Isles of Scilly holidays Idyllic and empty: a post-lockdown holiday on the Isles of Scilly
The ‘Scilly season’ started late, and nervously, this year but that makes the dazzling white beaches all the more alluring
Of all the striking scenes that the Isles of Scilly offer – from beaches that look too tropical to be in Britain to wild boulder-strewn headlands and the magical Abbey Gardens – the one that lodged in my mind was Bishop Rock lighthouse. Writers and painters the world over have been drawn to the dramatic potential of lighthouses, but Bishop Rock is special. It watches over one of the most treacherous stretches of British coast, four miles from the nearest inhabited island, and was finally completed, on its tiny mound of rock, in 1858, after a previous attempt was swept away. (It was further strengthened in 1887.) On nearby rocky Rosevear lie the ruins of a cottage where the workers who built it lived, rowing out to the site with giant blocks of granite that had been cut and rounded on St Mary’s quay. Incredibly, no lives were lost in its construction.
From the most southerly of the Scillies, St Agnes, my 10-year-old son and I joined a sealife safari on board catamaran the Spirit of St Agnes. Sailing west past uninhabited Annet island, a renowned seabird site, to the notorious Western Rocks, site of many a shipwreck, we clocked up an impressive tally of wildlife: Atlantic grey seals; porpoises; a fulmar and its chick, well camouflaged against a rock; and, most excitingly, a bizarre sun fish, flapping its dorsal fin back and forth. Basking sharks and swordfish have been spotted here too, drawn by the deep, plankton-rich waters.
At first the lighthouse appeared no bigger than my finger, a miniature tower surrounded by grey sea and sky. As we drew closer I spotted windows and a door halfway up the tower, with a ladder running up to it like a