Isles of Scilly – Teän and St Martin’s

Thursday, 1st July: Teän

A very calm day so this was the perfect time for Dominic to fly the drone and the small island of Teän right next to us seemed a very good spot.  We kayaked round and Birgitta settled on the sandy beach while Dominic went up the nearest hill and got everything ready.  He received permission from Scilly Air Traffic Control to fly the drone from 1pm – 2pm, no higher than 200ft.  He flew the drone over the island, and across to where we are anchored and took photos and filmed.  Will be exciting to watch!

We paddled in the water, Dominic swam for a bit and we attempted to walk around the island.  But once we got to the eastern side, both oystercatchers and gulls made it very clear we were on their ground and we weren’t wanted, so we walked back. The water was mirror-still in the evening and we enjoyed a pretty magical dinghy ride out to the Atlantic (didn’t quite see Ireland!) and all around Teän.  We circumnavigated the island by tender rather than by foot! 

Friday, 2nd July: St Martin’s

Today it was time for St Martin’s and we both agree that if we were to live in Scilly, this is definitely our favourite so far.  A small community but on a more verdant and larger island than some of the others.  Many houses are tucked in behind a hillside and thick hedges (to shelter for wind and sand).  There is a pub, post office / store, a village hall, primary school and a tennis court and cricket pitch. And an observatory! We are, of course, not moving here but it is always something we discuss when we visit somewhere new!

We walked faster and longer today, starting on the southern side of the island, with white sandy beaches and sheer cliffside paths, all with flowers of every colour and shape lining our way.  The vistas are outstanding!  I know I keep saying that, but it is true. On the eastern end of St Martin’s we saw the many smaller islands forming Eastern Isles.  This is where seal tours go and where we would be most likely to see them, if we’d only had our binoculars with us… (a certain person left them in the dinghy when he took back his jumper before the start of the walk!).  We kept walking, though I had to stop every now and then to just take it all in.  We’d sighted the red and white striped day mark on the island’s north eastern high point when we used Transit Lines to navigate from St Agnes to St Helen’s Pool the other day. And here we were, high up standing right next to it.

We had our lunch with a new vista; the north-facing Bread & Cheese Cove, and Bull’s Porth.  Both with many boats at anchor.  Idyllic!  Had a look for the ‘Celtic Idol’ stone, and I photographed one that stood in a spectacular position high up on Chapel Down.  But having read up about it, I most likely got the wrong standing stone ha ha!  We walked around the whole island in the end; up and down, in and out of the coves and by the time we got back to Lower Town I was seriously tired, and we had a lovely drink at the Karma Hotel and a long chat with our son.  (And Dominic found that the binoculars were indeed in the dinghy!). We hadn’t seen a single seal all day.  I must be using the wrong glasses.

On a Long Covid note: only a few weeks ago Birgitta couldn’t walk up an incline without getting asthma like breathing problems, and coughed painfully at any exertion.  And here I am, traipsing about on islands galore.  I think it must be thanks to the clean air!

So there’s a gale, potential storm coming on Monday night.  This is the hot topic for anyone on a boat here at the moment.  Two couples we talked to yesterday went back to the mainland this morning, but there are still quite a few of us left.  We’ve just been round and talked to a few, and all the experienced Scilly sailors say this is the best place to be at anchor for this type of weather, and they are going to sit it out.  There are quite a few yachts anchored in the coves on the north side of St Martin’s (as we saw on our walk today) but surely that can’t be comfortable when the wind will go all the way around?  There are no marinas in Scilly, and the likelihood of finding a mooring buoy is slim and would be incredibly uncomfortable in a strong wind. Anyway, if we do decide to leave, then we’ll do it early tomorrow morning, but then, of course, we have the issue of finding somewhere to stay in the already very full marinas in Cornwall!  Decisions, decisions….

Saturday, 3rd July: Still here, walking on Northern Tresco

Wally the Walrus Update: We saw Wally nosing about one of the other boats anchored here in St Helen’s Pool this morning!  Dominic shouted across and soon everyone heard him and got their dinghies up just in case Wally came back and punctured one of them.  Wally sunk a small fishing boat in St Mary’s harbour the other day, and local conservation groups and the council are trying to work out what can be done to distract him to go elsewhere.

We’re still in Scilly.  Forecast is looking just about OK for Monday night, but again we will be ready to leave early in the morning tomorrow if necessary.

We’d both had a disturbed night with the boat swaying bow to stern, which was quite uncomfortable.  So we had a quiet morning in, and then went for coffee with the lovely young live-aboard family on Hyperion. Not wanting to miss out (in case we have to go tomorrow!) we went back to Tresco for another lovely walk, this time round the north of the island. This part is very different from the southern part where the Abbey is located.  From Old Grimsby we climbed up to the high-lying heathland; a stark landscape.  From Merchant’s Point we had a fantastic view of Men-a-Vaur, Round Island, St Helen’s Island and St Helen’s Pool where we are anchored; really interesting to see it from the other side.

We saw King Charles’ Castle from afar. This is an artillery fort built in 1547 – 53 to guard the sea channel leading into the sheltered port of New Grimsby as it, and the islands were vulnerable to capture by foreign warships and privateers. The castle’s design was unsatisfactory though, as its guns could not be angled to fire down into the harbour, and the defences were considered vulnerable to attack. In 1651 Cromwell’s Castle was built by the harbour and replaced King Charles’ Castle on the hill above. Its guns were better placed to protect the channel into New Grimsby harbour.

Cromwell’s Castle

A waterside path through the bracken took us to New Grimsby. So now we’ve walked all around Tresco as well.  There were some buoys free which was surprising and quite a few boats anchored in there.  If they’re staying for Monday night, that will surely be a place with swells galore? We thought about trying to find a table at the pub but knowing we have such a comfortable boat, we set off back to Old Grimsby where we had a lovely chat with the couple on Fulmar before heading out to Idun. So many nice people around here!

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