Our Assistant Editor Melissa recently spent an active family holiday on Isles of Scilly, where the archipelago’s balmy temperatures, sheltered seas and abundant flora and fauna managed to please all 3 generations of her family.
Finding a please-all destination isn’t always easy, especially when planning a multi-generational holiday. Where would there be enough activities to keep the adventurous types busy, enough history and scenery for sight-seeing and country walks, and enough delicious food to keep everyone sated? Oh, plus our destination needed to be safe and our accommodation well-equipped for a toddler.
As it turns out, we didn’t have to look far, as all of these things (and more) can be found just beyond Land’s End, on the Isles of Scilly.
Each of the 5 inhabited islands has its own distinct personality, but only St Mary’s has a proper road network. The rest are smaller and much more fun to explore by bicycle or on foot. This makes them fantastically safe for children and wonderfully relaxing for adults. It’s a real Enid Blyton kind of place, where lives are lived outdoors amongst the fresh sea air.
We decided to stay at the Flying Boat Cottages, on Tresco Island. This well-organised resort-style island has fantastic facilities and comfortable beachfront cottages gazing across a narrow channel to Bryher. By visiting in September we were able to avoid the school holiday crowds, unearthing a calmer, quieter side to the island.
On our first day, we borrowed mountain bikes and took to Tresco’s trails. Along the way we found expansive white-sand beaches, agricultural pastures and the Blockhouse ruins. We even picked up fresh eggs from a local farm’s honesty box, perfect for the next day’s breakfast. We reached the east coast and piled on to the Ruin Beach Café’s sunny terrace for a light lunch overlooking the beach. Next, we cycled north, to the wildest section of the island, where the trails are steep and rocky, the ground is thick with heather and the powerful Atlantic blasts inland over the cliffs. As we scrambled over the spine of the island, we were rewarded with the dramatic ruins of King Charles and Cromwell’s Castles, standing bravely against the crashing waves.
The sheltered archipelago is fantastic for kayaking and Bryher’s Bennett Boatyard has a wide selection of vessels. One beautiful, calm morning, we paddled out along the shore towards St Martin’s Island. As we moved through the glassy water, a curious seal watched us from afar. Below the water it went, before surfacing closer to the boat and staring directly at us. We rested our paddles and gazed back. Then, it was gone. Later, we rounded a tiny rocky islet; looking back we saw the crags were filled with puffins. Breathless, we watched as the entire flock took flight, rising like great plumes of smoke above St Helen’s Pool.
No visit to Tresco is complete without a relaxing stroll around the Abbey’s tropical gardens (Flying Boat Club guests receive free admission). Created in 1834, they feature a unique collection of sub-tropical plants, beautiful sculptures and the rare red squirrel.
Another benefit of staying at the Flying Boat Club is free access to Tresco’s spa and swimming pools. There’s something wonderfully restorative about spending an hour or so in the Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna each day (especially after 5 hours of kayaking). Better yet, the island’s relaxed vibe lends itself to lazy, sociable afternoons – many a happy afternoon was spent in The New Inn’s suntrap garden. This is part of Tresco’s magic; time seems to simply slow down a little…