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Camping on Scilly Isles- come and talk to me (esp the car-free bit!)

(20 Posts)
CaptainNancy Tue 02-Aug-11 11:24:34

Just seen reference to Scilly Isles on another thread (living by the sea) and had a quick look at pictures- it looks like heaven... please tell me about the practicalities though smile

Where is best to go for access to beaches? My 2 are 2 and 5, so will probably spend all day on the beach tbh. How do you get from the main island to the others, as there appear to be 3 campsites, but only 1 on main island confused

Is the sea warm enough for swimming at all?

There appear to be no cars permitted passage over there... so how do you manage to camp?

I know you don't need passports, but ID is required it seems- what can you use for small children?

We have 2 small children (too small to carry any gear!) and usually just throw stuff in the back of the car. We are already very minimalist campers, we have a 3.5 man tunnel tent, no chairs/tables or anything, 4 sleeping bags, 4 thermarests, couple of blankets, 1 ring-burner stove, clothes and food... I am struggling to see how I could condense it really. They would need beach gear too, but I'm guessing portable BBQ is out?

Are there places to eat out fairly close by? Are they horrifically extortionate or fairly reasonable?

Sorry- so many questions, but I am very excited as it looks unbelievably beautiful there, and I had almost given up on a beachy type holiday this year (weather in UK, and DD's passport expired).


Slubberdegullion Tue 02-Aug-11 11:34:39

Has Fennel gone yet? She would be the one to ask for up to the minute info.

grendel Tue 02-Aug-11 11:40:16

My experience is from quite a few years ago, but in answer to some of your questions:

- travel between islands: there are very regular boat services between the different islands. Kind of like buses, Very easy to get around.
- getting your stuff to campsite: we camped on St Mary's and the campsite owner met the ferry at the quayside and loaded our gear onto a trailer on the back of his tractor and took it up to campsite for us.
- Plenty of cafes and shops on St Mary's. Very limited facilities on other islands. Prices were higher than mainland but not ridiculously so.
- Beaches are fab!
- If staying on St Mary's, take or hire bikes to get around. Other islands too small for it to be an issue.
- Can definitely swim in sea!

CaptainNancy Tue 02-Aug-11 11:48:00

I have put a link on the thread where fennel was chatting about it, thanks sluuber smile

Transport to campsite sounds good, can you just get a taxi for people? Smallest is 2.5 and has lots of stamina, but I've no idea about distances, we barely use the pushchair at home, but are city-dwellers, so most things are either close at hand or car journeys tbh. Woud we need to take a buggy?

Children and DH cannot actually ride bikes... blush so that's probably a no-goer.

Also- if there's no cars... what do people do with their valuables during the day/when on the beach? Usually we just lock things away in the car but obviously that's not possible...

Fennel Tue 02-Aug-11 12:28:52


We haven't gone yet, we are going on Thurs. I did camp there but about 25 years ago and it might be quite different now.

I get the impression prices are high for most things. Certainly we are heading the most expensive campsite we've ever stayed on, and you pay extra for showers, and for them to take your luggage from the dock, etc.

Lots of beaches, lots of warm shallow sea, that I do remember.

Apparently people take loads of camping gear as freight. We have 125kg of luggage allowance for 5 of us before needing freight so I think that'll be OK but we have to get it all into 2 bags per person - a challenge.

We are leaving most of the things like deckchairs, big stove and gas cannister, all the kayaks and bikes and stuff we normally take for a fortnight in the UK. If you are already minimalist you will probably be fine. We do minimalist camping but only for weekends, or in hot places. Not for 12 days with little in the way of wet weather entertainment, that's my main worry.

Not sure about kid ID. My dc have passports but I hadn't thought of taking them.

CaptainNancy Tue 02-Aug-11 13:00:39

Thanks fennel smile

What will you do about food? I am wondering about supermarket, (I think there's a co-op somewhere) and how to store food coolly- we only have a soft cool-bag type, as we've only done 3 days max with children so far... we are hoping to do a week. (DH and I did backpacking camping before the children so, 2 or 3 weeks at a time).

To be fair though, the children would exist on cheeses sandwiches if they had to wink

Are you flying over or going by boat?

Fennel Tue 02-Aug-11 13:47:08

We are going by ferry. I think there is one shop on St Agnes where we are going first, you can order food in advance but we haven't bothered. We will just buy what there is there. St Marys has a Co-op and other shops, I think.
We just use a squishy coolbag, we never use more than that even when camping in hotter places. We just buy food fresh or adjust our eating. Less milk, more long-life yoghurt say.

CaptainNancy Tue 02-Aug-11 13:50:16

Thank you!
I do hope you'll be back before we go to give a full report on all the best things to see/do grin

Off to look at campsites now...

breatheslowly Tue 02-Aug-11 14:04:37

We didn't camp, but have been to all of the islands (staying on St Mary's at Hugh Town) and would love to camp on St Agnes. The camp site is at troy town farm and they sell their own ice cream and other things there. We swam on the bit between St Agnes and Gugh and it was a lovely temperature. The arrangements for getting your stuff over to each island are fantastic - you drop your luggage off to the boat and then park your car here. If you label your stuff then it is automatically delivered to your island/accommodation for a small fee. Similarly there are arrangements for getting it back to the main land. It worked incredibly smoothly for us. You have just reminded me that I was gutted not to be going there this year and we should book up for next summer. It isn't a cheap place to get to, but I can't wait to go back.

Fennel Tue 02-Aug-11 15:19:41

I'm liking the positive stories from people who've been recently. I did camp at Troy Town (and on St Marys, and on St Martins) back many years ago. Troy Town campsite at St Agnes was our favourite. I remember it basked in glorious sunshine.

bilblio Tue 02-Aug-11 19:46:15

I've never camped, DH has years ago and his Mum still does regularly. However I do have a slight obsession with the islands so can answer a lot... I don't get to go there often but keep up to date with goings on anyway, and I got there last year.

All the islands have fantastic beaches. The off islands are only small (our favourite is Bryher, the smallest, it's 1 mile long, 1/2 a mile wide) but even on the bigger islands you can easily walk between several beaches in a day.

You get between the islands on boat, the island boat service run several trips per day to different islands... and back again. Just make sure you have a watch on because they won't wait for you, (we nearly missed one due to a lost wedding ring.)

The sea is slightly warmer than mainland UK, but still chilly. DD has a wetsuit and was more than happy splashing around for hours. We did some brave swimming on the last day when it was really hot... this was in September. I highly recommend wetsuits, we got ours for DD from Tesco, it's several sizes too big so will fit for years but still protects her from the sun and cold water.

There appear to be no cars permitted passage over there... so how do you manage to camp? It's not that they're not permitted passage.... it's just there's no way to get them there. smile
Lots of campers book things onto the Scillonian as freight, and there are lots of people who camp so they're very used to it. You load it all into the correct container on the dock at Penzance, then the boat crew transfer (throw usually) it from the Scillonian onto the correct off island boats at St Mary's then you're all taken to the islands. Once on whichever island you're staying on someone from the campsite will meet you to take equipment up there.... you may have to walk, but again the islands are small so you've not far to go.

I know you don't need passports, but ID is required it seems- what can you use for small children? I've never known to be asked for ID, just the boat tickets.

When we get round to camping there, (when DC are bigger) I'm going to buy some of these wheel along box/trailer things and securely strap everything onto them. You could buy beach equipment when you're over there, then just pass it on to someone else.

Prices are a bit more than the mainland but generally okay (so long as you don't shop on Tresco which is where the millionaires go.) There are several places to eat on St Mary's and the off-islands all have at least a couple of places each. Even Bryher has a choice between the Hell Bay hotel (expensive hotel/pub/restaurant) the Vine Cafe (cheap day time meals) & Fraggle Rock pub/cafe (cheap day and evening food & beer.) There are also shops on all the islands. St Mary's has a co-op, the others are all local shops which because of the nature of the islands sell local & homemade food. (The bread on St Martin's was amazing.) There are also lots of honest stalls scattered around where locals sell produce from their own garden. Most of this is dirt cheap and delicious, we were eating cherry tomatoes like sweets, we'd buy some every time we passed a stall.

As for storing food, the campsites all have places for freezing cool blocks, but it's also really easy to pick up what you want on the day.

Sorry for the epic post.... but I am obsessed with the place. grin I have books about it and everything... and a daughter with an unusual name wink

CaptainNancy Tue 02-Aug-11 20:01:27

grin Don't be sorry! This is all fabulous and highly informative.

Just have to broach with DH how much time he can spare... hmm

bilblio Tue 02-Aug-11 22:15:25

Oh you need at least a week, but preferably 2 just for the effort of getting there. The first time I went we were there for a week and we only left Bryher once, because we had to stock up on veggie food from the co-op. Last time I went we were with the in-laws, MIL likes organising activities, so we did something different every day and had to practically beg for a day on Bryher... even so we still didn't get to St Agnes.

One of the reasons DH loves it so much is that towards the end of one of their 2 week holiday trips there his Dad got ill. The Doctor on the islands insisted he was far too ill to travel home so signed him off work for 2 more weeks! They'd been there for enough years by then to make friends with Kathy who runs the campsite, and they/we have several other friends over there so staying an extra 2 weeks wasn't a problem....

I keep hoping I'll get ill on a visit. grin

CaptainNancy Thu 04-Aug-11 09:50:28

Just to say fennel - if you're around today- have a wonderful holiday! grin

MrsKarbonara Thu 04-Aug-11 09:58:25

Can't post much now. At work so will try later.
Went there 2 weeks end of June (Bryher). Been going since I was a kid. LOVE IT. grin

bilblio Wed 14-Sep-11 21:07:28

Dredging up an old thread again.
But Fennel. How did it go was it fantastic? Everything you remembered?

Fennel Fri 16-Sep-11 19:18:27


It was very nice in lots of ways. St Agnes campsite very beautiful in that wild and windswept coastal way (I have spent a surprisingly large percentage of my life on beautiful wild and windswept campsites, it was quite like being in the NW of Scotland, or places in Pembrokeshire or Cornwall, or Finistere, or the W of Ireland). Lots of Boden families in Bell Tents - 8 bell tents on the one small site.

Then we stayed on the Garrison campsite on St Marys which was less remote and scenic but I liked it cos it was very sheltered, a bit soothing after the gales of St Agnes.

Weather was a bit on the bracing side, not the sub-tropical paradise they pretend in the adverts. It wasn't awful - just one really rainy day and night - but not properly hot either, not really (IMO) beach weather. We did a lot of beaches, and some kayaking, and a boat trip to see seals, and walking round the islands (my choice of activity, but they are rather small for serious walking). it was nice, the kids really liked it, but I suppose for me it was a bit on the cool and breezy side to be my ideal tropical paradise. a bit British.

SeaShellsOrDaveTheHairyTrucker Mon 19-Sep-11 09:31:54

So glad you had fun fennel, I was wondering how you got on! Shame about the bracing weather-as you say though, twas a truly British experience!

How was the trip over? Epic?

Fennel Mon 19-Sep-11 10:33:16

The ferry crossing was a bit choppy (DP vomited), but I just found a quiet corner and went to sleep to recover from the 5am start to get to the ferry. Back was fine. Quite a cute ferry.

Ferries between the islands were lots of fun.

bilblio Mon 19-Sep-11 18:38:56

Glad you enjoyed it Fennel. Yes the weather can be very "British" but when it's good it really is good, and better than the rest of the UK... to be fair it's been a bit rubbish all over recently.

DH does talk about one camping holiday on Bryher where they had a force 8 gale. His parents spent the night holding onto the frame of the tent to stop it being blown away. The campsite on Bryher is between 2 hills, and the wind was blowing from the direction of one hill towards the other, so they were as sheltered as they could be. Part way through the night someone told them the wind was due to change direction and blow the opposite way which would ease it... they didn't think of it at the time but obviously for that to happen the wind would have to slowly move round... and at some point blow directly between the 2 hills and straight across the campsite! Several families had slept in the community centre, their tents could be seen floating in the channel between Tresco & Bryher the next morning.

The crossing home is always better than the crossing out as you're going with the current. I do like all the signs on the boat advertising the helicopter upgrade for getting back. I suspect they make a lot of money from that.

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