Monday, July 13, 2009


I mentioned in my previous post a place called the Isles of Scilly, this is one of England's little treasures and a place that I find truly magical. The Isles of Scilly are a tiny cluster of islands that lie twenty-eight miles off the south-western tip of England. They are a fearsome group of rocks that have wrecked hundreds and hundreds of boats over the centuries but in contrast to this wild side, they lie right on the gulf stream so are actually semi-tropical. My favorite description that I found of them was 'New England, meets the Caribbean meets Cornwall!' Depending which side of any particular island you are standing on you may be on a windswept granite headland overlooking hundreds of miles of Atlantic Ocean or you may be on a white sand beach with palm trees and outrageously huge succulents growing all around and crystal clear turquoise seas.
When we visited my parents in June we were lucky enough to be able to grab a brief trip to the Scillies too. The Islands have particularly fond memories for us because we had our marriage blessing on one of the off islands :)
There are three ways to reach the Islands, by plane, by helicopter or by boat. This time we decided to take the economical choice and go by boat. The Scillonian is affectionately known by the local people in Penzance and the Scilly Isles as 'the big white barf bucket!' - fair warning!!

The reason for this very unfortunate title is simple, in order for the boat to get to the main island of St Marys every day the boat is built with a flat bottom to avoid all the rocks so if there is even a moderate swell at sea, she rolls around like a beast! Fortunately my husband and I are both fairly good sailors (I have previously survived crossings in the Scillonian in very rough seas without loosing my breakfast!) and we were lucky that when we sailed it was very calm so we were able to relax and enjoy the scenery.

This is Mousehole, which I have posted about previously, seen from the sea.

And this is another section of the Cornish coastline with the coastguard lookout building perched on the clifftop. As the tip of England disappears out of sight and we set off into the Atlantic I always have that feeling of just how small and feeble we are in relation to the might of Mother Nature, being surrounded by ocean with no land in sight is always a very sobering feeling for me. Eventually tiny little bumps start to appear on the horizon and slowly they start to inch nearer and take shape into islands.

The Scillonian weaves her way through various uninhabited islands round to the main harbour on St Marys. This is the most popular and most populated island so needless to say we never stay there! We catch a little launch to one of the 'off islands,' on this occasion Bryher is our destination.

Bryher is the western most inhabited island so on the western shore there is nothing to see except sea water until you reach the American coast! Needless to say when storms blow in that side of the island is pretty wild! The names of the areas give some idea of just how bad it gets, we were going to be staying next to Hell Bay (yes really!) and nearby, overlooking the bay is Bad Place Hill! I have always thought it would be very exhilarating to experience the islands during the stormy months as long as my feet were safely on terra firma! We came in to the sheltered side of the island but because it was an exceptionally low tide we couldn't use the landing dock as it was surrounded by sand. (We have huge tide drops in the southwest of England.) The captain of our little boat had to run the boat into the sand near some rocks and then put out a plank for us to walk across to get to shore (I never thought I would get to walk the plank!)

We went to our hotel, it was lovely, not to be deterred by the fact that it is called Hell Bay Hotel! This is the view from our room.

And this is the beach that was in front of the hotel.

When we had settled in, my husband was a man on a mission, he was determined to brave the chilly waters and go for a swim!

I was not up for that so I was designated the official photographer, so that we had proof he had taken the plunge. I also got the chance to do some beach combing, I spotted this tiny, delicate little crab

and the rare sight of a little sea snail trundling along in a rock pool

After we had thawed my husband out we payed a visit to the infamous Hell Bay. It really does look quite benign doesn't it? Don't be fooled, it has earned it's name for good reason.

We walked over the centre of the island, it was so beautiful with flowers everywhere

The rocks were covered in lichen and surrounded with heather

The air is so pure that lichen thrives on many surfaces, including the trees

After a wonderful supper in a beautiful dining room, overlooking the sea we watched the sun set on our first day on the islands. What a perfect day.

Photo Credits - CJT & Dominick V


Arija said...

Thank you for sharing this most perfect of days with us. Knowing something of the tides and strms in teh area, I can well imagine how Hell Bay got its name. I love the stories associated with Mousehole as well.
Lovely, lovely post.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I suppose the tides must be similar to those of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia....since they are not too far away? Is the name pronounced Silly? What a magical place to visit. I was smiling imagining you staying in Hell Bay and walking the plank...and riding the Barf Boat. Your visit sounds almost hellish! lol!

But what a pleasant surprise. I, too would love to experience the storms there.....on terra firma, of course. I love a good storm with battering rains and thundering, lightning skies, wicked wind...all while sitting in front of a large picture window by a cozy fire. :)

Your photos were all beautiful. Thanks for sharing your travels with us.


Kathiesbirds said...

How very beautiful! I would be the person who lost her lunch on that boat though. I can't do that kind of motion!

Rambling Woods said...

Oh my..that is as pretty as any Caribbean Island that I have been to and much more private..although I would have had to take anti-sea sickness medication to get there. LOL. You really should link these to Nature Notes as you are such a nature lover Celeste..

Louise said...

Except for the flat-bottom boat, I think I'm in love. I love the view from your room and everything. (I would have gone for a quick swim, too.) I'm just dying that part of the islands have palm trees. Who knew? (Not me!)