Ladies and gentlemen. Laaaaydies and gentlemen. Let me apologize for taking so long to write another travel story. I’ve been kinda busy, traveling, ya know. And waiting till this story got published in De Morgen Magazine, before I could tell you all about it (I was so kind to let them have the scoop two weeks ago, hopefully you’ve all read and enjoyed it). Anyway, bygones. Far more important than my apology is my story about the Scilly Islands. I’m sorry, I should say the Isles of Scilly, cause you don’t pronounce the ‘c’ in Scilly, therefore the Scilly Islands sounds way too silly.
Anyway, about a month ago I was invited by the lovely people at VisitEngland to travel to the Isles of Scilly. Obviously I had never heard of these islands before. And neither have you, admit it! These islands – more then one hundred to be more precise – are just 50 kilometers (or something) off the coast of Cornwall, in the west of England. You have heard of Cornwall, right? Pretty, beautiful coastline, nice people? Then imagine Scilly to be twice as pretty, twice as beautiful and twice as nice. At least! Only problem for Belgian tourists is: getting there.
In Brussels me and my beautiful girlfriend (yes, she’s the only thing prettier than the Scilly Islands) hopped on a regular Boeing to London Gatwick, where we had to wait for three hours to take a smaller plane to Newquay Cornwall Airport. Over there is where we got depressed. Not because of the size of the aiport (the one bar does have wifi and cold beer, so no complaints), but because of the weather. We left sunny Belgium, had a layover in cloudy London and arrived in rainy (pouring rain!) Newquay, where we had to wait four hours for our mini-plane (it was actually more like a flying bus) to take us to paradise. We were frightened. Not only cause of the size of the SkyBus (it fits 17 people and one dog!), but mainly because of the weather. We didn’t want to get stuck for three days on boring little islands in the middle of nowhere, with only rain and wind.
Luckily the travel gods were on our side. After four hours (one hour delay cause of the bad weather), we got on our flying bus, which took us to St. Mary’s, the main island, in under half an hour. Once we landed, we got on a taxi that took us to the harbour, got on a taxi boat that took us to Bryher Island and hopped on a small – well, it definitely wasn’t a car, but something on four wheels – that took us to our guesthouse. We were happy! The journey to these ‘Caribbean of England’ had taken us about twelve hours. Which means it’s faster to go from Brussels to the actual Caribbean. But hey, anyone can go there. Nothing special about the Caribbean, is there now. The Isles of Scilly on the other hand, now that’s something else.
Bryher, our island for the next three nights, is a very small island with only 80 inhabitants, one hotel, a camp site, a guesthouse, two restaurants, a bar-like pub and a few boats. We were lucky enough to stay with Issy and Gareth in their beautiful guest house called Samson Hill Cottage (www.samsonhill.co.uk). With only two guest rooms, this must be one of the smallest guest houses you’ll ever find. And lucky us, there was no one in the other room, so we had the whole house – yes, with beach view – to ourselves.
I told you earlier they call the Isles of Scilly the Caribbean of England. But I didn’t tell you why. See those white sandy beaches (look at the pictures, you dummie!), those palm trees, those clear blue skies and that clear blue water? The islands really do have caribbean-like qualities (although it’s obviously much colder). The main attraction on Scilly are the Tresco Abbey Gardens. With over 5.000 species of plants and trees, these gardens are truly unique. About 80 percent of the plants and trees are not able to grow on mainland England, cause of the weather. Here on Scilly, it’s hardly ever freezing. Temperatures remain pretty decent year-round.
Another very cool island is St. Agnes. Perfect for walking, enjoying the views, having a local beer, some local food – don’t forget the specialty which is ice cream. And … you know what, I’m gonna stop talking now. It’s probably easier to just show you pictures of everything. That’s what you’ve been waiting for, haven’t you?