Of all places I've been this year so far, The Isles of Scilly have been my favorite. Bold statement, I know. But they are simply like nowhere else I've been and so removed from reality. And The Star Castle Hotel is so warm and welcoming, not to mention such a focal point in the history of the islands.
Here is my latest piece on National Geographic: Isles of Scilly: The Land That Time Forgot
I met a very nice man on the flight from Scilly back to Penzance, who introduced me to his son (in his early 20's, lives in London) via e-mail. I asked Christian May about why he loves Scilly so much and thought what he wrote was so beautiful, especially, "A day on the islands is worth a week anywhere else."
The wonderful thing about Scilly is that it can be all things to all people. If you want complete isolation and relaxation, you can find it with ease. If you want to be active you can pack your time on the islands with sailing, swimming, cycling and exploring. If you only have two days I would suggest a bit of both. A day spent exploring St Mary's by bike with some fishing and sailing in the evening would be a pretty good start. Then I'd disappear to the tiny island of St Agnes on day two, and soak up the total tranquillity. Of course, the great thing about Scilly is that you can do it all in a day if you want to; hopping form island to island, pub to pub, beach to beach. There is no such thing as a wasted hour.
Most of the restaurants on Scilly use as much local produce as possible, and one restaurant which really led this path is Juliet's Garden, on St Mary's. It's attached to a working farm and fresh produce grows all around. Herbs, salad, fruit and vegetables pour into the kitchen every morning from the fields, and when you consider the panoramic ocean views that the restaurant enjoys it's easy to see why it is so popular. There are also some great pubs and hotel restaurants to chose from. A pasty and a pint at the Turk's Head pub on St Agnes is one of my favourite evenings.
My family have farmed on the islands for generations, and although I now live and work in London I try and go home three or four times a year because I love it so much. I also have a lot of family still on the islands, making a living and looking to the future. The people of Scilly have always been resourceful, hard working and innovative. They don't look to the government or to officials for support, they look instead to their fields and their family and their neighbours and their businesses. What's really great to see these days is that the younger generation are determined to revive old industries and create new ones. Islanders know that they have to work hard to sustain their way of life and they know that it is the risk takers, the hard workers and those with a vision who will do that.
Alongside the often hard realities of life on the islands, I don't think there is anywhere else in the world that can recharge my batteries like Scilly can. A day on the islands is worth a week anywhere else. I have enjoyed taking friends to Scilly almost every year for the last decade, and they are blown away by the beauty of the islands and the pace of life. I take them fishing and then we drop anchor off an uninhabited island, we make a fire and cook up our catch on the deserted beach and I can hear them thinking, "why have I not come here before?"