Journey from the British mainland to the Isles of Scilly, a tiny archipelago 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, and you feel as though you’re arriving in another world.
These five inhabited islands are small patchworks of subtropical gardens and white-sand beaches in the midst of the ocean. On one, tiny St Martin’s, you will find the smallest and most south-westerly vineyard in Britain busy growing grapes, which flourish in the subtropical climate and frost-free winters.
Discover more magical islands around the UK coastline, including Caldey in Wales, Handa in Scotland and St Mary’s in England.
How to get to St Martin’s
To sample Scilly’s finest vintages, first you have to journey to the car-free island of St Martin’s, population 120. Catch the Scillonian ferry from Penzance on Cornwall’s coast or hop on a tiny prop plane to reach St Mary’s, the largest island in the archipelago.
From here, a brightly painted passenger boat will spirit you across to St Martin’s, where you can walk off the boat and on to a sandy path that looks over the azure water of the bay. Just along the flower-lined lane is the vineyard, its neat lines of vines overlooking the dunes of Par Beach, perhaps the most idyllic spot in Britain to raise a glass and toast the view.
St Martin’s walk
5.7 miles/9.2km | 2–3 hours | easy
1. Rocky road
Before you try a Scilly-grown wine, head east along the coast path – it’s a six-mile stroll around the island. Walk anti-clockwise to reach Brandy Point, with views across to the Eastern Isles, uninhabited except for a clan of gray seals. The path gets rockier as it loops from here around St Martin’s Head, where there’s a red-and-white-striped Day Mark that has stood watch for 300 years.
2. Quick dip
Continue along the heather-lined coast path to the west to reach tiny Bread and Cheese Cove, the perfect spot for a picnic, and the sandy stretch of Great Bay, with temptingly turquoise water to swim in.
3. Drink in the views
Beyond is White Island – if you have time you can explore it, but beware, the stony tidal bar that connects it to St Martin’s disappears at high tide. The coast path then passes the quay and the wonderful Seven Stones Inn, where you can lunch on fresh-caught seafood before wandering back to the vineyard.
Visiting St Martin’s Vineyard on the Isles of Scilly
At St Martin’s Vineyard, just a hectare of land is studded with vines grown on traditional post-and-wire rows that slope down to the sea. Orion and Seyval blanc grapes, hardy varieties that perform well in the UK’s chilly winters, are ready for harvesting in September.
You can take a self-guided tour around the winery, or join a guided tasting to try four of the vintners’ favorite tipples. Tours are run to match the island’s boat timetable; once you’ve raised a glass, catch a lift back to St Mary’s and watch the bright vines recede on to the horizon as you sail back across the sea.
St Martin’s map
St Martin’s walking route and map