The Isles of Scilly is a picturesque constellation of 140 or so islands, most of which are teeny tiny and uninhabited.
Only five are occupied; of those, St Mary’s and Tresco have the lion’s share of visitor attractions and a scattering of lovely independent hotels and restaurants.
The Isles of Scilly has a stellar reputation for being a slice of the tropics in an unexpected location and a place favored by the Royal Family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children. It’s also an ideal destination for those who prefer no-fly trips, as you can reach the islands by boat from Cornwall, but will still feel like you’ve escaped somewhere exciting.
Here’s why we think autumn is the loveliest time of year to explore these isles.
1. The beaches are quieter
Summer on the Isles of Scilly is exceptionally popular, with families ferrying from the mainland to enjoy the sandy beaches during the school holidays. Come autumn, the summer crowds have retreated, and the beaches are far quieter, making them ideal for leisurely walks to admire the coastal scenery. The days are just about long enough for late afternoon strolls, and there’s a cosiness about wrapping up against the chilly breezes before heading inside for a cup of something warming.
2. The wildlife is incredible
A marine wildlife cruise off the shores of rugged and uninhabited St Agnes guarantees seal sightings and the chance to see the sea birds that have made their home here. A sea safari is 90 minutes well spent, appreciating the seascapes and watching out for cheeky puffins who live here.
It’s not just marine life that makes the Isles of Scilly worth a visit for wildlife spotting. Try and see the golden pheasants that live at Tresco Abbey Garden! Keener birdwatchers will also enjoy the hides on Tresco to look for ducks and waders and can head to the island of Bryer to spot rarer American species that make their way over to the UK shores.
3. Tresco Abbey Garden looks splendid
The world-renowned Tresco Abbey Garden is reason enough to travel to the Isles of Scilly. These subtropical gardens are a collection of some 20,000 plants from over 80 countries, making it a dazzling and intriguing place to visit, whether you’re a keen gardener or just appreciate the horticultural spectacle. In autumn, reds, golds, and ambers contrast beautifully with the proteas, aloes, and camellias.
4. You can chat with island experts
An autumn visit to the Isles of Scilly brings the opportunity to take a memorable tour with expert guests, including a talk from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive. He will explain more about his organization’s important work of managing and preserving the natural environment of the Isles of Scilly. A one-off autumn departure to the Isles of Scilly also includes dinner with the curator of Tresco Abbey Garden for insider information about this spectacular botanic collection.
5. The restaurants are cozy and welcoming
Many hospitality venues across the Isles of Scilly close for the winter, but in autumn, there are still plenty of guests enjoying the islands and lending a wonderfully warm atmosphere to the pubs, cafes, and restaurants. If the weather stays dry, we love layering up for an alfresco lunch at Juliet’s Garden in St Mary’s, overlooking the harbor and watching the boats to-ing and fro-ing.
6. There are boutique hotels to check into
There are lovely independent hotels to discover across the Isles of Scilly. One of our firm favorites is Karma St. Martin’s – a boutique hotel comprising just 30 rooms and mere steps from the beach. Autumn’s shorter days make for cozy evenings in the hotel bar, swapping stories of the day with other visitors.
Visit the Isles of Scilly with Silversurfers and Tripsmiths this October, including a stay at Karma St Martin’s, a sea safari, Tresco Abbey Garden visit and various meals, including lunch at Juliet’s Garden.