Five Fun Things to Do on The Isles of Scilly
Some call it a little slice of adventure in the Atlantic ocean. I call it Enid Blyton but with added Wifi. The Scilly Isles may be small and unpopulated but, as one of England’s best kept secrets, they provide a lot of opportunities for going wild. On a week’s visit we packed in five family friendly mini-adventures, five fun things to do on the Isles of Scilly.
1 Find treasure on a golf cart
This has nothing to do with golf. (Although you can actually play golf on a stunning bayside course – see point 4 of this list.) On the Isles of Scilly the converted golf cart is THE way to get around. It comes with many of the benefits of a bicycle (the wind in your hair, almost no engine noise) although it needs far less effort on your part. We recommend hiring them on St Mary’s if you want to see the whole island in a day or Tresco if your legs don’t feel up to the long stroll to Abbey Garden.
You can hire two, four or six seaters depending on the size of your family. Your kids will love piling on to the back of the electric carts without the hassle of doors. Take your driving licence with you and rent from the Scilly Cart Co; a family business run by brothers Michael and Willie Pritchard. Don’t leave it to chance on the day though. The bigger ones especially sell out.
If you want something to do on your golf buggy (if nature, pristine beaches and a wealth of café and lunch stops isn’t enough!) then Tregarthen’s Hotel do a treasure hunt for guests that you can follow around the island. They also helped us hide prizes at strategic locations for the children to find.
2 Motor out to an uninhabited island
It’s not hard to find a quiet space on the Isles of Scilly – there are more than a hundred islands with no one living on them. And there are literally hundreds of beaches. One of the joys of island life is taking a boat trip to an uninhabited island and having a picnic on the sand. You can do that on one of the many day trips that go off to Tresco, St Agnes etc, but a more reliable way of getting a beach entirely to yourself is hiring a motorboat. This is not for the faint hearted, you have to keep a watchful eye on the tide and the wind, and be able to navigate and spot rocks and sandbanks at low tide. We rented a boat from Dan at Bennett Boat Yard and landed on islands including St Martin’s and Samson.
Freedom with a challenge
I have to admit we did come close to being grounded twice. But if you have sea legs, you’ll feel like you are in the Caribbean as you power around from beach to beach. It is the ultimate freedom for a family that loves to explore.
Or let someone else take the strain
If you prefer to put yourself in someone’s else’s hands then try a day trip on the Calypso that goes out from St Mary’s and stops at a selection of harbours, giving you a couple of hours to explore each island. And if you prefer to do it by sea but without a motor, then the Isles of Scilly Sailing Centre rents out kayaks. Weather dependent of course.
3 Trot through the sea and sand
There is only one horse riding centre on the islands. But it does offer something for everyone, including riding on the beach and into the sea. Our St Mary’s Riding Centre trek tour took us past Porth Hellick beach and round Deep Point. It took in the sites of Porth Hellick ground burial chamber and Camel Rock.
“It’s a very calm, very quiet journey made up of beach and coast and lanes,”says owner Claire Rogers. “The beach is quite a novelty I think. A lot of riding schools wouldn’t normally offer that; people are more used to going round and round in a ring. But hopefully the horses give confidence.”
The centre offer sessions for all abilities, with 8-10 horses trekking at a time. From age 4 upwards.
4 Do an island in 9 or 18 holes
So here’s the lowdown on the golf. Like most places in Scilly the golf course on St Mary’s takes its identity from the sea. The only challenge is the tide carting off your ball if your swing is too strong. 14 year old Matthew declared his father/son golf day his favourite activity of the holiday. There’s a very trusting honesty box system in the club house but you do need to book in advance as the course can be busy, especially at weekends. The third hole is a particular challenge as you must send your ball from one cliffside to another. And eighteen holes involves two rounds of the same nine. And a fair amount of time spent hunkering down in the bunker or watching the clouds roll by while your partner does, according to Matthew!
5 Go biking
Tourists are banned from taking their cars to the islands and local cars need to be shipped in by boat, so traffic levels are low. And there are a raft of country lanes to explore. If you are moderately fit you can do most of the biggest inhabited island in a day on bikes from St Mary’s Bike Hire. We gave it a go and it made a great day out.
Lots to explore
There are plenty of stops for coffee and lots of ancient burial mounds to explore. Flowers are one of the main exports of the island and you can pedal off to sit in fields of gold. Or you can follow the trail of the islands’ other main export; Michael Morpurgo. Ask in the bookshop for details of where you can find the locations he set his books in. Or buy a book there – they have the complete collection. The author often stays on Bryher so you may even find him wandering the clifftops. Or maybe pedalling around himself?
Disclosure Note: We visited the Isles of Scilly in a collaboration with The Islands Partnership. Tregarthen’s Hotel and Skybus helped with accommodation and transport for our stay on the Isles of Scilly while we funded most of our own activities and adventures. All the views, opinions, experience and photography are, as ever, all entirely our own.