mary’s didn’t last long, (although long enough for a swift pint in The Mermaid) before we stepped off the harbour quay & onto a boat heading for Bryher, the smallest of the inhabited Scilly Isles. Just 15 minutes of jetting across the sea, past the famous island of Tresco, seals and pods of dolphins and we arrived with a warm welcome from Bryher Campsite’s, Tom & Jo.
Bryher Campsite is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever had the privilege of setting up home in; nestled in the U-bend of two rugged peaks, the evergreen fields are sheltered from the elements and have views of crumbling castles, perfect beaches and the best sunset you’ll ever see if the weather is good.
After pitching up, we wandered down the bumpy track to Fraggle Rock, the island’s smallest pub, for its last fish and chip night of the season. Here we spent the night talking, sampling the local ale and sending the end of summer off with a bang.
Our first morning on Scilly was the stuff of dreams – we woke up and cooked a breakfast of eggs and bacon on the camping stove loaned to us by Tom & Jo and then went for a hike around the northern end of Bryher. As we were almost the only people on the island, and definitely the only visitors, we had the coast paths to ourselves.
There’s something incredibly special about Bryher, from the rugged cliffs to the clear waters, the undulating sand dunes to the feeling that as soon as you arrive you are home. The second we landed every person stopped and said hello, everyone knew where we were staying, what we were doing; it was as though we had up and moved our home community and rooted it on this tiny island in the ocean.
A walk around the southern end of Bryher is quite the opposite to the north – rather than high cliffs and exposed rocks, we wandered barefoot across beaches, lazed in fishing net hammocks strung up between trees and watched the sun set below the other islands, idly hanging between pockets of land before plunging in a wave of orange into the sea.
How to get there
- Fly to St Mary’s with Skybus, like we did, year round from Newquay or Land’s End Airports, and from Exeter Airport between March and October. Prices begin at £140 return from Land’s End.
- In the high season, from spring to late autumn, you can sail by The Scillonian III between Penzance and St Mary’s, up to 7 days a week weather depending. Prices start at £90pp return.
- You’ll need to hop on a boat from St Mary’s to Bryher on your arrival. Times are not decided until the day before, so please remember to coordinate with your accommodation on the island regarding this. Single journey is £5.50pp with Tresco Boats, however they will likely charge return on the outgoing trip as you will have to return to St Mary’s at some point anyway!
Book on the Isles of Scilly Travel website, or call 01736 334220.
- Prices at Bryher Campsite begin at £10.50 per person, per night. Children under 4 at the beginning of your stay go free. Bell tents with everything you could need also provided.
Want more info? Head on over to Visit Isles of Scilly for more information on events, accommodation ideas and news.
And if you’re not persuaded yet, here’s a video of Bryher that sums it all up!