Isles of Scilly
Spring tour: St Mary's, Tresco, St Agnes, Bryher and St Martin's
When you arrive in St Mary's, you get out of the aeroplane and step back in time. One of the great triumphs of the Scillonians is that they have managed to adapt to modern day living and to welcoming visitors without allowing it to affect their islands or their lifestyle. So it is that a holiday in this beautiful group of islands is full of interest, particularly for those who like birds, flowers and islands in general, and is also utterly peaceful and relaxing.
Your holiday is spent strolling around, soaking up the atmosphere and taking advantage of the excellent opportunities to enjoy a wide variety of natural history from seabirds to moths and everything in between.
During our week-long stay we visit all the main islands, each of which has its own character and atmosphere. Perhaps the best known is Tresco with its famous Abbey Gardens where, thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, sub-tropical plants grow in the open; meanwhile you will find Britain's most south-westerly point at the end of Wingletang Down on St Agnes - even the names of these places are soothing! We go to St Martin's with its sandy beaches and cliff scenery and to Bryher (which means "Place of the Hills" in Celtic), the smallest of the islands but one where you could spend days taking in the magnificent views.
All this and we haven't even mentioned the birds! Again there is tremendous variety, as there so often is on islands. In the spring we take a "seabird special" boat trip and hope to encounter puffins and shearwaters amongst others. Waders, woodland and garden birds are to be found all over with the occasional birds of prey overhead, and are always on the lookout for the odd migrant.
Our holidays are ideal for keen birders and beginners alike, taking in as they do all other aspects of island life but never missing an opportunity to look for and at birds round every corner. The Isles of Scilly really make you feel like you've had a holiday!
- The Isles of Scilly in Spring: Birds, flowers and island life with specialist local guide
- Fully guided group tour
- Departure: 26 April 2019
- Nights: 7
- Fully inclusive cost: £1,795
- Single room supplement: First 4 rooms no single supplement, thereafter £350.
- Deposit: £450 pp.
- Meal Basis: Full Board
- Activity level: Moderate
- Tour leader: Will Wagstaff
- Maximum Group Size: 11
- Travel: Skybus *
- Departs: Exeter
- Included in cost: Air fares and airport transfers, half board accommodation at Bell Rock Hotel, lunches, teas and coffees, all ferry fares and excursions, entrance to Tresco Abbey Gardens, local Island Holidays leader.
- Not included in cost: Travel insurance, tips, drinks and items of a personal nature.
- * We can arrange alternative travel by sea on the Scillonian from Penzance. You would be advised of the cost differential.
- Scilly Isles 2019
Your tour leader
Will Wagstaff has been leading with Island Holidays for many years, not only on his home islands of Scilly but also to the Falkland Islands and many other destinations world-wide. One time Conservation Officer for Isles of Scilly Environmental Trust, he has lived and worked on the islands for over 25 years. In the summer months he is to be found running Island Wildlife Tours through which he shares his knowledge and love of Scilly with hundreds of visitors each year, while in the winter, when not there he spends several months guiding on a cruise ship in Antarctica.
Our afternoon Skybus flight departs from Exeter. Upon arrival on St Mary's, the principal island of the Scilly Isles, you'll be met by your tour leader, Will Wagstaff, and escorted on the airport bus to the Bell Rock Hotel. After an early dinner, we suggest you go along to Will Wagstaff's slide show — included in the cost.
The Seabird Special boat trip is a lazy way to see the islands' sea and shorebirds including Whimbrel, Curlew and Sanderling. Sandwich and Common Terns should also be seen fishing in the shallow seas and there is still a good chance of finding a Great Northern Diver at this time of year. We'll be looking for roosting birds at high tide, waders, auks feeding between the islands and also breeding auks on the rocky stacks with a few of the resident Puffins often quite close to the boat. The trip will be either in the morning or the afternoon depending on the tide and weather and the remainder of the day will be spent exploring one of the islands — possibly St Mary's. Evening log call.
The day will be spent on the island of Tresco looking at the waterfowl and flora around the Great and Abbey Pools in the morning ranging from swallows and martins over the water to Gadwall and a variety of other ducks and maybe a few waders such as Greenshank beside the pools before stopping for lunch at the Gardens Café. We will then explore the famous Tresco Abbey Gardens during the afternoon where Blackcap and Chiffchaff can be heard singing plus a few of the ever elusive Goldcrest also breed here. After dinner we go out again to join the Shearwater boat trip where Puffins are first on the agenda before we look for the evening assembly of Manx Shearwaters close to the uninhabited island of Annet.
Debatably the loveliest of the Off Islands, St Agnes is the ideal size for a day's visit. The morning will be spent around the pool and west, looking around the beaches and some of the small fields for migrants such as Turnstones, Whimbrel on the shore and Willow Warbler and maybe a surprise inland. After lunch in the Turk's Head pub we will go either to the Isle of Gugh or around Wingletang Down — or a combination of the two. Alternatively, and according to weather conditions, the morning will be spent on a boat trip to Annet with the afternoon on St Agnes. Islands are not known to co-operate with itineraries and so we will need to be flexible! Either way we usually finish the day in the local café - home to some very good cakes! Evening log call.
Off to the Off Islands again, this time to Bryher where we will spend the morning around the south end of the island before stopping at the hotel for lunch (pub style). The open areas are good for Wheatear, pipits and we will be hoping for some spring migrants such as chats or flycatchers — it all depends upon our luck. In the afternoon we'll go to the wild and rugged north end of Shipman Head and Hell Bay, finishing in the tea shop to round things off. Bryher has a great reputation for migrant birds so with luck we could be seeing Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole or just enjoying a very scenic island in the sunshine. Evening log call.
This morning will be spent looking at the areas of St Mary's not covered on the first day. This often means visiting the Higher Moors nature trail with Porth Hellick pool at its southern end where Reed and Sedge Warbler can be heard and swallows zip low over the pool. Little Egret and Grey Heron are often feeding here and a scattering of waders can be on the beach if the tide is right. We finish back in Hugh Town for lunch and allowing a free afternoon.
A day spent exploring the two sides of St Martin's, the long narrow sheltered flower fields on the southern side of the island and the wilder slopes of heather and gorse to the north. This long ridge of an island is good for bird playing in the up draught which can include Kestrel, Peregrine, Raven or a few gulls. The beaches at low tide can hold good numbers of Sanderling and a few Dunlin and small groups of migrant Whimbrel which sometimes include Bar-tailed Godwits in summer plumage. We stop at the pub for lunch and maybe for tea later on, depending where the pick up point will be for the boat. As usual, we will have a log call in the evening and then join together for our final dinner.
Time to go home and your flight will leave St Mary's in the morning to give you plenty of time to finish your journey home at a reasonable hour.
Please note that the itinerary can be changed without notice at the sole discretion of Island Holidays or your tour leader.