History & Heritage

From shipwrecks to treasure, and from Bronze Age burial chambers to deserted villages, the history of Scilly is utterly compelling – especially as it mingles so tantalisingly with modern-day life on the islands. Scilly’s tiny land mass is home to 239 scheduled monuments, which means there is a greater density of historical sites here than anywhere else in the British Isles.

Everything on Scilly revolves around the sea… our maritime heritage is something that all Scillonian families are proud of with the traditional pastimes of flower farming, arable farming, fishing for lobsters, crabs and crawfish, and pilot gig rowing still prospering to this day.

Steve Hicks, St. Mary's boatman; Seahorse skipper

#MyScilly Steve Hicks, Seahorse Skipper

Steve comes from a long line of boatmen: his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather before that. His brothers, Alec and Fraser are boatmen, too. “In fact, the Hicks family name on Scilly goes back some 500 years. My father was a boat builder on Scilly and one of the founding members of the St. Mary’s Boatmen’s Association.

“Scilly is a wonderful place; I feel a very strong attachment and have never wanted to

Scilly gig race rowing

From smuggling runs to dramatic rescues; the history of our pilot gigs

Back in the mid-19th Century, around 200 men worked as pilots on the Isles of Scilly. With the 2017 World Pilot Gig Championships taking place this year 28th - 30th April, we take a brief look at how pilot gigs have carved through our waters throughout history.

Today, gigs (specially-designed sea-faring rowing boats with six oarsmen and a coxswain) are raced purely for pleasure particularly throughout Cornwall and the south west of England. Their

Tresco Abbey Archway

How the humble hedge created a heavenly garden

Hazel Southham, journalist, broadcaster and author wonders at the vision of Augustus Smith to create and protect this heavenly garden


Scilly St Martin's narcissi flower bunch

Flower Farming on Scilly

When summer visitors are enjoying beaches, sunny walks and ice-cream, it is quite a leap of imagination to think of Scilly during the winter months. Often I am asked what it’s like to live on Scilly in the winter, and I’m met by genuine surprise when I answer, “We are really busy”.

For the islands’ flower farmers, the season starts in October when the first of the scented narcissi are picked and we work,

Zoe Julian, Flower Farmer, Churchtown Farm

#MyScilly Zoe Julian, Co-owner Scilly Flowers

“I first settled on the Isles of Scilly in 2002. I knew that by meeting and marrying Ben I would end up living on St. Martin’s – it came with the deal! He proposed to me on St. Helen’s. I’d been to Scilly several times growing up and I have lived in the south west and by the sea my whole life. I love the lifestyle; it suits me down to the ground.