I hope you’ve been enjoying our Summer in the UK series, with tips and guides from some of the country’s best travel bloggers. This week, Kelly Quance shows us you don’t need to fly half way around the world to experience beautiful archipelagos. With unspoilt beaches, water sports and ancient history, the Isles of Scilly are just a short hop from the Cornish mainland. Getting there is easy: hop a flight, or board a ferry from Penzance.
So why have the hassle of long-haul flights to the Maldives when the Isles of Scilly are on your doorstep?
The Isles of Scilly are a lush archipelago, clustered at the tip of the Cornish coast and washed and weathered by the vast blue of the Celtic Sea. Standing on a spit of sand that arcs around a shallow cove, with the sun beaming down and the sea breeze on your face, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re stood on the shores of one of the tropical islands of the Maldives.
Apart from the difference in temperature, the two groups of islands have remarkably similar qualities, which begs the question: do you need to endure large airports, long delays, in-flight meals and jet lag to luxuriate on a beach or enjoy stunning beachscapes, great food and water sports?
Read on and you may decide that your luxury beach holiday to the Maldives can be trumped by a ‘nearcation’ on the Scilly Isles in the UK.
Discover your own private beach and patch of sea
The Scilly Isles might be a smaller archipelago than their Indian Ocean equals, but this handful of green islands has equally beautiful beaches. You’d expect nothing less considering the Isles of Scilly are located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. On Tresco, Bryher, St Martin’s, St Mary’s, St Agnes, or indeed during an island hopping boat trip, you’ll be exposed to deserted stretches of sand and secluded beaches. You may be just as likely to discover a message in a bottle as you are a flint tool, an array of shells and shards of washed, pretty sea glass off their shores.
The snorkelling, surfing, body boarding and boating is in every way equal if not better to that in the Maldives; but you may need a wetsuit rather than a bikini at some times of the year on the Isles of Scilly!
Where the Maldives can offer “surfaris” that take you to the best breaks in the area, there are plenty of spots for water sports on the Isles of Scilly, which are on your doorstep so there’s little travelling involved. Where the Maldives have Dhoni boats, traditionally used for fishing and transporting you around the turquoise ocean, the Isles of Scilly have a long and proud heritage of Gig racing; a “must” to try or watch while on your ‘nearcation’.
The Scilly Isles were once the haunt of kings and queens
Whilst Maldivian history dates back centuries and includes such exotic historical figures as Rannamaari and Bodu Thakurufaanu, the history of the Isles of Scilly dates back to the Stone Age. The myth and legend of this romantic and rugged landscape has even been pinned as the possible setting of the famed Lyonesse from Arthurian Legend.
If you tire of quiet beaches, long boat rides and picnics in natural beauty spots, you can explore these islands for yourself by seeking out the old haunts of the Knights of the Round Table and their counterparts.
Unlike the Maldives, where hotel complexes dominate the islands and huts balance over the water, there is a more traditional look and feel to the surroundings on the Isles of Scilly. Stone buildings and old architecture abound, adding a real sense of history and heritage to the isles. Explore the modern day arts and crafts, visit museums, subtropical gardens and tumble down castles such as The Old Blockhouse and The Telegraph Tower, or simply walk the heritage coastline and see how this land was once joined to nearby Cornwall.
Today the Duchy of Cornwall owns much of the land, so it remains under the control of royalty even now.
The cuisine is legendary
The Scilly Isles are well known for their excellent quality seafood, delicious local wines and beautiful flowers; some of the loveliest in the world. If eating out is a priority when on your holidays, few places are so prevalent in having their restaurants utilise local produce, incorporate the skills of local artisans and value the natural larder in the surrounding environment.
Take a leisurely vineyard tour at St Martin’s Vineyard, enjoy a romantic beachside picnic or dine out in style in one of the wonderful restaurants overlooking the sea.
So, why travel far and wide when everything you need for happy family holidays, luxurious romantic escapes, foodie breaks and historical outings can be found within the Isles of Scilly?
Kelly Quance is a writer based in the South West: she has a soft spot for Cornwall, making a point of devouring fresh hand-crimped Cornish pasties, Cornish myth and legend, and delicious Cornish cream teas – jam first, then cream!
For more tips on where to go for a summer holiday close to home follow our series on Summer in the UK. So far we have found the best places for Outdoor eating in London and have had a great guide to the Edinburgh Festival. Next we should be finding places to stay in the Cotswolds.