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A small archipelago of islands scattered in the Atlantic Ocean and a paradise of yellow beaches, clear blue seas, and plentiful greenery

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St Mary & Hughtown
Abbey Gardens
St Agnes & St Martins
You might think it's safe to assume that Land's End is the very last point of land in southeastern England. But in fact, just a short distance further on, is a small archipelago of islands scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. The Isles of Scilly are a part of the country that's rarely talked about. In physical distance, they are just 45 kilometres away from the mainland, but in terms of scenery and atmosphere, the gap is much, much larger.
The islands are a paradise of yellow beaches, clear blue seas, and plentiful greenery. Life here seems more relaxed than the mainland. There are no chain retail outlets, and no huge advertising signs that demand your attention. When you're in Scilly, you can experience a peaceful freedom that can only be dreamt about on the mainland.
There are several different ways to make the journey across the water. The quickest of these is by aeroplane; flights are available from a range of airports in the southeast, including Land's End, Exeter, Newquay, and Bristol. An even more dramatic method is to travel by helicopter. This service has been running regularly from Penzance since 1964, making it the oldest scheduled helicopter route in the world. Large windows give you unrivalled views, and a flight attendant is on hand to answer any questions you might have.
The calmest way to travel, though, is by ferry. The journey takes less than three hours from Penzance. Boats are also the easiest way to move between the different islands. These are regular and reliable in the summer, but less so in the winter, when bad weather and rough waters can hinder things a little. The warmer months are probably the best times to visit anyway, as there is more to see, both in terms of plant life, and wildlife. There are regular tours, which give breathtaking sights of the islands, as well as views of seals, puffins, porpoises, or even whales.

Arriving by ferry into St Mary's
Photo ianmilne
Before you head off on one of these trips though, you'll first need to make a stop on one of the islands. Most people's first destination is the island of St. Mary, which is the largest and by far the most populous, even with only 1600 people. It also contains the isles’ main airport. The main settlement, Hughtown, is the site of most of Scilly's amenities, including shops, restaurants, and accommodation. It sits on a narrow strip of land with the harbour on one side and a beach on the other. Exploring the rest of St. Mary can lead to all sorts of interesting discoveries, from prehistoric relics, to 16th century castles. More information on the islands' history can be found at the Isles of Scilly Museum, which contains a large collection of local artefacts.
There are four other inhabited islands, and dozens more which remain empty. These each have their own unique charms. Tresco is a popular destination, with its wildly varying scenery. The northern end is exposed to harsh winds, resulting in a barren landscape of heather and rock. The southern end, by contrast, is mild enough to host the beautiful Abbey Gardens, which is home to an incredible array of tropical trees, plants and flowers, including hundreds which are almost impossible to find anywhere else in the UK. Other islands include St. Agnes, with its white lighthouse, and St. Martins, with its pretty flower farms.

Tresco Abbey Gardens
Photo michaelday_bath
Of course, in an archipelago like this, there are unrivalled opportunities for enjoying the surrounding water. Visitors can enjoy everything from fishing and sailing, to diving and snorkelling. Keen scuba divers will find several intriguing shipwrecks to explore. Meanwhile, people who prefer to keep their feet dry will enjoy the beaches, the cycling routes, and the various walking paths. St. Mary has plenty of sports facilities, including a football pitch, which hosts the world's smallest league. There are only two teams, which play against each other 17 times every season!
It's unlikely that you'll get bored of the Isles of Scilly before you leave. With so much to see, the fact that this is an official "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" probably doesn't need to be said.
Visitor Information
Isles of Scilly, Tourist Information Centre, Hugh Street, Hugh Town, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, TR21 0LL. Tel: 01720 422536
You can fly to the Isles of Scilly from either Newquay or Lands End, with frequent flights available Monday to Saturday. Flights take around 20 minutes. Tel: 0845 710 5555
You can travel to the Isles of Scilly by sea from Penzance. Sailings depart Monday to Saturday (times vary) and the trip takes about 2 hours. Tel: 0845 710 5555

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