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Isle of Scilly Cruises

A sparsely-inhabited archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula, the Isles of Scilly have been inhabited by humans since the Stone Age.

A recent census count put the population at just 2,203. These isles are warm in temperature, especially compared to the rest of the UK, and are an important stopover for migrating birds, making it a popular spot for bird watchers. Cruising to the Isles of Scilly also brings you close to some of the oldest ruins in Britain. 

It’s likely that the Isles of Scilly were once much larger, and possibly joined together, as an island named Ennor (En Noer means ‘great island’ and is referred to in various old texts).  A cruise around the 55 islands and islets will let you see much of this strange and rich part of the UK. 

Top 5 interesting facts

  • Kelp harvesting, smuggling, and shipbuilding have all been major industries. 
  • It’s the only UK habitat of the lesser white-toothed shrew.
  • Tourism accounts for 85% of the islands’ income. 
  • Many American vagrant birds make their first European landfall here.
  • The main agricultural product here is cut flowers, especially daffodils. 
 

Highlights

History

Until the early 20th century, Scillonians practised subsistence living, mainly farming and fishing. Today, the Isles of Scilly’s main industry is tourism, primarily focused around the islands’ many small inns and pubs.

It’s possible that these islands are the ones the Phoenicians and Greeks visited in ancient times, which they named the Tin Isles (Cassiterides). After this early encounter, many other tribes visited and left their own marks, including the Romans, Vikings, Norman conquerors and a confederacy of hermits.

Iconic sights

Offshore, midway between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly, is the supposed location of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse, referred to in Arthurian literature, of which Tristan is said to be a king. This may be a folk memory of inundated lands, but this legend is also common among the Brythonic peoples, and the legend of Ys is a parallel legend in Brittany, as is that of Cantre'r Gwaelod in Wales. 

 

Attractions

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The main isle here is St Mary’s, with a total area of around 2.5 square miles and the place the majority of the population call home. 

Unsurprisingly, this is also where the majority of inns and pubs are situated, along with the port. Despite its remote location, this area became the final home of ex-British Prime Minister Harold Wilson – he’s even buried here.

Bant's Carn Burial Chamber and Halangy Down Ancient Village in Hugh Town on St Mary’s is an uncovered prehistoric village, where you can explore this ancient settlement free of charge. Bant’s Carn is a preserved entrance grave from the Bronze Age and Halangy Down dates back to the same time. Located on the coast of St Mary’s, the grounds here offer some lovely walks and beautiful views of the ocean. 

 

Cruises visiting the Isle of Scilly

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