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The Isles of Scilly: St Mary’s Island

Largest of the islands and home to the tiny “capital”, Hugh Town, St Marys is the hub of island life and where all visitors to the islands first arrive.

Hugh Town, with its harbour, cluster of shops, restaurants, banks, Post Office, museum, churches and range of other businesses, is the commercial centre of Scilly, and your boarding point for trips to the off-islands.

On the edge of Hugh Town you will find Porthmellon Beach, the home of water sports on St Marys. Here you will find the sailing school, kayak & boat hire business, and the gig sheds, from where the locals race twice a week in six-oared rowing boats against their off-island rivals. A fine island spectacle.

Old Town, the ancient capital, is situated just a mile from Hugh Town by road, home to many locals and one of the island’s prettiest bays, with a choice of cafes overlooking the water.

Large by our Lilliputian standards, St Marys still only has nine miles of road, which can be explored by various coach, minibus and vintage car tours, by horse and trap, or under your own steam by hire bike or golf cart.

St Marys is perhaps the most varied of the islands, with woodland, heaths, marshland and sand dunes. The island is criss-crossed with footpaths and nature trails, in addition to the stunning coastal path which circumnavigates the island.

Favourite walks include a circumnavigation of the Garrison walls, a fortified area close to Hugh Town, centred on the historic 16th century Star Castle, now a hotel. Or a coastal trek around Peninnis Headland with its iconic Victorian lighthouse, picturesque overhanging Pulpit Rock and fabulous granite rock formations.

To the north of the islands, at Halangy Down, you will find Bants Carn ancient village, dating from the Megalithic era; Innisidgen burial chamber; and beautiful Bar Point, with stunning views across to St Martins and Tresco.

Carry on around to Pelistry Beach and Tolls Island, usually near-deserted, with a super cafe just five minutes walk away. Or to Porthellick Beach, with its famous “Loaded camel” rock formation.

Main Photo: Richard Smith

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