South West England – The Scilly Isles

The Scilly Isles
1. Tresco Abbey Gardens
Tresco Abbey Gardens shrugs off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host 20,000 exotic plants. Many of these would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland less than 30 miles away, yet even at the winter equinox more than 300 plants are in flower. The garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa. The gift shop sells books, plants from the Garden and seeds, and a licensed restaurant serves light snacks and beverages.

2. Scuba Diving Lessons
Crystal clear waters, a plethora of marine life and fantastic wreck diving make the Isles of Scilly an ideal place to experience life under the waves. A look under the water will reveal a wealth of colour and wildlife. Imagine coming face to face with a seal colony on a snorkelling adventure! Boasting an array of truly spectacular wreck and reef dives, the Isles of Scilly have diving excursions to cater for all, from novices to the more experienced diver.

3. Art Galleries and Studios
Life is lived at a different pace on the Isles of Scilly. Surrounded by the elements, artists and craftsmen have plenty of inspiration to draw upon, whether sky, sea, land or sky. With painting, prints, stained glass, jewellery, pottery, wooden toys, fleece making and even a perfumery workshop, theres plenty to tempt the senses. Why not visit one of the galleries or artists studios on the island and take a look for yourself?

4. Windsurfing and Sailing
The Scilly Isles are a playground for those interested in exploring and having fun, with year round sailing, kayaking and windsurfing. From hiring out dinghies, canoes or wayfarers to sailing courses given by experienced instructors, there’s something to suit novices and experienced sailors alike. Perhaps you fancy the adrenalin rush of windsurfing accross Cow Sound? Or what about a skippered charter cruise around the islands, with everything done for you including a sumptuous dinner?

5. Walking
One of the best ways to see the Scilly Isles is on foot. Coastal paths hug the islands offering splendid views and varied scenery. Many of the paths understandably take in the wonderful coastal scenery. Indeed, given their size, you could if you wish, walk around an entire island in a day, taking in every cove, beach and prehistoric standing stone. Daytime and evening guided walks and tours are available, which look at the wildlife, archaeology and scenery of the isles.

6. Boat Trips
Explore over 100 islands and islets at your leisure, with such names as Men-a-Vaur, Buccabu and Illiswilgig on a Scilly Isles boat trip. Why not pack a picnic, jump on a boat and land on the uninhabited island of Samson, where you could have a white sandy beach all to yourself? Take a trip to see the Bishop which at 167 ft is the tallest lighthouse in Britain? Or what about sampling the local cuisine at the most south westerly pub in Britain, on St Agnes?

7. Fishing and Shark Tagging
Clean, protected waters rich in nutrients, mean lots of fish! Try your hand at shore or boat fishing or even get involved in shark tagging! What could be more satisfying than setting out early one morning, in a boat armed only with a rod to catch a fish for your tea? Hake, turbot, sole, plaice, megrim, whiting, monkfish, mackerel and pollack to name a few, can be found in and around these shores and there are numerous trips giving the visitor the opportunity to catch them.

8. Lounge on the beach and swim in the Atlantic
With 55 islands in total, 5 inhabited and 50 uninhabited, the Scilly Isles have more than their fair share of beautiful sandy beaches take your pick! Sometimes there’s nothing better than simply relaxing on the warm sand, and cooling off every now and again in the ocean. Although the Scillys are miles from the mainland, there are enough sheltered spots to swim safely. It’s best to use your common sense and pick sheltered spots, avoiding areas of water that are more exposed to winds and tides.

9. Explore Historic Sites
There are a plethora of historical monuments, buildings, graves, memorials, medieval forts and castles dotted throughout the Isles of Scilly. Stroll around St Martins to see Napoleonic signal stations, or Tresco to climb up Cromwells Castle, a defence tower built in 1651-2. Pay a visit to the 8 pointed Star Castle, now a hotel, built in the 16th Century to keep the Spanish Armada at bay. Situated on the historic Garrison, it affords amazing views across to the off-islands.

10. The Isles of Scilly Museum
The Isles of Scilly Museum was founded as a result of severe gales in the winter of 1962, which exposed some remarkable Romano-British finds. After much fundraising and local enthusiasm, the museum was opened in 1967. It contains diverse collections including many exhibits from shipwrecks, a wild flower display during the summer months, Romano-British artifacts, birdlife, local art, and changing annual exhibitions covering terrestrial and marine archaeology.

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