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Best of Tresco - Ten Things You Mustn’t Miss When Visiting England’s Island of Flowers

By Martin Li

  • Spectacular Landings

    • You can travel to Tresco by boat but by far the best way to arrive is by helicopter from Penzance. Sit on the right of the Sikorsky and watch the road to the Western tip of England end abruptly at the rugged cliffs of Land’s End. Then enjoy the spectacular aerial view of this lush and unspoilt island, surrounded by turquoise ocean. You may need to remind yourself that this is England.

  • Life in the Slow Lane

    • There are no cars on Tresco. At the heliport, you climb onto an open-sided trailer, drawn by tractor through the narrow, palm-fringed lanes. You’ve traveled back in time to a totally different world where there is no crime, no police and where nobody bothers to lock their doors. The pace of life is altogether sedate and revolves around the daily movement of tides and boats. Sunday newspapers arrive on Monday.  Borrow a golf buggy to get your bearings around this pristine island. To the south flourish tropical palms and ferns  The woods around the Great Pool are alive with rabbits and pheasants. To the north are gaunt granite cliffs, deep hidden caves and a wilder landscape dominated by heather and bracken.

  • English Tropics

    • Take a stroll through the densely planted cactuses, palms, ferns, camellias and lilies of the Abbey Gardens. These have been collected from around the world and blossom in the mild, Gulf Stream-warmed climate. Tresco is unique amongst the Isles of Scilly in being privately-owned (by the Dorrien Smith family, whose ancestors first developed the island and who still live in the Abbey).

  • Many Happy Returns

    • Indulge yourself at the Island Hotel, a hedonistic hideaway perched above its own beach. Many rooms offer uninterrupted sea views and even private gardens. The Menavaur Suite is situated above a tidal channel and can give guests the impression of being on a moving cruise ship. Freshly caught crab and lobster are specialties of the fine restaurant. The hotel commands extraordinary guest loyalty with some 85% of visitors having stayed before. Many famous guests, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana, have regularly found tranquility and relaxation here. Book early.

  • Captain’s Bar

    • Relax with a drink at the New Inn, Tresco’s cozy, nautical pub. The Inn is adorned with telescopes, model ships, sea paintings and ship’s bells. As the island’s only pub, the Inn is a melting pot of local life and visitors can mingle easily with the friendly islanders.

  • Marine Frolics

    • Hire a boat and explore the sheltered waters around Tresco. The Isles of Scilly comprise some 100 small low-lying islands, reefs and atolls of which only five are inhabited. Take a boat to a remote beach of one of the uninhabited isles for the ultimate getaway. If marine life is your thing you can hire a wet suit and swim with seals off the Eastern Isles.

  • Private Beaches

    • Tresco has four miles of silver-sand coastline to choose from, ranging from long sweeping beaches to secluded coves. Whichever you prefer, with the island only able to accommodate 400 visitors at any time, it should be fairly easy to find one to yourself.

  • Times Past

    • Examine the island’s impressive Bronze Age remains which include a fascinating 4000-year old burial chamber on the summit of Tregarthen Hill. In more recent times, King Charles’s Castle to the north and the Blockhouse at Old Grimsby both saw Civil War action in the 1651 Battle of Tresco. Cromwell’s Castle maintains its lonely vigil on the rocky north west coast. This was built after the Roundhead victory to defend the sea channel, as was Oliver’s Battery near Carn Near.

  • Birdwatching

    • Due to their geographical location and varied terrain, the Isles of Scilly are a focal point for many breeds of migrating birds. Visit Tresco in September to watch the aerobatics displays. Oystercatcher, Kestrel, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest and Little Egret can all be seen plus many others. Then catch a boat to the neighboring islands of St Martin’s, St Agnes and Bryher which also offer discerning bird watching.

  • Sky At Night

    • Tresco has no streetlights and the island can be very dark at night. Don’t let this deter you - a nocturnal stroll or even buggy drive through the island’s shadows and silhouettes to the background music of the sea is an unforgettable experience. There being so little light pollution, the stars shine very brightly and their regal night-time show, together with the periodic sweep of the Round Island Lighthouse beam, will guide you.  


Martin Li is a freelance travel and lifestyles writer based in London. Born in Hong Kong, his family moved to London when he was three. After graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in physics, Martin worked initially in high level positions in financial services and capital markets.  Martin has published a number of books and articles and his topics frequent include his parchment for hideaways destinations, adventure trips, and sports travel. (More about this author).

Martin Li

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