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Exploring the Islands: A beginner's guide to the Scilly archipelago

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

The islands

The Scilly archipelago, also known as the Isles of Scilly, is a mesmerising cluster of islands off the southwestern tip of England. This enchanting destination comprises numerous islands with unique charm and character.

If you still need to book your stay in Scilly, why not browse our available accommodation in the Isles of Scilly?

Here's an overview of the main islands in the Scilly archipelago:

St. Mary's

St. Mary's is the Scilly archipelago's largest and most populated island. It is the gateway to the other islands, with a small airport and a bustling harbour. The island offers stunning white sandy beaches, picturesque villages, ancient monuments, and scenic coastal paths.


Tresco is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and is home to the famous Tresco Abbey Garden. This subtropical paradise showcases an extraordinary collection of exotic plants and flowers worldwide. Tresco also boasts beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters, and fascinating historical sites like Cromwell's Castle and King Charles's Castle.

St. Martin's

St. Martin's is celebrated for its pristine white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. It is the ideal destination for those seeking tranquillity and natural beauty. Visitors can explore scenic coastal paths, discover secluded coves, and indulge in water activities such as snorkelling and kayaking.


Bryher is a rugged and unspoiled island, offering breathtaking landscapes and a sense of remote wilderness. It is popular among hikers, birdwatchers, and nature enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the island's stunning beaches and rocky headlands and enjoy panoramic views from the hills.

St. Agnes

St. Agnes is the most southerly populated island in the archipelago and is known for its unspoiled beauty. With its charming village and stunning coastal scenery, St. Agnes is a haven for artists and photographers. The island also boasts ancient burial chambers, the iconic lighthouse on St. Agnes Beacon, and picturesque beaches.

History & Culture

The Isles of Scilly has a rich history and unique culture that reflects their isolated island life. The islands have been inhabited since the prehistoric era, as evidenced by the ancient burial chambers and stone structures found throughout the archipelago. Over the centuries, the islands were influenced by various civilisations, including the Romans, Vikings, and Normans, leaving behind traces of their presence.

The maritime history of the islands is deeply intertwined with shipwrecks and tales of seafaring adventures. The local culture on the Isles of Scilly is deeply rooted in traditions and customs passed down through generations. Islanders have a strong connection to the land and sea, relying on fishing, farming, and flower growing as their main livelihoods.

The annual gig racing, a traditional sport unique to the Scillies, showcases the islanders' passion for their maritime heritage. The islands also celebrate various cultural events and festivals, where locals and visitors come together to enjoy music, art, food, and the warm hospitality of the community.

Travelling to the Isles of Scilly

You can travel to the islands via boat, plane or helicopter. To learn more about travelling to the islands, please read our blog posts:

Things to do on the Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly offer diverse activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.

Here are some of the things you can do and see on the Isles of Scilly:


The islands have beautiful beaches boasting soft white sands and clear turquoise waters. Whether on St. Mary's, Tresco, St. Martin's, or any other island, you'll find stunning beaches to relax, swim, sunbathe, and enjoy water sports such as kayaking and snorkelling.

Tresco Abbey Garden

The Tresco Abbey Garden is a world-renowned horticultural marvel located on the island of Tresco. This subtropical paradise is home to a diverse collection of plants and flowers worldwide. Stroll through the stunning gardens, marvel at the exotic species, and enjoy breathtaking vistas.

Wildlife Watching

The Isles of Scilly are a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Take a boat tour or go on guided walks to spot seabirds, seals, dolphins, and even the occasional whale. You can explore nature reserves, such as St. Agnes and Gugh, where you'll find an abundance of flora and fauna.

Historical Sites

Immerse yourself in the islands' rich history by visiting ancient sites and landmarks. Explore ancient burial chambers, such as the Innisidgen Burial Chamber on St. Mary's or the Halangy Down Ancient Village on St. Mary's. Discover historic castles like Cromwell's Castle and King Charles's Castle on Tresco.

Island Hopping

The Scilly archipelago consists of multiple islands, and island hopping is a popular activity. Take a boat or ferry to explore different islands with distinct character and charm.

The crystal-clear waters surrounding the islands are perfect for various water sports. Try your hand at kayaking, paddle-boarding, sailing, or even take a guided snorkelling tour to discover the vibrant marine life beneath the waves.

Arts and Crafts

The islands have a thriving arts and crafts community. Visit galleries and workshops to admire and purchase unique artworks, ceramics, jewellery and textiles from local artisans. You may even have the chance to meet the artists themselves and learn about their creative processes.

Scenic Walks

The Isles of Scilly offer numerous scenic walking trails, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the islands. Explore coastal paths, heathlands, and flower-strewn meadows, and enjoy breathtaking views at every turn.

Local Cuisine

Sample the delicious local cuisine of the Isles of Scilly, which often features freshly caught seafood, locally grown produce, and homemade specialities. Indulge in fresh crab, lobster, and other seafood delicacies while enjoying picturesque views of the islands.

Cultural Events

The Isles of Scilly hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year. From live music performances and art exhibitions to food and drink festivals, you can immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture and celebrate the island's unique heritage.

These are just a few of the many activities and attractions that await you on the Isles of Scilly. Whether you're seeking relaxation, adventure, or a glimpse into history and nature, the islands offer a captivating and unforgettable experience.

Scilly Escapes offers beautiful island properties in Scilly - we hope you enjoy your visit exploring the Scilly archipelago.

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