Sea Garden Cottages

Tresco, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom Book from £320

Stylish beach cottages (sleeping 2-8) on idyllic island of Tresco with restaurant, sailing school and indoor pool
We're massive fans of Tresco. The deserted white sands, turquoise waters and exotic plants of this tiny family-owned island lure us back every year. With no cars, beautiful landscapes and slick management it's goodbye to the stress of mainland life. Now, a cluster of high spec cottages on the north-east coast brings a fresh hassle-free way of staying on the Isles of Scilly.

Built on the site of the original Island Hotel, the Sea Garden Cottages deliver solid comfort and style in the form of their one bedroom cottages available by the night, or larger cottages, sleeping 6-8, rented by the week. Large picture windows give spectacular sea views and a dreamy sense of space. Empty stunning beaches are on your doorstep. It's only a skip to the Ruin Beach Cafe with its wood burning oven, tennis or indoor pool, but you'll want to hop on your cycle to explore the rest of the island. It's a magical place for children to have adventures but fear not, adults won’t go short on the finer things of life: serious pampering at the spa and a thoroughly decent deli are just a few minutes ride away. How fun and easy is that. Oh for an island life!

Highs

  • The Isles of Scilly are spectacularly beautiful and unspoilt with more sunshine and less rain than the rest of the UK
  • Stylish, comfortable and well-equipped cottages with fabulous views of wild seascapes and rocky outcrops
  • Great for kids: almost traffic free, easy beach access, a magical sense of freedom biking round the isle
  • The one-bedroom cottages (with maid service and breakfast included) are ideal for couples wanting a short escape
  • Conveniently close to the beach restaurant, sailing centre (July and August), pool, gym and tennis, plus free entry into the world-famous Abbey Gardens
  • The island (including the pub, art gallery, shop and all the accommodation) is owned by the Dorrien-Smith family who have succeeded in preserving a unique sense of community

Lows

  • If you want the hustle and bustle of frantic modern life, the Isles of Scilly may not be for you
  • Getting there and back by twin-prop or ferry is part of the fun but travel plans can be scuppered by fog or high winds
  • For bike hire, spa treatments and provisions you'll need to head over to the other side of the island, but it's only a 20 minute walk (less by bicycle) and they'll deliver groceries to your cottage
  • Families return year after year so May half term and August can be booked up more than six months in advance. Also see the Flying Boat Cottages

Best time to go

The climate is mild - compared to the rest of the UK, Tresco has less rain, more sunshine, warmer winters but cooler summers (max temp is about 22C). The best of the weather is in the spring and summer months but winds can pick up at any time. School holidays get booked up far ahead. Note: the Ruin Beach Cafe and Flying Boat Restaurant are closed from early November to mid March (the New Inn remains open all year round).

Our top tips

Make sure to book lunches and dinners in advance to avoid any disappointment. When you book your bike get a basket too as easier to transport your stuff around the island. Beach towels are not provided, so we take a sarong/hamamma which doubles up as a rug/towel.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique cottages
  • 11 cottages (with 1-3 bedrooms)
  • Self-Catering with 2 restaurants and pub nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Nov 2015 - 11 Mar 2016
  • Indoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
  • Laundry Service
  • Daily maid service for 1-bed cottages
Room:

Rooms

All cottages face the sea and are a short stroll away from the Ruin Beach Cafe, indoor pool and gym. Named in nautical fashion there are 2 types of cottage: 1-bedroom cottages, which are more like hotel suites with maid service and breakfast included in the daily rate (no minimum stay), and larger 3 bedroom cottages sleeping 6-8, available for weekly stays on a self-catering basis. All cottages have a sofabed to allow for extra guests.

Interior styling strikes a balance between contemporary and traditional in soothing shades of blue, coral and cream. Expect Oka furniture, Lloyd Loom wicker chairs, oak floors, New England style wood panelling and fine contemporary paintings (the Dorrien-Smiths are great patrons of the arts). Cosy, comfortable and high spec, they work well for all generations, from babies to grandparents. Kitchen equipment is a cut above the norm; Wifi, iPod docks, TV/DVDs and underfloor heating come as standard. The only disappointment was no washing machine but they run a concierge service which can help with luggage and laundry.

The 1-bedroom cottages are all on 2 storeys with similar layouts. Upstairs, there's the double bedroom with balcony. We slept well on their beds and were mesmerized by the early morning vista. Bathrooms come with Ren toiletries, fluffy robes and decent showers (some have bathtubs too). Downstairs, you have an open plan living area spacious enough for two (plus a child) with a compact kitchen, small table and sofabed, leading out to a terrace and garden area. The only difference between them is that Compass, Gimble, Cockle and Cowrie face east (so catch the morning sun) and are right by the water's edge, have more dramatic views of craggy rocks and feel a bit more private. The others (Spindrift, Scallop, Crab, Clam and Shrimp) face south, with sunnier flower-filled gardens and distant views of sandy beaches. Interconnecting doors can pair most of the 1-bedroom cottages but for weeklong stays we'd recommend the larger houses for families.

The 3-bedroom cottages (sleeping 6-8), are similarly styled to the 1-bedroom cottages but on a grander scale. With more rooms they're geared for groups to stay for longer: much larger living-dining-kitchen area (plus big fridge) as well as having en suite baths and separate shower room and TV room.

Note Changeover days:

SATURDAYS: Lobster and Oyster are in at 1.00pm and out at 9.30am

All the one bed cottages are in at 3.00pm and out at 10.30am, Monday to Saturday (no check-in/outs on Sundays)

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Wifi internet
  • Phone
  • Tv
  • Satellite tv
  • Cd player
  • Dvd player
  • Radio
  • Ipod dock
  • Wifi internet
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Terrace
  • Bathrobes
  • Toiletries
  • Full kitchen
  • Fridge
  • Oven
  • Microwave
  • Hob stove
  • Coffee tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Barbeque
  • Toaster
  • Dishwasher
  • Iron
  • Hairdryer

Eating

Eating in: kitchens are very well equipped and spotless. Expect cooker, microwave, fridge (big fridge-freezer in larger houses), dishwasher, stylish Sophie Conran Portmerion crockery and lots of pots, pans, baking equipment, even Tupperware for picnics. Order fresh lobster or crab from the local fishermen and you'll find special stick forks for eating them. Note that those staying in the 1-bedroom cottage get breakfast included in the rates.

Don't worry about not being able to carry enough provisions with you (flights have strict baggage limits), the Tresco Stores on the west of the island has an excellent selection of essentials as well as a deli, lots of local produce and a decent range of Champagne, wines and beers. Think mini "Wholefoods Market" rather than your local Spar. Foodies will be impressed with the range of unusual ingredients. Ring up before and they'll stock your fridge prior to your arrival. Chef-prepared dishes like cottage pie or Thai chicken curry can also be delivered to your cottage.

Eating Out: the Ruin Beach Cafe is the main focus of this side of the island and is yards from your cottage. Open daily (from mid March - early November) for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, it has a friendly laid back atmosphere, original art work, pretty shell mosaics, and a large terrace with plenty of tables for when its dry. Overlooking the beach and shallow azure waters towards St Martins, this must be one of the UK's most idyllic lunch spots. The menu has a Mediterranean focus: typical dishes include wood-fired pizzas, fresh crab on toasted sourdough, and beef sirloin with crushed potatoes and gremolata. The offering remained the same during our stay but daily specials expand the choice in the evenings. We thought the spaghetti with lobster was exceptional. Service is friendly but can be slow at peak times.

Further afield on the other side of the island is the more traditional New Inn (open all year) which serves fine ales and good pub grub, and the Flying Boat Restaurant and Bar (open February to mid November, except Sunday evenings) where the emphasis is firmly on showcasing the region's best seafood.

It's worth also taking a 10-minute boat ride to Hell Bay (open end March - end October) on neighbouring Bryher island for a light lunch or fine dining in the evening. It's under the same ownership and special dinner boats go across a couple of evenings a week.

Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Meal delivery service
  • Shopping service
  • Full kitchen
  • Fridge
  • Oven
  • Microwave
  • Hob stove
  • Coffee tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Toaster
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

Car-free Tresco is just 2 miles long by 1 mile wide but has an extremely diverse landscape with rugged cliffs and wild moorland in the north and lush farmland, manicured gardens and palms in the south.

  • Bicycle around the island (there's a hire shop just beside Tresco Stores with bikes of all sizes). No need to fret about locking your bike up - no-one will steal it here
  • Wander along the beaches - there's half a dozen to choose from and usually these are empty with white sand, pretty shells and crystal clear water. Pentle Bay is considered one of the UK's finest. Our favourite picnic spot is beneath the Blockhouse.
  • Visit the famous Tresco Abbey Garden - created in 1834 it features a unique collection of sub-tropical plants from around the world. Entrance is free to those staying in the Sea Garden Cottages and it's open every day from 10.00-16.00 hrs
  • Visit the Valhalla exhibition (located within Abbey Garden) - the best collection of ships' figureheads in the world, mostly taken from wrecks found in the Scilly Isles dating back centuries
  • Walking is relatively easy going around Tresco. Follow the coastal path to discover Cromwell's 17th century castle on the island's north west promontory (built to guard anchorage between Bryher and Tresco). A short hike up the hill behind leads you to King Charles Castle and fabulous view of the islands
  • Visit for the annual ale festival or art week
  • Play tennis - there is a hard surface court behind the cottages and another two astro-turf courts on the other side of the island near the Island office (you may need to book in advance with the concierge)
  • Play golf at The Isles of Scilly Golf Club on St Mary's - it's free to those staying at the Sea Garden Cottages
  • Learn to sail at the on site sailing school (July and August only). Kayaks and windsurfs can also be hired. The main local spectator sport is weekly island gig-racing
  • Swim in the indoor pool or unwind at the lovely Flying Boat Club's Spa: book a relaxing treatment or use its jacuzzi, steam room and sauna
  • The Scillies are a haven for birdwatchers, particularly in October when migratory birds visit the islands. The hide overlooking the Great Pool on Tresco is an excellent spot
  • Check out who's showing at the Gallery Tresco - they regularly feature some of Cornwall's most acclaimed contemporary artists
  • Explore the other islands: apart from Tresco the other inhabited islands are St Mary's (the main island), Bryher, St Martin's and St Agnes, plus there are over 100 uninhabited islands (though many are just small rocks), some of which are home to seal and seabird sanctuaries. Boat trips run daily or you can hire a private launch
  • Hole up in your cottage with a DVD - you can rent the latest films from the Tresco Stores and watch on large flat screen TVs

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Kids activities nearby
  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Kite/windsurfing

Kids

With no cars, beaches on your doorstep and plenty of places to explore, this is heaven for kids. Hire children's bikes and helmets from the bike shop and let them go. Older kids can join the sailing club in summer and island hop in small yachts, and if it's raining, the heated indoor pool is ideal.

The island's sole shop Tresco Stores on the west of the island stocks baby and toddler essentials (nappies, wipes, Calpol, suncream, buckets and spades, balls, baby food), though you might want to check in advance about preferred brands of formula.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Small families with one child could opt for a 1-bedroom cottage with the bedroom upstairs and sitting room with sofa bed downstairs (two young children would be ok but a bit of a squeeze). Some of these smaller cottages have shower only, so if a bathtub is important to you, please request at time of booking. Larger families coming for a short break could book two connecting 1-bedroom cottages (Cockle+Cowrie, Compass+Gimble, or Shrimp+Spindrift), but staying a week or more, it's cheaper to book one of the larger 3-bedroom cottages, which have bigger living areas and beds for up to 8 (using a sofa bed in the TV snug). All beds at the Sea Garden Cottages are zip linked so can be made into doubles or twins

Babysitting:

Available with prior notice

Baby equipment:


  • Cots

  • High chairs

  • Bath mats

  • Stair gates

  • Children's plates, bowls and cutlery (on request)

  • Pushchairs can be hired from Tresco's Estates Office

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The nearby Ruin Beach Cafe has a relaxed atmosphere where parents can enjoy a chilled glass of rose and a wood-fired pizza on the terrace while their kids play just yards away on the sandy beach. A children's menu is available and our 6-year old daughter still claims the "spag bol" to be the best ever. See Eating. If you prefer to whip up snacks in your cottage, the kitchens are well equipped and have microwaves; you'll find everything you need at the local store. Head to the New Inn for delicious ice-cream

Kids Activities on site:


  • Heated indoor swimming pool with tiled steps (good for toddlers)

  • Rainy days: afternoon film screenings, craft workshops
  • Sandy beach on your doorstep, others to discover, some with pretty shells and rockpools

  • Crabbing off the jetties (lines available in the shop)
  • Sailing school on Tresco (July and August) offers sailing, kayaking and windsurfing for all levels

  • Bike hire (for all ages, including stabilizers, tag alongs and toddler seats)

  • Tennis (2 astro-turf courts, rackets of all sizes and balls provided)

  • Hidden treehouses and swinging ropes (no clues, you'll have to find them yourself!)

  • Ruined castles waiting to be explored

  • Children's playground up at the island's school

  • Walking, including long pushchair-friendly walks from your door around most of the island (bring a baby carrier if you want to walk up to the castles)

  • For rainy days, there is a DVD player (rent DVDs from Tresco Stores), cake baking equipment and usually a jigsaw and board game in each of the houses

Kids Activities nearby:


  • Boat trips to the other islands, including bird and seal spotting
  • The Abbey Garden has subtropical vegetation, grottos and figureheads recovered from shipwrecks

Families Should Know:

Children under 14 years must be supervised in the swimming pool. Cottages don't have washing machines but service washes are available at an extra cost. Since the helicopter service stopped in 2012, the only way back to the mainland is by boat ride to St Mary's followed by fixed wing flight or ferry. In case of an emergency the staff at the island's office are brilliant - on our last visit we needed to get our daughter back to the mainland quickly and we were literally swept off our feet via tractor, boat and plane at lightning speed

Distances:

  • Airport: 20 minutes away on St Mary's
  • Helipad: on Tresco
  • Doctor: trained first aiders on Tresco. St Mary's has a small hospital, 2 GPs and ambulance boat (also emergency helicopter service to the mainland, usually to Treliske Hospital in Truro)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
6/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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