We’ve just returned home from a fabulous family holiday in the Isles of Scilly. Five idyllic days spent island hopping, seal spotting, exploring deserted white sandy beaches and eating delicious locally grown/caught food. I wanted to share my initial and lasting impressions whilst they are still fresh in my mind, plus it’s a great excuse to put off doing our holiday laundry! So here you go, my Isles of Scilly family holiday first impressions…
Our first sight of the Isles of Scilly was from onboard the Scillonian III. After a scenic 2 hours 45 minute sail from Penzance, along the Cornish coastline and across the 28 miles that separates the Scillies with the mainland we arrived into St Mary’s harbour. We were welcomed by powder blue skies and colourful boats of all descriptions bobbing around in the water.
My boys were so excited, especially as they had an audience of fishermen and boaters waving at them…
As we stepped onto St Mary’s quayside I enviously watched a group of local teens, suntanned, beach swept and relaxed, sharing tales of their day. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to grow up living in the Scillies, the very edge of England with a population of just 2,200 spread over 5 inhabited islands and surrounded by over 140 uninhabited islands.
From the minute we arrived in St Mary’s to five days later when we left, (having extended by one night as we didn’t want to leave!) I had to resist taking photos every two minutes. The scenery is absolutely spectacular, it took me a while to get used to the fact that we were still in England, as it is so tropical.
It felt strange to hear British accents and use pounds and pence when it felt like we were on the other side of the world. It was also a refreshing change not to see any multi chain stores, bars or coffee shops. Instead we enjoyed eating at restaurants where the waiting on staff could literally point out the fisherman in the bar who had caught the fish we were eating!
I’ve visited some stunning parts of England but nowhere in my opinion compares to the Isles of Scilly. It reminded me very much of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean… turquoise blue sea, white sandy beaches with shimmery grains of silver which dazzle in the sunshine and a lush green landscape.
Isles of Scilly family holiday: Lasting impressions
Over our five day stay we found everyone we met to be very friendly, welcoming and helpful. One day the tide went out quicker than we had planned for and my husband was struggling to moor the boat we’d hired for the day. Two guys came running down the beach offering their help. Before I’d even had time to roll up my jeans they had waded into the sea carrying my boys to the boat. What heroes! Literally nothing seemed to be too much of a hassle for anyone.
The locals are quite rightly proud of their islands and seemed genuinely delighted to welcome visitors to share the magic and beauty. To be honest, normally on holiday my hubby and I are quite reserved, keeping ourselves to ourselves and just exchanging pleasantries. We were completely different people whilst in the Isles of Scilly! We had lengthy chats with most people, fellow visitors whilst out exploring, staff at our hotel, anybody we sat next to in bars/on the ferry. The conversation always started the same… ‘Have you been here before?’ someone would ask and then a lengthy discussion would follow about the beauty of the isles, the deserted beaches, the incredible sunsets and plans for a return trip.
My boys often took over our conversations with their stories of building rafts on the beach, the cute baby seals they had spotted in the sea and the goodies they had bought from other children at their honesty stalls.
We noticed that visitors seemed to fall into two categories… families with young kids (it was school term) and older couples. The parents we met had all returned to share the experience of the Scillies with their kids as they had fond childhood memories of visiting the area. The older couples we spoke to had brought their kids to the islands for years and made a huge fuss of my boys whilst they reminisced about their days with little one’s island hopping. We barely met any first time visitors and we didn’t meet a single person who didn’t rave about the islands and plan to return.
Isles of Scilly family holidays: Warning – They will make you question your hectic life!
Being in the Scillies made my hubby and I seriously question our life on the mainland. Compared to the simpler life the locals seem to thrive on our life just seems so materialistic and self sustaining… a fancy car to get to work, fancy clothes to impress at work… a house full of toys which our kids don’t seem to play with and yet they played for HOURS with bits of rope and shells on the Scilly beaches.
It also felt very safe, everywhere you walk there are bikes left unlocked, apparently locals leave their house doors open and there are only a few cars on the islands with many locals choosing to get around on golf carts. It was lovely to see local kids biking, scooting and running freely.
We knew from our arrival into St Mary’s that three nights was not going to be enough and started making plans for a return visit. By day two we had extended our holiday by an extra night and by day three we were checking out Right Move and considering what we could do for a living if we moved to the islands.
I’ve never visited anywhere that has affected me quite so much. I love the idea of a simple and happy life centred around family, living by the sea, being on a timetable set by the tides, eating fresh delicious locally sourced food and being part of a supportive community that I feel we have lost on the mainland.
Usually on holiday I avoid buying souvenirs, in the Scillies I actively went looking for souvenirs. I wanted to have a couple of items to always remind me of our first family holiday to the area so I bought an IOS jumper and beautiful starfish necklace from a local jewellery maker that I will treasure forever.
My only regret is that we only stayed for four nights. Next time we will definitely stay for longer, a week on one island and at least a week on another… unless I can convince my husband to move out there!
Check out our comprehensive family holiday guide for the Isles of Scilly featuring the three different ways to travel to the islands, family friendly accommodation advice and some of the best family days out!
Disclosure – We were very fortunate to be guests of Karma St Martins and Isles of Scilly Travel during our time in Scilly. The gushy words and opinions are 100% my own. All images copyright Travel Loving Family.
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