Many happy returns to the Isles of Scilly
PUBLISHED: 10:55 01 May 2015
Andy Cooper finds that a fresh visit to the Isles of Scilly finds them as warm and welcoming as ever…and offering a few surprises as well
“Are you here for the wedding or the gig then?” A question I was asked three times within an hour of landing on St Mary’s. It was that kind of trip – there were two big, big events on the island that weekend and it seemed everyone was at one of them. Or both if they’d got their timetabling right.
The gig in question was the rather special appearance of TV’s very own dynamo comic Russell Kane at the Five Islands School as part of his pledge to do shows at out of the way venues. Cue some appeals from St Mary’s locals and before you knew it, the bequiffed, bouncing bundle of energy was roaring onto stage in the somewhat incongruous surroundings of the school hall and captivating an audience already bubbling after the warm-up act of Cornish comic Kernow King.
It’s probably wrong to single out the appearance of Mr Kane on the islands as an element of my trip. This had all the feel of a one-off show in a faraway place and is certainly not the norm on St Mary’s.
But what IS the norm is the friendliness, community spirit and intimate, yet relaxed, atmosphere which is all pervading. It was perfectly normal to be asked whether I was attending the gig or the wedding so many times because you can only really bump into a certain number of people during your stay.
Indeed, typical of my visit was that not only did I bump into Kernow King within ten minutes of landing on the island – and we could share reminisces over a pint about our ‘former lives’ when we both were in somewhat corporate roles at the same place and not having as much fun for a living as we are now – but, naturally, he was staying at the same hotel as me!
But don’t run away with the idea that there is no hiding place on the islands. Far from it. Hugh Town might be the hub and thus has the atmosphere of a welcoming country village, but once you’ve cycled your way to the far reaches of the island, as we did, you’ll normally find yourself alone with the peace and solitude in beautiful, unique surroundings.
Or, better still, head for the quay and after a period of watching the comings and goings as the big and little boats ease their way in and out of port (only comparable with watching the barges move in and out of the Grand Canal in Venice, in my opinion) take a trip to the other islands.
This is where this stunning, unspoilt archipelago truly comes into its own. As you are ferried to your destination the sense of anticipation is all the greater for seeing the outer islands come into focus with their welcoming beaches, rich flora and fauna and azure seas, always those azure seas.
Travel writing is always in danger of falling into hyperbole, but I would defy anyone to counter the islands’ very own claim that they are “a place like nowhere else in England.” Don’t even try to disprove that statement. Visit, enjoy and return again and again…as so many of us do.