Why Scilly is such a paradise for walkers

By Mark Sutcliffe

Editor, Country Walking Magazine


The Isles of Scilly aren't the easiest place to reach - you can't bring your car and you have to go everywhere by boat or on foot… which is precisely what makes them such a paradise for walkers.

Park the car in Penzance, secure the keys in the deepest pocket on your rucksack and forget about traffic jams for a week. Taking a leisurely cruise on the Scillonian III is the perfect prelude to an island adventure - creating a welcome buffer between the hustle and bustle of the mainland and the more relaxed rhythms of island life.

And it's the extra effort that's required to get here that makes this enchanting archipelago just that little bit more exclusive: the people you'll bump into on the islands really want to be on the islands.

So what's so special about trekking over an assortment of rocks that never rise higher than 50 metres above sea level? Well, in common with all low-lying areas, even the most modest prominence quickly elicits pretty epic views and on the Isles of Scilly, that means a breath-taking combination of wide-open skies, shimmering turquoise sea, brilliant white sand and rugged landscapes topped with gnarly tors steeped in ancient history.

These islands were at the hub of an almost forgotten civilization stretching across the Western Atlantic from the Hebrides in the north to Galicia in the south. The Isles of Scilly became a kind of Neolithic service station at the heart of this vast diaspora, offering a safe haven for vessels plying their trade across the Atlantic more than a thousand years before Christopher Columbus set sail.

Over the centuries, the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and, inevitably, the Vikings stopped off on Scilly and when Britannia ruled the waves, many thousands of mariners lost their lives attempting to negotiate their perilous shoals.

Wandering across the wilderness of St. Agnes or over the cliffs of Tresco and Bryher, this rich history is never far beneath the surface. Explore these incredible isles on foot and the echoes of all who have traversed this drowned landscape can be heard in the wind whispering around the tors and in the waves that crash onto its pristine beaches.

But be warned, the primal attraction that has drawn people here for millennia is impossible to resist and once under its influence, few can resist the urge the return. Time and time again.

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