Exploring the Scillies with Jen

Jen and I have just come back from a couple of weeks in the Scillies and Cornwall. Having been to the Scillies before, I was delighted to be able to introduce Jen to these beautiful islands; although having gone as a birdwatcher previously, many of the sights were new to me as well.

Bants Carn tomb, a Bornze Age entrance grave on St Mary's

Bants Carn tomb, a Bornze Age entrance grave on St Mary’s

For example, there’s a lot of archaeological interest on these islands, and among the most notable are the remains in the north-west of St Mary’s. The Bants Carn tomb (above) is a Bronze Age entrance grave – a style which is prominent in these islands but unusual elsewhere. A short distance below is the Halangy Down village, which dates to about the first and second centuries AD. This is quite extensive: the layout of the village is still prominent, with the remains of 11 stone houses being evident.

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Halangy Down village, dating from about the first two centuries AD. This photo shows part of the Courtyard House.

We stayed in Hugh Town on St Mary’s because of its central location and greater amenities. From there we travelled around the islands during the week: we landed on all of the main ones, but also toured around a few of the outer ones. Whenever we landed we headed out to the wilder areas… about which, more later.

On Shipman Head Down - the northern tip of Bryher - looking towards Men-a-vaur and Round Island lighthouse.

On Shipman Head Down – the northern tip of Bryher – looking towards Men-a-vaur and Round Island lighthouse.

From Bryher to Tresco: with the grimly-named Hangman Island in the middle. The guy waiting by the boat later ferried a load of shellfish across to Tresco.

From Bryher to Tresco, with the grimly-named Hangman Island in the middle. The guy waiting by the boat later ferried several box-loads of shellfish across to Tresco.

Puffins near Annet

Puffins near Annet

We did do some birdwatching… including a rather grim pelagic trip. From the website I’d been led to expect something which was dedicated to birdwatching: instead it was a fishing trip with a few birdwatchers on board. Enough said! In fairness though I did see a number of European storm-petrels which I’d been keen to see – and which only come to land to breed, and only then at night.

We had better success with a more conventional day-time trip to the uninhabited island of Annet, which is closed all year to help conserve the wildlife. We were lucky to see a good number of puffins, which were coming to the end of their breeding season, so are about to leave for the winter. Then as we left Annet and began a return to St Agnes we were attended briefly by a couple of porpoises!

We were very fortunate with the weather, which had been poor in previous weeks but was stable throughout much of our time there, improving towards the end. The best day was our final one, so at the last minute we decided on a tour of the Eastern Isles – which are currently uninhabited, except by seals and sea-birds. I took the photo below as we arrived in the harbour at St Martin’s, before returning to St Mary’s and the boat back to Penzance.

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The view as we arrived in the harbour at St Martin’s, having done a trip round the Eastern Isles (visible on the horizon)

One thought on “Exploring the Scillies with Jen

  1. Pingback: A red start to a few days around Mousehole | Notes from the river bank

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