A Day Trip to The Isles of Scilly

Travel Itinerary

Viewed: 273 times
0 ratings

Profile image
Itinerary by: Dan Hill
a month ago
Traveller
Culture-Church Eat & Drink-Bar Eat & Drink-Cafe Eat & Drink-Restaurant Nature-Beach Nature-Island Nature-Ocean Nature-Rock formation Nature-View point Settlement-Town Transport-Boat trip Transport-Ferry port Transport-Harbour
Duration: About 10 hours

The Isles of Scilly are located 25 miles (40 km) south west of Lands End - the most westerly point in England. The archipelago currently consists of some 140 islets of various sizes - 5 of which are large enough to be classed as inhabited islands. But the present geography is a relatively recent phenomenon as it is thought that the islands were connected as a single island as recently as 500 AD - prior to a rise in sea levels. There were 2,224 inhabitants of The Isles of Scilly as of 2019. The 5 inhabited islands are: St. Mary's (1,666), Tresco (180), St. Martin's (142), St. Agnes (73) and Bryher (92). The total land mass of The Isles of Scilly is around 6.3 sq miles. There are 3 main modes of transportation for tourists who wish to visit the Isles: boat, helicopter and plane. Isles of Scilly Travel operate the Scillonian boat and Skybus plane service, and Penzance Helicopters operate the helicopter service. This itinerary focuses on a day trip to The Isles of Scilly via the Scillonian III ferry (the most economical option). There's no getting around the fact that a day trip to The Isles of Scilly will require you to spend around 8 hours on the boat in total - around 6 hours of sailing time and 2 hours of check-in and boarding time. On top of this, if you suffer from sea sickness, you'll likely want to purchase sea sickness medication in advance. Given this, if you have the extra funds available, you could choose to fly over to the Scilly Islands. However, the boat offers great views along the south west coastline of Cornwall, and of the Isles of Scilly, along with the opportunity to see dolphins en-route if you're lucky. On this day trip, upon arrival in Hugh Town - on the island of St. Mary's, we opted for a walk to Peninnis Head, a stroll to the beach at Old Town, a visit to St. Mary's Church, and a roundtrip walk back to Hugh Town for refreshments. We found this to be a perfect itinerary for those wanting to explore the area around Hugh Town on foot. It'll give you enough insight to decide whether you'll want to come back to the Scillies for a longer stay in the future, or perhaps take a boat trip to explore other islands on your next visit. If you're looking for more information about further places to explore in the Scillies, you can check out their official visitor website .

Booking.com

Itinerary

08:15 - 12:00
Scillonian III - Penzance
Penzance Harbour, Penzance TR18 4AH, UK
The Scillonian III is the main passenger and cargo ship sailing between Penzance on the UK mainland, and The Isles of Scilly, located to the south west of Lands End. The ship lands at Hugh Town on St. Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The service runs between Easter and November from Monday to Saturday. There are additional on Sundays during the summer. The crossing time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Pets can accompany passengers, but an additional fee must be paid at the time tickets are purchased. Check in to the boat is required 1 hour before scheduled departure. As a passenger, this feels a little excessive, as it means that you're on the boat for nearly 4 hours per crossing. However, on board you'll find a counter serving drinks and snacks. During Covid times, alcohol is not being served. To find the boat and the Ferry Terminal, head to the harbour wall at the far side of Penzance Harbour, past the Dry Dock, and next to the Scillonian III ticket office. You won't be able to miss the large white boat, as it's the only passenger ferry sailing from Penzance harbour. The check-in offices are currently located on the pier of the Ferry Terminal itself. The advantage of turning up a little earlier is that you have greater choice over where to sit on the boat. It the weather is fair, and the temperature not too cold, you can sit on deck to the rear of the boat. Otherwise, there is plenty of seating inside the boat, and an additional level down below. Top tip: If you want views of the mainland and St. Mary's (recommended), sit on the right hand side of the boat (when facing the front of the ship). On return to the mainland, you'll be wanting to sit on the left hand side of the ship. The views are absolutely worth seeing from the boat. Along the coast of the mainland between Penzance and Lands End, passengers are treated to a view of the cliffs, villages and coves. On my trip, we even saw a pod of dolphins jumping out of the water between the boat and the mainland. There are one or two lighthouses out to see along the journey, too. Upon arrival at the Isles of Scilly, you'll also want to enjoy the views of the islands as you sail in. A pair of binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens will allow you to enjoy the view even more. The crossing between Penzance and the isle of St. Mary's encounters some strong currents - particularly around the area of Lands End. To combat sea-sickness among passengers, the boat design incorporates a "Flume" antiroll stabiliser system. Even so, if you're susceptible to sea-sickness and the sea is not calm, you may benefit from taking anti-sea-sickness medication before setting sail. Passengers who are suffering are advised to move to the bottom of the boat, where there is also a dedicated area for sufferers. Owned and operated by the Steamship Company, the 68 meters long Scillonian III was purpose build in Devon, England, in 1977. A narrow draught was incorporated into the ship's design to allow it to sit on the sea floor at low tides - and to also enable travel along the shallow channels at the Isles. The tide at St. Mary's reaches nearly 6 meters.
Article By: Dan Hill
Transport-Boat trip Transport-Harbour
Standard 48.00 GBP
Kids 30.00 GBP Under 15

Notes

If you suffer from sea-sickness, it could be worth considering taking sea-sickness medication before embarking on the crossing.

Getting there

There's plenty of parking available along the harbour in Penzance. The parking is located across the harbour from the Ferry Terminal (pier) - about 10 minutes walk away.

Travel time
2 hours 45 minutes
12:00 - 13:00
Hugh Town
Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly TR21 0NB, UK
With a population of around 1,100 people, Hugh Town on the island of St. Mary's is the largest settlement on the Isles of Scilly. It serves, therefore, as a sort of capital - and is the administrative centre for the islands - hosting the Council of The Isles of Scilly. It's Hugh Street where you'll find most of the commercial activity in the town. Here you'll find places to eat and drink, as well as a supermarket and plenty of shops for buying your souvenirs. The buildings look very similar to those found on the Cornish mainland - and are largely made of the local granite stone. If you're looking for a bit of culture and history, you could check out The Isles of Scilly Museum - which is found on Church Street. The building at the end of Town Beach with a slipway running into the sea is the Lifeboat station - however you might also see the orange and blue lifeboat moored in the harbour. The lifeboat station was originally built in 1837. The harbour, which connects with Town Beach, is full of moored up boats of all sizes. You can find 2 banks in Hugh Town, as well as several hotels. There's a bicycle rental shop called "St Mary's Bike Hire" - if you fancy getting to know St Mary's on 2 wheels. Next door, you'll find "Scilly Self Catering" - a shop promoting property available in the islands.
Article By: Dan Hill
Nature-Beach Nature-Island Nature-Ocean Settlement-Town

13:00 - 13:30
Path to Peninnis Head
Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly, UK
After you've got to know Hugh Town, on the island of St. Mary's, you'll likely want to experience some of the wonderful nature that surrounds it. Peninnis Head makes a stunning destination to head for, and is a relatively short walk from Hugh Town. There are two routes to walk to Peninnis Head - and we started from Porth Cressa beach. From Porth Cressa Beach, if you are facing the sea, head left. You'll soon reach the path that takes you slowly up onto the headland - within just a few minutes. The other route to consider runs past St. Mary's hospital and is a lane that is paved and heads out toward the headline. Consider trying a circular route to experience both. The narrow path winds along the headland, taking walkers further out to sea and away from Porth Cressa beach. The air is noticeably fresh, even compared with impeccable Cornish standards! You'll find yourself walking behind the allotments of the local islanders - growing their crops in small enclaves. The view back to Porth Cressa beach is beautiful. There are incredible photo opportunities of the ocean and the rocks as you head along the coastline. After a short walk, you'll reach the incredible rock formations and lighthouse at Peninnis Head.
Article By: Dan Hill
Nature-Ocean Nature-View point
Standard Free

Getting there

From Porth Cressa Beach in Hugh Town, if you are facing the sea, head left.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
13:40 - 14:20
Peninnis Head
Peninnis Head, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly TR21 0PP, UK
Peninnis Head is the most southerly point on St. Mary's island. A visit here rewards with sea views across to the island of St. Agnes, highly unusual granite rock formations jutting out from the sea and giant piles of boulders balancing on top of each other - begging you to take a photo. Weather permitting, the headland at Peninnis Head makes an ideal spot for a picnic - especially if you've just arrived on the ferry. Across the grassy slopes grow heathers and gorse. Standing proudly on Peninnis Head, overlooking the Celtic Sea, is Peninnis Lighthouse - built in 1911 by Trinity House. Lying next to it is a boxy white building that originally bore the tanks of acetylene fuel that were used to illuminate the lighthouse. Interestingly, it was as late as 1992 before the miracle of electric light finally reached this lighthouse. The lighthouse was built to replace the previous lighthouse from 1680 that lay in the centre of the island of St. Agnes. Its light guides sea vessels down the St. Mary's Sound toward the harbour at Hugh Town. A Radio Direction Finding Station (RDF) was erected on Peninnis head to during World War II in order to detect incoming Nazi aircraft. First attacked in August 1940, it took another year of attempted bombings before the Nazis finally destroyed it. Designated an Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Geological Conservation Review site, the Hercynian granite here has been sculpted by the weather to produce works worthy of Barbara Hepworth.
Article By: Dan Hill
Nature-Island Nature-Ocean Nature-Rock formation Nature-View point

Getting there

To get to Peninnis Head, we're going to follow path from Porth Cressa around the coastline.

Travel time
0 hours 15 minutes
14:35 - 14:45
Old Town, Isles of Scilly
Castle Cottages, Old Town, Isles of Scilly TR21 0PE, UK
As we walked east along the coastal path from Peninnis Head, we came to a sandy cove, a stone church and the sound of school children playing at Five Islands School during their break time. We'd arrived at Old Town, the oldest settlement on the island of St. Mary's. Back in the medieval ages, it was here in Old Town (formerly "Porth Ennor) that the administrative capital of the Isles of Scilly lay. The natural harbour here sheltered boats way before the harbour at Hugh Town was conceived. Also of medieval origin is Ennor Castle - the remnants of which remain on a knoll at Old Town. Walking along the coast path, we looked down onto the rocks below and saw sea gulls feasting on a dead dolphin that had washed ashore. Perhaps it was once part of the pod of dolphins that we had seen from the Scillonian III as we sailed over from Cornwall. Just to the east of Old Town lies the main airport for the Isles of Scilly: St. Mary's Airport. The Skybus plane ferries passengers to here from Land's End airport on the Cornish mainland. Also residing within Old Town are two caf├ęs and The Old Town Inn pub. Former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson is buried in the church yard in Old Town.
Article By: Dan Hill
Nature-Beach Settlement-Town

Notes

On this day trip, we'll not have time to visit the centre of Old Town. Rather, we'll explore the church yard and admire the views across the bay.

Getting there

Follow the coastal path east from Peninnis Head.

Travel time
0 hours 15 minutes
14:45 - 14:55
St. Mary's Old Church, Old Town
Old Town, Isles of Scilly TR21 0PE, UK
The churchyard of St. Mary's Old Church in Old Town is the resting place for generations of Scillonian families - as well as sailors and passengers who perished in wrecks off the islands during stormy seas. This tranquil cemetery lies around the church, and stretches up the hill behind it, as well as to a large tree-covered field at the side. The original church at the site dated back to the 12th century - however the building was completely rebuilt during the 17th century. Following an extension in the middle of the 18th century, the church was abandoned and unused by the 19th century. It was Augustus Smith, Lord Proprietor of the Islands, who ordered that the church be restored to its former glory. Former British prime minister Harold Wilson is buried in the churchyard. His wife's ashes were scattered here following her death in 2018.
Article By: Dan Hill
Culture-Church Culture-Historical Building

Notes

Following a walk into the churchyard, we walked to the main road, turned left up the road, and took the first left again down a lane that headed back to the church - to get a full 360 degree tour around the church yard.

Getting there

St. Mary's Old Church lies at the western side of the bay at Old Town. Walking along the coastal path from Peninnis Head, you cannot miss it on the left hand side as you reach the sandy bay.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes
15:20 - 15:40
Town Beach, St. Mary's
4 Lower Strand, Isles of Scilly TR21 0PS, UK
Town beach, is Hugh Town's most northerly beach and forms the shoreline to St. Mary's sizeable natural harbour. It's a long sandy beach where residents seem happy to leave their boats, outboard engines, kayaks and paddle boards. There are clean public toilet facilities here. St. Mary's Bike Hire sits just back from the beach - for those wishing to explore the islands on 2 wheels. Trailers are available for those wishing to tow young children - and I even saw a rental trailer being used to pull along a pet dog! Several picnic benches lie on Holgate's Green, and The Bakery Shop Kitchen - just opposite - provides takeout food.
Article By: Dan Hill
Nature-Beach Transport-Harbour

Getting there

Following the previous stop at St. Mary's Old Church in Old Town, we reversed our tracks back along the coastal path to Peninnis Head. Once we neared Peninnis Head, we headed right to meet King Edward's Road which runs from the Head towards St. Mary's Health Centre. Here, we headed down Church Street until we met Church Rd at St. Mary the Virgin church (a large brown church). We then took Well Cross on the right, which brought us to Town Beach.

Travel time
0 hours 25 minutes
15:45 - 16:15
The Atlantic Inn, St. Mary's
Hugh St, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly TR21 0PL, UK
On the western side of Town Beach, along Lower Strand in Hugh Town, sits The Atlantic Inn - a 3-star hotel and pub serving ales from Cornwall's St. Austell Brewery. If you've been on a day trip exploring St. Mary's, then The Atlantic Inn could be a great place to stop for refreshments and food prior to taking the ferry back to Penzance. For beer lovers, not to be missed from St. Austell Brewery is a pint of "Tribute" - a very smooth ale brewed in Cornwall. The pub has an upper and lower terrace outside with great views of Town Beach and Hugh Town's main harbour.
Article By: Dan Hill
Eat & Drink-Bar Eat & Drink-Cafe Eat & Drink-Restaurant

Getting there

From our previous stop at Harbour Beach, head west (left as you are facing the sea) along Lower Strand until you reach The Parade. Continue straight along The Parade until you reach Hugh Street on the right. The Atlantic Inn sits on Hugh Street, a hundred meters or so on the right.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes
16:30 - 17:30
St Mary's Isles of Scilly Terminal
St Mary's Isles of Scilly Terminal TR21 0HU, UK
The St Mary's Isles of Scilly Terminal is the ferry terminal located at the harbour in Hugh Town. It is the main terminal to catch a ferry back to Penzance on the Cornish mainland. There are toilet and washing facilities here. Be prepared for a long queue outside along the quay - we waited at least 20 minutes in line as passengers boarded the Scillonian III.
Article By: Dan Hill
Transport-Ferry port Transport-Harbour

Notes

Don't forget to arrive at the ferry terminal for check in 1 hour before scheduled departure time. On our visit, departure time was 17:30, so we ensured we were checked in by around 16:30.

Getting there

From our previous destination of The Atlantic Inn, turn right on Hugh Street and continue until you reach the harbour lane and turn right.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
Privacy:
public
About the author

As the founder of MapADay, I recognise the value of really useful online travel guides - written by fellow travellers. I founded MapADay to create a platform where anybody could share and promote their favourite travel itineraries - in a consistent format that travellers can easily follow. I also hope tour guides, operators, travel photographers and travel bloggers will promote their material on MapADay. I've lived in 5 different countries: UK, France, USA, Canada and now Denmark, and love exploring new places with my family - near and far.

Booking.com

Sign in to get started

  • Create your profile to get perfect matches
  • Enable Likes Comments and Bookmarks
  • Share your own places and events
  • Create and share itineraries
  • Follow your favourite contributors
  • Sign-up for personal daily events newsletter
  • Switch between Me Family or Friends profiles
Sign up for free