Isles of Scilly Weekend May 2023
I have lived in Devon all my life and both my husband and myself have always said the Isles of Scilly is somewhere that we wanted to visit. We have been to other parts of the World but have never got around to visiting these wonderful islands, until now. If you are unfamiliar with these islands, they are a small group of islands off the Cornish coast about 2 hour 45 minutes by the Scillonian passenger ferry (no cars), a 20 minute Skybus plane ride from Penzance or by helicopter from Penzance. I don’t like flying so the Scillonian ferry was our choice. The Scillonian is not very big and you do cross the Atlantic so if it is rough you will feel it.
So in May 2023 we decided that it was time to change that and we booked a weekend to celebrate our 45th Wedding Anniversary.
FRIDAY 19TH MAY 2023
We left our home in Ivybridge about 1.30 p.m and travelled down to Penzance to stop overnight as it was an early start the following morning to catch the Scillonian Ferry over to the main Island of St Marys.
We arrived in Penzance just before 4.00 p.m where we booked into the Premier Inn we had pre booked last year. It is right on the Quay so we were hoping for a sea view but were very disappointed as we were at the back of the hotel overlooking a car park.
I can only assume that as we booked early the price was lower so we were given not such a nice room. Later bookings when paying more obviously get better rooms.
We walked into the room which had very drab decor and found it most depressing.
However my main concern was the non opening window which for me not being able to open a window was a struggle. Even though this was a ground floor room. It did state there was a stream of fresh air constantly blowing into the room – from an air conditioning vent. So actually no such thing as fresh air. Also the thermostat only went down to 17 degrees which was far too hot for me so I found the room extremely uncomfortable. I dread to think what it would be like in the height of summer. It felt more like prison cell which I know sounds a bit extreme but that is what it felt like.
I did query with reception about the sealed windows but was told that all the rooms had sealed windows. Never will I ever stay in a hotel with windows that cannot be opened.
I would have to also comment on the bathroom regarding toilet paper. It had a dispenser which just dispensed small sheets of individual tissue paper which was only a quarter full. Not having actual toilet rolls is a mistake in my opinion as these little tiny pieces of tissue are a waste of time and you end up using more, so therefore expensive.
We went for a walk to see where the Scillonian departed which was just over a 10 minute walk from the hotel. We loved the very basic check in desk.
We then went for a walk along the promenade and then back through the town looking for somewhere to eat later on.
Now I am probably going to upset many people particularly the locals living in Penzance but have to say we would not want to visit again and thank goodness it was only for 1 night. It was very run down and found it depressing, not our cup of tea at all.
We did stop at a pub for a drink to pass some time and did have a look at their menu but decided we would look elsewhere. One thing that put us off eating here was a little box on the menu which had a headline “Golden Years Menu” stating that if you were over 60 you could choose smaller plates – really!!!
Steve had done a bit of research and found that a restaurant called the Cork and Fork had good reviews which was actually right next to the Premier Inn, so we had a look at it and decided that this would be where we would eat later on, so phoned them up and booked a table.
Steve had booked the Isles of Scilly travel park and ride for the duration of our stay on the Scillies. The car park was about a mile from the Premier Inn so he had to drive up there for 7.00 p.m. He was then brought back to the quay in a mini bus. Then on our return the mini bus would take him back to the car park to collect the car – all very well organised.
Once he got back to the hotel we then walked around to the Cork and Fork restaurant and had a really nice meal.
Steve chose a pear and blue cheese starter with pinenuts and a tasty sauce and I went for the slow cooked belly pork with parsnip puree and apple jam and a crispy pork crackling.
Steve then went for a steak bavette with red wine sauce and vegetables and and I chose the chicken in a wild mushroom white wine and cream sauce with a selection of vegetables which was all very tasty.
Even though we were quite full Steve went for the chocolate mousse with raspberries and a shortbread biscuit and even though I don’t do desserts I chose the ice cream with a cornish black bee raw honeycomb slice which was lovely which came with an expresso coffee
Back to the hotel for an early night as we had to be at quay to catch the Scillonian ferry at 7.45 am.
Isles of Scilly Weekend May 2023.
SATURDAY 20TH MAY and our 45th wedding anniversary.
Set the alarm for 6.30 a.m and then went down for a Premier Inn breakfast just before 7.00 a.m. I have to say that even that was not that good, the bacon had been left under the heat lamp for so long that it was so tough and rubbery you couldn’t cut it and likewise the fried eggs were so hard you could have used them as frisbees.
However it was a beautiful day dry sunny and warm so hopefully a good day for the 2 hour 45 minute crossing. We walked down to the quay where we boarded the Scillonian(see photo below of her moored up ready to depart).
We checked in, got on board waiting for departure at 8.45 am for the main island of St Marys but we actually left a bit early.
Leaving Penzance harbour.
Some photos of us onboard the Scillonian. There are plenty of seats downstairs but we preferred to sit out on deck and found a nice little place at the side of the ferry out of the wind and well away from everyone else.
On route I took some photos of the Cornish coastline as we made our way down to St Mary’s.
It was a good Atlantic ocean crossing but I was really pleased when we approached the Scilly Islands.
As we got nearer we spotted our hotel The Star Castle right on the hill.
We arrived at St Mary’s around 11.15 and disembarked into the warm sunshine. The Scillonian has a female Captain and we got a snap of her whilst she was coming into St Mary’s quay.
We stopped at the first pub we found The Atlantic Inn and sat on the terrace overlooking the harbour and enjoyed a cool drink.
We then went for a little stroll around and felt very comfortable and there was an instant affection about the place from both of us. We stumbled across a beautiful white sandy beach which was quite stunning.
We walked around a bit more and came across a bakery (the bakery shop kitchen) and as it was now lunchtime there were freshly baked pasties so we just had to have one. We sat on a park bench in a large grassy area overlooking the harbour enjoying the rather large and delicious proper Cornish pasties We had to be careful however of the seagulls who hover above to pounce at every opportunity. But we were determined we were not going to share.
It was now just before 3.00 p.m and we then walked up to the Star Castle Hotel where we would be staying for 2 nights. It was a medieval fort built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st and built on the top of a hill. It was beautiful and full of character. Our room was large with a part 4 poster bed complete with drapes. Also windows that opened – hurray and 2 window seats. You could look out to sea and the view was lovely.
As you can tell there is a lot of walking. As the island is only about 6.2 square miles you could walk all the way around in about 4 hours. There are bikes you can hire which include battery ones and also you can hire golf buggies which are an ideal way to get around. Be warned however, that they do get booked up, so be prepared for lots of walking.
Whilst we were waiting for our case to arrive (the hotel collected it from the quayside when we docked) we had a look around the hotel which included going down to the dungeon bar and also the restaurant which was all laid up ready for dinner.
We looked around the grounds and the ramparts and the scenery and views were spectacular. We found the indoor swimming pool which was very nice so read on to see if we ventured in.
We looked through some hotel information and saw that there was a bay called Pelistry that was a good place for spotting seals. We asked the receptionist who said it was the other side of the island and it would take about 30 minutes. We had plenty of time before our evening meal so thought we take a stroll and hopefully see some seals.
We walked through Old Town on our way to Pelistry bay.
1 hour and 15 minutes later we found the beach which was another white sandy one but having walked all that way in the heat there weren’t any seals, so very disappointed. Well I tell a lie, there was one large one right on the shoreline but it was dead.
We were knackered and it was still hot and sunny and had there been a phone signal we would have tried to get a taxi back. I nearly resorted to hitch-hiking hoping that a nice local might have taken pity on us!! There were none so we had to trek back. However we did find a slightly shorter route back just cutting off 15 minutes.
We got back go the hotel and decided to have a much welcomed cool drink in the dungeon bar.
Isles of Scilly Weekend May 2023
Back to the room for a shower before we went down to dinner.
It has a lovely dining room full of character which was very busy but we were looking forward to 45th Anniversary meal.
It was a set menu with a few choices of each course. We started with an amuse bouche which was a spoonful of feta cheese, black garlic paste and a micro size piece of lettuce,
Steve then went for the loin of pork with a mustard sauce and micro veg and a parsnip puree and I had a beetroot and goats cheese salad.
The next course was a potato and leek veloute topped with a herb oil. I have to say that this was the best soup I have ever tasted. It was so silky and smooth as this and absolutely delicious.
For the main we both had beef Wellington with leeks, carrots, asparagus, onion and a beef jus which was very tasty and we both enjoyed it.
For dessert Steve chose a cherry cheesecake with clotted cream and I had a rhubarb and apple crumble with ice cream clotted cream and a butterscotch sauce which was all yummy.
It was a lovely meal and so we had a lovely 45th anniversary.
As it was still a lovely light dry evening and to walk off the big meal, we took a quick stroll down to the quay to see what boat trips were on for tomorrow. All the boat trips to the other islands and trips are listed daily on blackboards with times of departure and return. These trips are run by the St Mary’s Boatmans Association
There are also other trips run by private boat owners.
It was then back to the room for an early night as it had been a long and tiring day.
SUNDAY 21ST MAY
We woke up to a warm, sunny day and went down for a full english breakfast which was very good and certainly filled us up.
We walked down to the quay to get boat tickets which go on sale at 10.00 a.m every day, so queuing is inevitable. We decided to go to Tresco another of the Scilly Islands and is about a 15 minute boat ride from St Mary’s.We had a lovely walk around the island passing the Abbey Gardens but decided not to go in although you can see the Abbey in the background of a couple of photos. However by just walking along the paths we walked through some beautiful plants.
We enjoyed a cool drink in the New Inn overlooking the beautiful scenery which was very pleasant.
Above a table on route to the loos there were some interesting pictures of fisherman. I am sure there is a story behind each one.
We then walked along the very narrow and in some places steep and rocky path towards the Cromwells Castle. We decided not to follow the path right up to the ruined castle but took a photo from the short distance away.
We then continued to walk around the other side if the island stopping off at the Old Blockhouse which is an old Fort at the top of a hill with breathtaking views over the stunning archipelago.
Please take a moment to have a look at the video below to see the stunning archipelago.
We then walked along the white sandy beach and just sat and soaked up the ambiance. It does state that the Scilly Isles are like the Caribbean and they certainly are, particularly in fabulous weather like today. The white sand is like walking on flour and the deserted beaches stretch for miles where you virtually have them to yourself.
After a few hours on Tresco we caught the 2.30 p.m. boat back to St Marys.
Once back at St Mary’s we were going to stop in a pub to rest our feet, but we decided to go into the only supermarket (which I think is actually the only one servicing all the islands)and bought 2 very small (just one glass in each) bottles of wine and a packet of 4 shortbread and chocolate biscuits. We enjoyed this sat on a bench on the Garrison Walk footpath just past our hotel, again taking in the stunning views. Tresco and Bryer (another island) were just the other side of the water which we could see clearly.
We had a coffee in the room then decided to go and have a swim in the pool which was very pleasant and invigorating before dinner
The restaurant was very busy again but we had another lovely meal.
The amuse bouche was the same as last night, very small but tasty.
We both chose the same starter of breast of duck with parsnip puree and a sauce which I cannot remember.
Then both had another veloute, this time sweet potato with a basil ( I think) oil on the top which was absolutely lovely, again so velvety smooth and very tasty.
As I said above these soups were absolutely delicious, so much so that when I came home I emailed the hotel and asked if it was possible to have the recipe so I could try and replicate them at home. I was most surprised but the receptionist replied with a copy of the recipe given to her by the Chef, so I will definitely be giving it a go.
Then we both had roast sirloin with roast potatoes a selection of vegetables and a Yorkshire pudding (well it was Sunday). All very tasty.
For dessert Steve chose the belgian chocolate cremeux with salted caramel ice cream with white chocolate and strawberries and he said it was delicious. I am not really a dessert person so I chose the cheeseboard, which you had a choice of up to 4 cornish cheeses which was served with grapes, celery, chutney, 1/2 a fig and a dish of wafer thin crackers and everything a cheeseboard should be – it was very enjoyable.
It was then back to the room to pack up the case as our 2 days were unbelievably up and it would be time to head home tomorrow (a shame that we were not staying longer).
MONDAY 22ND MAY
We woke up to another lovely day although it was a bit windy. Down to another lovely full english breakfast and the final packing. We decided to take a boat trip to another of the Islands, St Martins as we had hours to kill as the Scillonian did not depart back to the mainland until 4.30 p.m, although we had to be on the quay an hour before departure. So our case was left at the hotel who took it down to the quay, so hopefully the next time we would see it would be in Penzance.
The boat left at 10.15 am for the 30 minute journey to St Martins. During the ride I got talking to a lady next to me and it transpired that she had lived on St Mary’s for the last 8 years. I asked her what it was like regarding Doctors and she said it was brilliant. The Doctors are situated on St Mary’s but go to the other islands once a week for clinics. If there was a serious problem then there is an ambulance boat docked (the yellow one) in the harbour at St Mary’s which can quickly be dispatched to any of the other islands.
She said that if it was a real emergency then the air ambulance would land on the island and the patients flown to Treliske hospital in Truro which they would get there far quicker than if on the mainland. We walked around St Martins which was very tranquil and pretty and stopped and had a cool drink at the Seven Stones Inn which was very quaint and rustic with a fantastic view over the archipelago. It was so relaxing and peaceful.
There were some very tame sparrows and a cheeky blackbird all waiting for some morsels to be dropped as it was nearing lunchtime and they knew exactly what time it was.
We carried on for a walk around the headland and sat on the white sandy beach beside the Karma Hotel.
Now the scheduled boat was not due until 2.30 p.m but we decided to sit in the garden of the Karma hotel which was right by the slipway for the boat and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee again admiring the lovely view.
Whilst we were sat there I noticed the boat we came across on was at the end of the slipway which was not our scheduled boat. We think it was for the people who had been staying on St Martins and were going back to St Marys for their travel home as the only way to get around the islands is by boat.
The time now was just after 1.15 p.m so we decided to walk down the slipway to see if we could get on and luckily we were allowed. That meant we got back to St Mary’s earlier than expected so it was not so much of a rush at the other end. We said a fond farewell to St Mary’s which I have to say was our favourite island.
Fortunately that meant we had time for another of the lovely pasties we had on Saturday before boarding the Scillonian. We enjoyed them overlooking the beach this time and again keeping an eye on the seagulls hoovering around.
It was then time to go and queue and it was very busy with a very large group of university students who were also heading home.
We waved goodbye to these lovely islands and made our journey home.
We departed at 4.30 p.m and the crossing was quite rough as it was very windy so I was really glad when we got back to Penzance.
We arrived back at 7.15 p.m and Steve was met by the mini bus to go and collect the car from the car park and I waited on the quay for the luggage to be off loaded. As the ferry had been very busy there were piles of luggage but I managed to find our case. By this time Steve had collected the car and was waiting on the quay so it was then homeward bound.
We decided to stop at the Cornish Victoria services as we needed the loo and a drink and a light bite as it was now around about 8.45 p.m. Much of the outlets were shut so after much deliberation on the limited stuff there was to choose from we chose a McDonald’s.
It must be about 40 years since we last had one and after this will never eat one again. Firstly you don’t go up to the counter to order but it is all on an automated screen and you pay by card and for 2 oap’s this was alien to us, but managed it. The first option on the screen asks you if you have an account through their app- really? What this actually entails I have no idea but if people live on McDonalds’ rubbish then no wonder they do not have enough money to buy proper healthy food.
We both had a quarter pound cheeseburger costing £4. 39 each. What an absolute rip off. The very thin burger (I would have to dispute that it actually weighed a quarter of a pound) which was almost cold. It was totally tasteless and chewy. Never again and I cannot understand why so many seem to love McDonald’s. Overpriced and poor quality. What a final meal to end our holiday after the lovely food we had encountered!!
We got home about 10.15 p.m after having to take different route home as the main A38 was closed.
We were glad to be back, but had a wonderful time in the Scilies and so glad that we eventually got around to visiting. Utter peace and tranquility and the scenery is breathtaking. The white sandy beaches and the turquoise blue seas were unforgettable. You could walk for miles over the beaches and not see another soul, stunning. We of course did have a big bonus whilst there, the weather was glorious.
The locals are so friendly and obviously take pride in their islands. You walk around and lots of locals have little covered boxes selling plants, nik naks, jams and chutneys that you leave your money in an honesty box so quaint. Where else would you find that?
FOOTNOTE – LITERALLY
We did do an awful lot of walking which you have to be prepared to do. I unfortunately did not take proper walking boots so hence the blistering. Although on St Marys there are golf buggies that you can hire to get around although they were all booked out when we were there, so walking was the only way,
Will we go back, yes I would love go, it is a little bit of heaven.
ONE LAST NOTE
Normally at the moment as we have a dog we do dog friendly holidays so it was nice to be dog free for a few days (although dogs can go on the ferry and the plane) and there were plenty who were travelling on the ferry. Our Clumberdoodle Archie stayed with our Son Adrian for a few days and they seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Not missing us at all!!!
Isles of Scilly Weekend May 2023