A scant 28 miles west of Lands End, England lies the island group known as the Isles of Scilly. Kongo is willing to bet a few bananas that most of his readers (at least those in the USA) have never heard of these islands, much less actually visited them.
After a rather rough passage from Dublin, Kongo’s ship anchored off Hughtown, St. Mary’s. Getting there was a minor adventure. The Kongos had booked a 10-day cruise on Atlas Ocean Voyages from Dublin to Lisbon. At the appointed hour, after a 45-minute taxi ride we arrive at the designated pier to find – nothing. There was no ship. Not even a hint of one. Soon several other taxis began arriving with bewildered wannabe passengers. Something was very, very wrong. Kongo called Atlas’ land operations and was told, “oh yes, the ship is in Dublin. They changed berth.” Huh? What! Seriously? Off the monkeys raced with a growing caravan of other lost souls trailing behind. The new berth was another 45-minute taxi ride through jammed rush hour traffic to reach the new pier on the other side of Dublin. Long story short, Kongo made it to the ship, the Atlas people were so, so sorry they forgot to inform anyone of the pier change and paid for the taxi ride. Welcome Aboard cocktails and a seamless, efficient check-in calmed everyone down and soon the earlier frustrations were in the rear-view mirror as Mr. and Mrs. Kongo settled aboard the beautiful new ship, World Traveler. More about the ship in a later blog,
Surprisingly, the Isles of Scilly are filled with subtropical plants. Palms, succulents, agapanthus, Pride of Madeira. The Gulf Stream gives the islands a moderate climate. It never snows or frosts here.
So back to the Isles of Scilly. A rocking passage through Atlantic swells and dense fog finally ended when the ship dropped anchor at St. Mary’s Island. Soon the fog lifted and gave way to a beautiful day. St. Mary’s is the largest of several islands in the group with a year-round population of only about 2,000. This place is the ultimate everyone-knows-everyone place.
The Kongos had signed up for a “historical walking tour” which is actually a 10,000-step trek across the island, up and down some pretty large hills, a rocky footpath through pastures and rural back woods. It was a workout.
There was some history here too. Across the water toward the island of St. Agnes is a stretch of rocky coast reputed to be the most hazardous stretch of water in the world. Over 800 wrecks (that they know about) and thousands perished over the years. At one time, hundreds of years ago, Scilly bad guys lit fires to lure unsuspecting ships close to shore so they would wreck and be plundered.
There are some ancient tombs that go back to the Bronze Age and are at least 3,500 years old. Some old stone churches from the 1600s are still being used.
The Isles of Scilly used to be connected to England but rising sea levels tens of thousands of years ago turned them into islands.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day. Exploring this little corner of the world is certainly worthwhile, particularly as a day trip if you happen to be visiting Cornwall. The islands are accessible via a short flight or regular ferry service. Much more than a day trip would be a bit of a bore, unless you’re a hermit. But the people are friendly and welcoming. Visit them if you get a chance.
Next stop is Douarnenez, France. Another destination you probably have never heard of. Stay tuned.
Travel safe. Have fun.