A Guide to the Isles of Scilly, Britain's Paradise Islands
Situated 45 km south west of the English coast, in the Atlantic Ocean, lies the archipelago of the Isles of Scilly. Consisting of 145 islets, of which only five are inhabited, covering a total area of only 16 sq km.
Traditionally annexed to the Duchy of Cornwall, the islands have actually had an unitary council since 1890.
The Duke is the heir to the throne ( H.R.H Prince Charles ) and Duke of Cornwall and is allowed special priveleges both on the isles and in the county of Cornwall..
The etymology of the island's unusual name is unsure, but some sources believe it comes from the Roman word ' sillina ' which means ' island of '.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the islands were once 3 landmasses, with ancient burial sites on the islands suggesting at least 3000 years of human habitation.
The Isles were designated an area of outstanding natural beauty ( A.O.N.B ) in 1975, which consist of 26 sites of special scientific interest ( S.S.S.I ) and a Heritage Coast, owing to their exceptional marine wildlife, coastal heathland, clean air and archaeological sites.
The islands Maritime climate is unique within the British Isles, owing to their position which puts them squarely on the path of the Gulfstream and warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, which gives them very mild Winters, and Summers warm enough to be able to grow sub - tropical plants there.
The island of Tresco. ( Tom Corser www.tomcorser.com.)
The largest of the isles is St Mary's , which measures 2 1/2 miles by 1 3/4 miles which forms the economic hub of the islands and is home to 3/4 of the islands whole population of 2000 people.
The island's ' capital ' is Hugh Town, which consists of a town hall, a hospital, banks, shops, hotels, port, airport, museum, 3 churches ( Anglican, Catholic and Methodist ), five public houses, a school, ancient monuments, sports facilities and several cafes and restaurants.
Other interesting features of St Mary's are it's Bronze Age village at Bant's Carn and the atmospheric Old Town.
The island is surrounded by white sand beaches and very blue waters, and becouse of the islands lack of pollution and dust, very clear skies which inturn allow very good light and air quality.
The island is serviced by a nine mile road network and a regular local bus service.
The second largest isle is Tresco, which is famous for it's sub - tropical plants grown at Abbey Gardens.It is the only isle which is run as a ' timeshare resort '. It is serviced by a local heliport and small quayside.
Interesting locations on Tresco include the Valhalla shipwreck memorabilia exhibition within the Abbey Garden's, Cromwell's Castle and a bustling sailing club where visitors can enjoy windsurfing, kayaking and sailing.
The third largest island is St Martin's, a farming community which has it's own local farm produce shop.it is serviced by a small quayside.
The island consists of the three small, picturesque towns of Lower Town, Middle Town and Higher Town. In Higher Town there is a vinyard that conducts it's own tours during the Summer months and a Dive School where visitors can indulge in snorkelling with seals expeditions.
The fourth largest is St Agnes, which is home to the famous Isles of Scilly flower farming community, where flowers are grown several months in advance of the rest of the U.K. It is the least developed of the isles and is the only one not to have a hotel in situ.
The island is the home to the Scilly Isles only dairy herd of cattle, which are implemented in the making of homemade ice cream
The island is also serviced by a small quayside.
The smallest island is Bryher, an island reknowned for it's crystal clear sea and beautiful beaches and which is the only island accessible year round by boat via it's tiny quayside.
Bryher is reknowned for it's stunning Atlantic Sea views, walking paths and organised boat trips.
Life line to the Isles of Scilly, The Scillonian.
Tourism makes up for 80 % of the isles income.Tourism affects the sustainability of all who live there, rendering the isles almost closed down during the winter months.
Tourist activities include walking, birdwatching, scuba diving, boat trips around the islands and the world famous Gig racing, which is a fast rowing boat with six oars men, officially called a pilot gig, which was once used as the isles only means of life saving and salvage operations.
There are primary schools on all the islands except Bryher and a secondary school on St Mary's, which is serviced by boat for children living on the other isles.
The isles are accessible by ferry from Penzance in Cornwall by way of the islanders own vessel, the Scillonoian.
Regular taxi helicopters are in use daily to St Mary's and Tresco via the main heliport at Penzance and there are SkyBus services from Land's End, Newquay, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton.
Light aircraft can access the islands by flying into the small airport on St Mary's.There is a regular taxi boat which services all the islands.
The isles have some what of a cult following in the U.K owing to a T.V series broadcast by the B.B.C about island life there.It runs along the lines of a mini soap opera, following the life of the islanders,and featuring the islanders.
Hugh Town, St Mary's. ( Image courtesy of Daniel Bagshaw.)
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