The Isles of Scilly - wild flowers and natural history

Explore the long lost land of Lyonnesse, enjoying the best of the spring wildlife.
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Wildlife Travel leaflet Scilly 2020

20 – 27 June 2020


Rosemary Parslow



Single Room Supplement – £300


Return ferry from Penzance to St Marys. Local transport as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation half board.

Not included

Refreshments. Lunches. Entrance fees (Tresco Gardens, museum Hugh Town, historical sites, evening talk). Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Group size

Minimum 6, maximum 12.

Once believed to be the lost land of Lyonnesse, the beautiful Isles of Scilly lie just 30 miles due south west of the Land’s End Peninsula. Under the influence of the Gulf Stream, the islands have an equable climate with very mild, frost-free winters so many Scillionian plants and animals are species that have a more southern, even Mediterranean distribution. Exotic plants from other parts of the world also grow in Scilly, so in places you might think you had wandered into the Eden Project!

Early summer is a perfect time to explore the islands; wild flowers will be at their best, seabirds will be nesting with north-bound migrants still passing through the islands. We will walk from unspoilt coves to dazzling white sand beaches, across springy areas of ‘waved’ heathland, past tiny fields ablaze with corn marigolds and through wetland nature reserves. There are many archaeological sites, and some of those we will visit are also rich in wild flowers.

We will be staying at a very comfortable guest house situated in Hugh Town, St Mary’s. Our itinerary is based around using the local boat services to visit the islands. We shall spend a whole day on Tresco, where the spectacular Abbey Gardens are a must for most people and also the extraordinary dune system where exotic plants compete with the subtleties of the native flora.

Our leader for this trip is Rosemary Parslow, author of the New Naturalist book on the Isles of Scilly. Rosemary knows the islands extremely well and is the botanical recorder for the area. Travelling with Rosemary to most of the inhabited islands, this is a wonderful introduction to the wildlife of Scilly.

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Wildlife Travel Scilly spring 2018

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

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Day 1 – We take the RMV Scillionian from Penzance to St Mary’s. The crossing can be interesting for sea birds and cetaceans. On arrival, we will walk the short distance through Hugh Town to our guesthouse (whilst our luggage is delivered).

Day 2  We go by launch to the small island of St Agnes, spending the day exploring heathland with fantastic granite carns, and wonderful coastal scenery looking out towards the Western Rocks.

Day 3 We visit Tresco, with plantations of exotic trees and shrubs which are home to recently-reintroduced Red Squirrels. We walk to the middle of the island to visit the famous sub-tropical Abbey Gardens. The island also has superb areas of heathland including one of the best examples of wind-pruned waved heath in Britain.

Day 4 A longer boat trip will take us to St Martins. We spend the day exploring the sugar-white sandy beaches, tiny bulb fields and dreamy views of the Eastern Isles. Depending on boat schedules, we may also be able to take a trip to the uninhabited Eastern Isles to see the seals and seabirds. There is an optional evening talk in Hugh Town by Will Wagstaff, local naturalist.

Day 5 A chance to spend the whole day on St Mary’s. We will walk some of the dramatic coast and visit at least one of the wetland sites and archaeological sites that are also important botanically.

Day 6 Today, the launch takes us to Bryher, where we spend the day. Firstly, we walk to Rushy Bay to look at some rare plants, then we head along the cliff path to Hell Bay. Here, the dramatic waves breaking on the rocks can be spectacular.

Day 7 Depending on boat schedules, we may take another boat trip to revisit one of the islands for further exploration, or visit to Hugh Town to see the excellent local museum and the Garrison with views over the archipelago. .

Day 8 An early start sees us return on RMV Scillionian to Penzance.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

Mincarlo, our guesthouse, sits in a quiet corner of the bay on the waterfront, overlooking St Mary’s harbour on the eastern side of Hugh Town, the islands’ capital. All rooms are en suite. Unfortunately, single rooms are not available but single occupancy of a double room is possible (for which a supplement is charged). We can check if single rooms are available nearby if you wish (although limited on the islands). We will be staying on a half board basis, with our evening meals taken in the hotel.

The cost of lunches, is not included, to allow you freedom of choice. Items for picnic lunches are available from local shops, or stops at local cafes may be possible on some days.

We travel by the Scillonian ferry from Penzance to Hugh Town, as follows:

20 June depart Penzance 09.15, arrive Hugh Town 12.00
27 June depart Hugh Town 08.00, arrive Penzance 10.45

It is possible to fly to the islands, from Exeter, Newquay or Land’s End. Please ask us for details.

Local transport is by the inter island ferries.

The islands are known for their mild climate. We can expect some sunny days but there may be rain, although there is usually less rain than mainland Cornwall. We will adapt the itinerary to the weather.

We will be walking for most of each day, and the terrain is uneven and/or gently hilly in some places. We will walk at a relatively slow pace but may cover about 3 miles (or perhaps more) on some days. You therefore need to have a reasonably good level of fitness although none of the walks are strenuous. In some locations ‘facilities’ are scarce!

You also need to be able to step into and out of the ferry boats that take us between the local islands so the trip is not suitable for those with limited mobility or poor balance. If you have any concerns on fitness, please talk this through with us before booking.