To the Southern End of St. Mary’s

Last day with our golf cart so we are heading to the southern part of St. Mary’s today.  There looks to be a lighthouse on the small peninsula that way out of Old Town and I do like a good lighthouse.  We figure to park in the same area by the beach and the path looks fairly straight forward around the end of the island to the lighthouse.  Our Scilly Cart map has a couple of local features marked on it that we will pass as well.

As today is Monday, we figure we can head back to the pottery place as well and go to another craft store that is close to the golf cart place.  I love looking at crafts and such even if I don’t buy anything.  Gives me inspiration for trying to do some things.

So we left our BnB and walked to pick up our cart once more

spire rocks

spire rocks

.  We took the long way around to get to Old Town and that way we were able to go by the pottery place.  He had some wonderful pots there.  What we liked the most were his glazes.  Really would have loved to get this very tall thin vase but just wasn’t sure at all how to get it home and while he probably would have shipped it, we just don’t need a tall thin vase.  It would have to be stored as one of the cats in our house is rather clumsy and very inquisitive so many of my breakable items have been put into boxes for later enjoyment.  We did get a small vase and a candle holder with the glazes that we liked.

Now we’ve got a package in our cart and while the Isles seem very calm and trustworthy, we still decide to take it back to our room before continuing.  No sense leaving it in the cart for temptation.  Then we head to the parking at Old Town and start down the path to the end of the island and the lighthouse.

On the way is an old church and a cemetery.  As there is a fence in front of us, we guess that the path must go through the cemetery somehow.   The church is very small but it is open so we walk in to see the small stained glass windows

Standing stones on the moors

Standing stones on the moors

.  Only has about 5 pews on either side but it appears to still be a working church.  The cemetery is rather extensive and while overgrown some, not totally and has a beloved but faded English garden feel.  A man is working on the yucca plants and trimming the trees and pulling weeds.  We stop to talk to him.  He asks my hubby if he wants to help.  Ever the gentleman and helpful person, my hubby says of course and asks what he would have him do.  Luckily, the guy was kidding and was more than happy to stop work and talk to us for awhile.

He told us some of the history of the area and of the cemetery.  He’s retired now but he used to work there taking care of the gardens all the time.  Now he only does it a couple of days a week for pay but says he seems like he’s there much more.  Takes a lot of maintenance with all the trees and trimming between gravestones.  Finally we get around to asking about the path.  He tells us that we go back to the fence and there is a stile over the fence.  He recommends that we take that path until we get to the second stile then we go uphill and away from the coastal path because it is narrow and muddy today and probably slippery.  Sounds like good advice.

As we climb over the stile, a family comes along behind us heading the same way and since I’m rather slow, we step aside to let them pass

Old Town Harbor

Old Town Harbor

.  We are walking along the Old Town Harbour and the tide is almost all out so not a lot of boats in the harbour but lots of exposed rocks and seaweed.   As we go around the corner there is a rock beach where people have done the stacking stones ritual.   We come across this phenomenon in many places around the world where people have stacked stones just cuz.   Originally stones were stacked as cairns and then later as directions.  now there are many different stores and histories of stacking stones,  too many for this small short blog but you can look it up in Wikipedia but just typing in stacking stones and get all kinds of info.  Often when we come across a lot of stacked stones, we will make our own stack as well or if it is one big stack, we will add to it, such as the cairns we have come across in Nepal.  But today we stopped for some photos and then went on our way.

We are moving away from the seashore as we climb higher.  There is a path that is still running along the edge of the shore but we think that’s where the churchman meant that it got wet and muddy.  There are people still taking this path but I’m all for keeping it safe and slow these days.  As we get higher, we can see the lighthouse across the small plateau.  doesn’t look like much of a lighthouse but hey, the views are great and we can see off both sides of the island from here

End of St. Mary's Isle

End of St. Mary’s Isle


There are several points where you can meander down on the rocks and even get down to the water’s edge in many spots but that’s a lot of up and down and clambering around on rocks so we’re just going to do the ole folks meander across what looks like a moor with the short lavender and other ground plants.  We get to the lighthouse and sit down to watch the boats and the sea.  There are some bird rocks offshore (lots of birds sitting on the rocks).  Ought to be some seal rocks too but we can’t find any.   Some of the rocks are named in our map like Pulpit Rock.  Not quite sure which one it is but there are some that look rather like a pulpit – with a good imagination.

We have some fruit and a drink and enjoy the scenery and the wind and the sun.  We’re not alone up here as there are a few families wandering around and some couples on the rocks.  But  it’s still a lovely place and feels very solitary.  The lighthouse itself has a small building with it but it’s not a house that would have ever had people living in it or working in it.  just an automatic short tower on a high spot.



After a bit, we head back via almost the same path.  There are some stones that could be Standing Stones or they could have been part of a fence at one time.  We are choosing to believe that they were Standing Stones in the manner of Stonehenge or Avebury.  When you have nothing to go on, why not make it match your desires!

Back at our cart, we head for Hugh Town and stop in the industrial park to find the craft center.  It is a center and a workshop and people are inside doing stained glass, my favorite.  There are some paintings and jewellery as well but nothing much that we liked.  Some of the stained and fused glass was excellent though as it gave a real feeling of waves.  I must figure out how to do that!

get some sandwiches to eat on the beach where we can see the quay and watch boats coming and going.  A small sailboat comes into the harbor and we watch the sailor tie up to a buoy and take down the sails.  We are watching to see how the sailor gets from the boat to show.  The person disappears and then comes around the back of the boat in a small dingy

bear butt rock

bear butt rock

.  Don’t know where it came from because it wasn’t tied to the buoy before the sailboat arrived and it wasn’t being hauled behind the sailboat.  As the person is rowing into shore, for the first time,we can see that it is a woman.  Yea, go girl!  She’s probably about late 50’s from her looks or else she’s much younger but has spent a lot of time in the wind on the water.  She did really handle that sailboat expertly.

Tonight is our night to eat on the beach on the opposite side of Hugh Town, at the take away trailer of fish and chips so we don’t need to make a booking.  By now we have walked about 5 miles every day – for me – with my hubby adding the extra miles on golf cart days to return the cart and walk home to the BnB.   That’s probably about 4 miles more than my knees have been happy with each day so we’re done for today too.  One nice thing a day is all I’ve been able to manage but at least I got here and saw stuff which is much better than a lot of the Brits we know (yes, I know, you never go visit what is in your backyard!).  So I get dropped off again at our BnB and hubby takes back the cart for the last time.

Some more relaxing with the feet up and then we walk down to the beach to get our fish and chips

rocks at the end of the isle

rocks at the end of the isle

.  The mobile food truck is quite busy and popular and we are told it will be 45 minutes before we get our meal.  wow.  Hardly ever will we walk into a restaurant and stay if the wait is that long but this is the thing to do tonight so we find a seat and sit and watch the beach and the waves and the seagulls while we wait.

On the beach is a very unusual sailboat.  It has been pulled up on the beach and is sitting about 5 or 6 feet off the beach on “feet”.  Probably not the technical term and I was also informed that a sailboat of that size (probably at least 35 feet long) is now a yacht!.  This boat is from France and comes over here every year about this time.  the “feet” are two extensions off the bow that have flat platforms on the bottom so the boat can rest on it.  The boat has also a double rudder in the stern that it is resting on as well.  My hubby goes down to walk around it.  really interesting boat but I’d really love to see how they get it up on the beach like that.

As the sun is going down, it is getting chilly and windy so I move over to some built in indentations in the wall with seats for people.  The seagulls are very interested in what everyone is doing on the beach.  As there have been a lot of seagull attack information in the news lately, we are being very careful to watch them as well.  Think it is Brighton that the gulls will swoop down on people and steal their chips.   It’s so bad that it has been compared to Tippi Hendron in The Birds.  We don’t want that.!

Our fish and chips are finally done and hubby brings them down for us to eat.  There is a crepe truck there as well but by the time we were done with our dinner, all the trucks had already cleared out and left so no dessert.  Good meal and we only had a couple of seagulls try to walk up to us and were quickly shooed away.

Ah foo – only one day left in the lovely Isles of Scilly.

More Walking to Burial Chambers

Sunday morning and what could be finer than to be on holiday in Scilly.  Not too much!  Looks like a fine day and we have a golf cart to go pick up and drive around.  After our breakfast, we headed towards town and I stopped at the beach while hubby went on up the hill to pick up our golf cart.  When he came back to get me, we stopped and bought a T shirt  and then back up to the north end of the island to find some other burial sites.

We went as far as possible and parked behind another golf cart and started down the path towards the sea.  Couldn’t really get lost and we had two options, left or right by the sea or through the woods.  We chose seaside walk.  We are actually rather high above the sea but we can hear people on the beach below us, playing in the water.  Nutty people because that is cold water!  Trooping on, we move onto a more narrow path and pretty soon our pant legs are wet with the left over rain and mud

clear water around north end of island

clear water around north end of island

.  Seems like we are having to walk a very long way to find this burial chamber but we finally spot some rocks on the hill about 1/4 mile ahead of us and figure that’s where we are headed.  Yep.  that’s the spot.

This is the Innisdgen Burial Chambers.  According to our Scilly Cart Map, there are two chambers.  We are coming from the lower seaside path and climb up the hill to the chamber we can see which has a sign designating it as the “Upper Burial Chamber”.   Nothing else is in view except a very, very long hanging rope swing from one of the trees.

We are standing on the north end of St. Mary’s again but on the other side of the north end from where we were yesterday at the Halangy ruins.  Once again, we are high on a hillside and the views are just incredible.  The water below us is so clear that it’s very difficult to tell how deep it is as you can see to the bottom.  There are some sailboats in the breezes and a few small fishing boats just floating along doing their thing.

The actual chamber sits at the bottom of a set of rocks that have been climbed frequently for looking out to sea so I climb up the rocks and from this slightly higher view point, I can see another set of rocks further down the hill and to the right of the upper chamber

Innisidgen upper burial chamber

Innisidgen upper burial chamber

.  Must be the lower chamber.   So we head off in that direction.  As we are going there, we pass several directional signs showing how to get to these chambers.  great.  had we come from the forest route, we would have known where we were going.

The lower chamber is just as interesting as the upper one and we enjoy exploring it for a bit.  But by now, I’ve walked much more than I should have and am not looking forward to the return journey to our golf cart.  We study the map to see how to get to the other trail through the forest to get back to our cart and along comes a couple with their dog.  They seem to be a local couple so they point us in the right direction to get back via a simpler route.  We start to follow their directions and come to a fork in the trail and haven’t a clue which fork to take.  Luckily, they are already coming back on their walk and point out, again, which direction to go.  I’m wishing that we could keep up with them so we don’t have to make a choice again on where to go but not so lucky.  This trail had another two places where we could have made the wrong choice and ended up back at the ocean but we managed to suss out the correct direction and made it back to the road.  We had known that we would come out about 1/4 mile away from our golf cart.  Hubby went to get the cart and come back for me but there wasn’t any place for me to stand and wait really so I started walking after him

Innisidgen lower burial chamber

Innisidgen lower burial chamber


I got to the duck pond and there were ducklings playing in a puddle.  A whole pond and where do they play – in the mud puddle.   There is a lot of racket down the road and some loud beeps – the large truck sounds of backing up.   I get to the next corner and there is a whole crew of people cutting the verge and branches over the road and there’s my hubby, steering his golf cart around them all on his way to get me!

Our bed and breakfast hostess had told us one of the best places to eat was Juliette’s which is across the harbor from them and has a wonderful terrace where you can eat outside and watch the harbour.  We didn’t think much of having to walk over there at night and then we saw signs that said they were fully booked until Wednesday anyway (a lot of weddings on the Isles this week) but didn’t look like they were booked at lunch so we thought we’d stop there.

The wind was blowing and it was a bit chilly but we were determined to sit outside with the rest of the hearty people and enjoy the harbor view

tangle of vines and ferns

tangle of vines and ferns

.  We tucked ourselves into a table that was next to the back wall and ordered our lunch which included chips and some fancy hot coffees.

As we are sitting there watching the Scillonian Ferry arrive at the harbor and eating our food, we notice there are a great many small birds sitting around us, on the ground, on the wall, and very pointedly watching us eat our chips.  I’m a sucker for just about anything that flies or is furry so pretty soon we are “accidentally dropping” bits of chips for the birds.  I think they got most of our chips.  And like most critters, they knew when the food was gone and went off to another table.  it was a good lunch with a good view though so enjoyable.

Back to our cart and as we are driving over to Old Town, I see a potter’s place and we pull in but as it is Sunday, he was closed.  First time we realized what day it was.   We park at Old Town Harbor and walk down to the beach and find some sea glass.  Walking very slowly along the beach and bending over a lot to pick up small bits of glass is not really in my hubby’s wheelhouse of favorite things to do so we finished that up quickly and headed back to Hugh Town

Hugh Town from Juliette's restaurant

Hugh Town from Juliette’s restaurant


I want to stop at the Co-op grocery store (the only one in St. Mary’s) for some drinks and maybe a bedtime snack.  Being the only grocery store, it is so packed with people and the shelves are very empty.  I fight my way into the store and around to find some drinks and a couple of other items and queue to pay.  The locals must know to avoid the store on a Sunday because it looks like just a lot of tourists trying to stock up on beer before the night.   When we have come in on the days when the locals shop, it is early morning when the shelves have been stocked and they fill up an entire grocery cart with their shopping.  I think I would go crazy to only have this small store as my choice for all my groceries.   A lot of them go once a month or so to the mainland and really stock up in Penzance.

Again, we have pretty much finished for the day so hubby takes back the cart after he drops me at the steps of our BnB and walks back by himself.  Again, what a man!  Some more feet up time before we head for the Bishop and Wolf for dinner tonight.  There are enough places where you can eat at a different restaurant every night for a week or more, easily

birds at Juliette's restaurant

birds at Juliette’s restaurant

.   We had also seen last night that there is a fish and chips wagon that stops at the beach by the tourist information office.  They aren’t there on Sunday night but we think we’ll eat on the beach tomorrow night.

Dinner is good and filling and then back to the BnB for another good night’s sleep but no stars. In spite of only doing about one main thing a day, we are clicking off the time here at a rapid pace, it seems.

Go Golf Cart!

In order to avoid walking a lot, we had made arrangements to rent a golf cart for three of our days on Scilly.  Unfortunately, we did not have a place to charge the battery at the bed and breakfast so that meant we had to take the cart back to Scilly Carts every evening by 5:30.  OK, it’s doable and it means we can get around the island without walking as much.  We thought.

At our breakfast this morning, a boatman came in to tell us what boats were running today.  Everything is dependent on the weather and tides and such.  So some cruises around the islands or even to neighboring islands are not always possible.  Today he said there was a 10:15 cruise out to the Western Isles and to Bishop’s Lighthouse.  That had been one of my places I’d marked that we wanted to visit.   So we’ll have to get to the quay and get tickets.  But first, we have to go pick up our golf cart

Bishops lighthouse

Bishops lighthouse



The golf cart people told me that we needed to be there well before 10 or they would give away our golf cart if they had a lot of people wanting them.  So we called and said we were on the way.  Looks to be about a mile from the BnB and we had to stop and ask for directions once.  Not sure how long it would take me to walk a mile so we left shortly after 9.  Down the hill, through the town, along the beach, back up another hill, down another hill, and there we were!  Lots of carts.  We both signed up to drive, paid our money, and he assured us that the charge on our battery would last approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes OR we could drive about 21 miles.  Since there are only 7 miles of road on St. Mary’s we could circle the island 3 times.  The biggest problem with the golf carts is finding a place to park.  There is no parking on the High Street.  You can’t park on the pavement and you can’t take the cart off the pavement onto any of the foot paths or dirt/gravel roads.  OK, we’ll manage.  He did show us some photos of people who have managed to park in ways to get themselves towed, such as up against the ATM machine so that no one could get to it, in the middle of a restaurant path so no one could pass, and so forth.  You can’t drive on the quay with them either as people don’t realize how fast they can back up and more than one person has ended up buying a golf cart after they’ve backed it into the harbor.

We drove back into Hugh Town and parked at the first beach where there was a car in front of us parking.  We checked with them to make sure it was OK to leave the cart there and then headed for the quay to get our tickets for Bishop’s Lighthouse

bishops lighthouse

bishops lighthouse



Not quite a full boat but enough that once we sat down on the right hand side of the boat (we were on the left last night for the gig races and thought we’d change to the right side today – mistake!), we wouldn’t be able to move back and forth to the other side.   The boat goes over to St. Agnes first and drops off some people going to the beach and such.  They all have beach umbrellas and chairs and buckets and all kinds of stuff for their day in the sand.  Then we head on out to the Western Isles to see seals and anything else and Bishop’s Lighthouse.

Realized we were on the wrong side again because the wheel is more towards the left on these boats so the skipper is looking to the left to find things.  He found a sunfish swimming near the surface.  I love sunfish!!!   They are so bizarre and I’ve only ever seen one in Dubai in the aquarium.  I so wanted to see it but there were too many people blocking my view.   The sunfish didn’t hang around long and then he spotted another one.  But again, I couldn’t get a view.  dang it.

He pulled up alongside some rocks where there were seals in the water and again they were on the left side and we were on the right side.  pooey.  But he did turn the boat several times for us to be able to see the seals and also a floating raft of shags (a lot of birds in the water together making it look almost solid).  Then we are passing out of the relative calm of being inside the Isles and out into the actual Atlantic

View from ancient ruins

View from ancient ruins


.  The waves are definitely more choppy and it’s more windy and rougher riding.

Had we been out there too much longer, there might have been a few seasick people but it was a relative short trip.  You can see Bishop’s Lighthouse standing on the horizon and as you get close, it gets bigger and taller and bigger and taller.
Here is an entry from the Internet

“”     HistoryBishop Rock Lighthouse stands on a rock ledge 46m long by 16m wide, 4 miles west of the Scilly Isles. The rocks rise sheer from a depth of 45m and are exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean making this one of the most hazardous and difficult sites for the building of a lighthouse.

The rocks around the Scilly Isles caused the wreck of many ships over the years including the loss of Sir Cloudesley Shovel’s squadron of the British Fleet in 1707 in which 2,000 men died. The Elder Brethren of Trinity House decided that the lighting of the Scilly Isles, which at that time consisted of only the old lighthouse at St

Halangy Ancient ruins

Halangy Ancient ruins


. Agnes, was inadequate, and resolved to build a lighthouse on the most westerly danger, the Bishop Rock.

James Walker, Engineer in Chief to Trinity House, was against building a solid granite tower arguing that the rock ledge was too small and the elements too powerful, being exposed as it was to the full force of the Atlantic ocean. Walker demonstrated that the wind pressures at times exceeded 7,000 lb per sq.ft, and as many as 30 gales a year were not unusual in the area.

Thus in 1847, it was decided to erect a screw-pile lighthouse at a cost of £12,000. The first task was to sink cast iron legs into the solid granite, braced and stayed with wrought iron rods. The designer maintained that the waves would be able to roll freely among the piles instead of being obstructed by the solid mass of masonry tower. When work was suspended at the end of 1849 the building was complete all but the installation of the lighting apparatus. Before it could be completed the following season, a heavy gale swept away the whole structure on the evening of 5th February 1850.

Undismayed by the failure of the first lighthouse, James Walker once again turned to the idea of a granite tower based upon Smeaton’s Eddystone

Bant's carn burial chamber

Bant’s carn burial chamber


. After surveying the site, he finally chose a small but solid mass giving room for a base 10m in diameter. The surface waves constantly swept over the site, and indeed the lowest blocks had to be laid a third of a metre beneath low water mark. A heavy coffer dam was erected around the site and the water within pumped out, so that the masons might be able to work on a dry rock face. Each granite block, weighing from one to two tons, was set into its preselected position, and each course dovetailed and keyed into position at the sides, top and the bottom thus forming an immovable mass. The workmen were housed on a small nearby uninhabited islet, where living quarters and workshops were erected. The men were carried to and from the site as the weather permitted. Working spells were brief, as well as being few and far between, and after seven years labour the tower was finally completed. All the granite was despatched from the mainland to the island depot where it was shaped and numbered before being sent to the rock. In all the 35 m tower contained 2,500 tons of dressed granite and cost £34,560. The light was first exhibited on 1st September 1858. During one particularly powerful storm, waves rolled up on the side of the lighthouse and tore away the 550lb fog bell from its fastenings on the gallery.

In 1881 Sir James Douglass made a detailed inspection of the tower and reported extensive damage and weakness in the structure. It was decided to strengthen the tower and at the same time to increase the elevation of the light by 12m. The plans, though quite complex in nature essentially entailed the building of a new lighthouse around the old one, completely encasing it. The real weakness was the foundation and this Douglass proposed to strengthen and enlarge with massive blocks of granite sunk into the rock and held there by heavy bolts. It was an enormous cylindrical base, providing the lighthouse with an excellent buffer onto which the force of the waves could be spent before hitting the tower itself. The masonry casing, averaging a metre in thickness, was carried up as far as the new masonry required for the increased height of the light. The weight of the additional granite was 3,200 tons, making a total weight of 5,700 tons. Work was completed in October 1887 at a cost of £66,000.

Bishop Rock was converted to automatic operation during 1991 with the last keepers leaving the lighthouse on 21 December 1992.

The fog signal was discontinued on 13 June 2007.”””Our skipper told us that during rough seas, the water will wash over the top of the lighthouse.  amazing.  What’s great is we recognized the lighthouse!!!  We’ve seen it many times on BBC One during their open sequences where they have some fashion of a big O.  This is the lighthouse where the helicopter lands on it and takes off again.  sooooo cool.

There didn’t seem to really be a way to get into the lighthouse except climbing up a vertical ladder on the side to the door which had to be at least 20-30 feet up the side.  Lighthouses are just amazing and I am so glad we got to go see this one.

Back to St. Mary’s and we stopped for lunch and then made our reservation for dinner at Mr. B’s, a steakhouse in town.  Then back to our Scilly Cart and we were away for the north end of the island.  We’ve been told that the Isles of Scilly have the most burial cairns than anywhere else so we’re off to see some.   We have the map from the cart company and it shows how to get there which basically means go to the end of the road, park on the side off the road, and walk.  Can’t get lost.

Following the instructions we drove past a duck pond, past several lovely looking craft shops and came to the Coast Guard Tower on top of the hill at the north end of the island.  Here was a place to park so we did and walked to where we thought the path would be.  We made one slight error and ended up walking across the golf course for a bit before we decided we had missed a turn.   Yep, we had and once we followed it, came right out at the burial chamber and the ancient village ruins.

Two kids had claimed the burial chamber as their play area for the afternoon.   We were trying to get some photos without them in the middle of the chamber.  The small girl went over to her grandmother and started crying that we were taking her chamber.  Luckily grandma knew just how to calm her down and we thanked her for letting us see “her chamber” and everyone was happy again.  Then we went down the hill to see the ancient village ruins.  very good sites and just incredible views out to sea.  We could recognize Tresco from where we stood and later learned that the other large island we were looking at was Samson.  Just magnificent scenery.

Back to our cart and we continued on around the road.  There was also a standing stone somewhere but I was pretty beat on my knees and so we just drove around the island and learned where everything was located.  Finally I get dropped off at our BnB and just have to navigate up the stairs rather than the hill as well and poor hubby has to go drop off the golf cart on his own and walk back by himself.  What a man!

Rest and relax time with the feet up then over to Mr. B’s for dinner.  What an odd place.  Our hostess at our BnB said it had just opened not long before and had been a variety of different eateries prior to Mr. B’s.  It’s odd in that you walk down to the cellar level to get to the bar and entrance.  They are happy to serve you a drink there and you wait for your table.  When your table is ready, you walk upstairs to street level again (but inside the restaurant) and carry your drink with you.  As my knees are really unhappy by now, they had to carry my drink for me so I could haul myself up the stairs.

Mr. B’s had some good steak but the sides that went with it were pretty miserable.  Who serves mashed potatoes with absolutely no seasoning and no butter and no anything?  Maybe that’s typical British but not from any mash we have had before here in England.  hmmm.  When we were finished, we had to go back downstairs to the cellar/bar and then climb back upstairs to leave.   Seemed a bit pretentious and oddly inefficient to me.     There was a street level door but it wasn’t being used.

So back up the hill, back up the stairs, and to our room for another good night’s sleep.  We are not in a sea view room because I asked too late so we don’t have much of a view.  The neighbors are quite yacky until about 9 p.m and then it gets blessedly quiet.  Never heard a noise all night and the windows were always open.   We are supposed to be able to see lovely stars and the Milky Way from here but the cloud cover never lifted the whole time we were on Scilly.  We saw one star one night and about 20 stars another night and that was it.

Rainy Day in Tresco

Our plans for Scilly was to spend a lot of time relaxing due to my bum knee.  That had not included the hike up the hill and stairs to reach our room every time we wanted to take a break but that’s pretty much what it was going to have to be.  We had also thought that we would just spend one day going to a different island.  Per our book, it looked like there was enough to do on St. Mary’s that we wouldn’t have to jaunt around to the different isles plus there are always the “round isles tours” that take you out to see sea birds and seals and such.  Of course, we had learned upon arrival that the puffins (my favorite bird of all times) had already left the isles and gone out to sea.  dang it.  I figure all the people who have gotten fantastic photos of puffins and put them into calendars have all left their calendars with the puffins so that the puffins know when the end of July is, when they are supposed to go to sea, and even though it was just the first week of August, the puffins have all followed the calendar and left.  Well, it’s either that or the sun and weather tells them to go

agapanthas on Tresco

agapanthas on Tresco

.  I like my explanation better.

So we have our breakfast at our BnB and head down to the quay to sign up for a day trip to Tresco which is just “next door” as isles go.  Tresco has an abbey garden that is supposed to be wonderful and we like gardens so thought it would be a good stop and not too much walking.  The queue to get tickets for the boats wasn’t too bad but we decided we’d take the 12:30 trip over so that I wouldn’t be on my feet quite so much.  We got our tickets and have a couple of hours now to kill before going to Tresco.

We are looking at the various signs and see that there is a “gig race” tonight for 5 pounds.  Not sure what a gig is other than the vernacular for a musical engagement.  Pretty sure they are not talking about that.  We walk back to the High Street of Hugh Town (not very busy as there is the steady flow of people heading to the quay in the morning and empties out the town).  I’m a bit cold and see a couple of things in a store that look warmer than stuff I have so we go into the store and I end up with a really nice denim jacket.  I needed another coat like I need another umbrella but we always seem to buy umbrellas and jackets when we travel because we’ve mis-calculated the temperature or the rain

Garden arch at Tresco

Garden arch at Tresco


Into the Atlantic Hotel to make a booking for dinner.  We are lead into the area next door which is where the restaurant actually is and make our booking.  We ask him to explain what a gig race is.  it’s a boat race!  Officially it’s a “pilot gig boat”.  History:  when the Isles of Scilly were a major stopping point for ships coming and going from England and Cornwall, pilots were needed to get the ships into and out of harbors because of all the treacherous rocks around the Isles.  Gig boats would race out to the ships to get their pilot out there first because if you didn’t get your pilot there first, you would be out of a job and then no money.  So the gig races have continued into the modern day as a sports competition and the Isles now host world championships.  The gigs have a 6 person crew (there are female crews and male crews.  The females races are on Wed night and the male races on Fri night) and a coxswain.  it’s all rowing.  the boats are ocean going longboats like long dorys or tenders.  Anyway, it all sounded quite exciting so we thought we’d head out to go to the races tonight and made our dinner booking accordingly so we’d have time to make the boat.  Watchers go out in boats and follow the gigs back to shore.  The gigs row out 3 miles from St. Mary’s and race back to the harbor.



Getting ahead of myself a bit.  We still had a lot of time before our ride to Tresco so back up the hill, back up the steps and relax and read time in our room.   Then back down to the harbor for our 12:30 boat.  This is the first time we’ve actually seen the boats.  We are going with the St. Mary’s Boatmen Association which runs a good many of the boats between the Isles and on the tours around the Isles.  There are other organizations that have boats as well but we didn’t use any of them.   The boat is open, as in no top or shelter.  It holds some 80 people overall on all the benches and seats.  I am very glad I have purchased my denim jacket and also I got a plastic poncho as it continues to drizzle on us.

The boat is pretty full and we head to Tresco which takes about 15 minutes.  There are two landings on most of the Isles, one for high tide and one for low tide.  I had thought we would go into the landing that is at the town on Tresco and we would then slowly walk down the Isle through the town and to the gardens BUT we landed instead at the far end of the island.  I am messing around with my plastic poncho and umbrella to keep the camera dry and we are the very last ones to walk up the hill and around the sand dunes and by the time we got to the long walkway that takes you towards the town and the gardens, there are only about 6 people left on the walkway in front of us

Tresco beach

Tresco beach

.  Very eerie to be almost the only ones in sight.  As we stopped to take some photos of the dunes and the tors (large rock formations on the Isles), we were then by ourselves amongst the aggapanthas and the tors and dunes.

Luckily it was super easy to find the gardens as there is no way to go anywhere from that landing without passing them.   We paid our money and headed into the gardens.    This is what the Abbey Gardens website (  )   has to say about themselves:

“”   The sub-tropical Abbey Garden is a glorious exception – a perennial Kew without the glass – shrugging off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host thousands of exotic plants.
Many of these tender floral gems would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Yet even at the winter solstice more than 300 plants will be in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.

By building tall wind-breaks, Augustus Smith channelled the weather up and over the network of walled enclosures that he built around the Priory ruins and the three terraces he carved from the rocky, south facing slope looking towards St Mary’s

gig race finishing

gig race finishing

. You can learn more about the history of the garden here. The hotter, drier terraces at the top of the garden suit South African and Australian plants; those lower down provide the humidity that favours flora from New Zealand and South America.

The diversity of plant life to be found within the Abbey Garden is extraordinary. Fringing the lush grid of paths which criss-cross the gardens are a host of succulents, towering palm trees and giant, lipstick-red flame trees. Here you can find flowers of the King Protea and the handsome Lobster Claw. Walk amongst the great blue spires of Echium, brilliant Furcraea, Strelitzia and shocking-pink drifts of Pelargonium.

The treasures to be found within the Abbey Garden are not limited to the floral kind. The garden is also home to a collection of shipwrecked figureheads, which are displayed at the Valhalla Museum.

At the entrance to the garden is the Garden Visitor Centre with a well-stocked gift shop, a large cafeteria and a history room.””

We wandered the gardens in the rain, sometimes very hard rain where we would stop to stand in a shelter of any kind (man-made, natural), and sometimes just a drizzle.  There were other people about enjoying the gardens but not many.  Just when we had decided we had seen almost all the trees and flowers we could stand, we saw the sign pointing to the Valhalla Museum of figureheads and headed in that direction.  A very good museum of figureheads and signs from shipwreaks.  It was all an open air museum so a good many of the figureheads were on the walls in the rain, as well.  My favorite was a fish.  If they had just figured out how to make the rain appear to be coming out of its mouth, it would have been the pinnacle of the figureheads.

To the gift shop and then a sandwich for lunch but no places to sit so we went out to the entryway courtyard and found some benches under shelter to eat.   We had a little over an hour for the next ferry back or two hours for the last ferry back.  Debating whether to go to Old Grimsby, the town or not, but decided that my knee would not hold up to going in both directions and there was a large beach that could use some beach combing if we wanted to spend an hour doing that before the ferry.  so the beach it was.

Nice walking along the beach and finding limpet shells, mostly.  Not much sea glass but limpet shells are cool.  One other couple only on the beach.  Luckily we could find a way off the beach and to the sidewalk to the ferry pick up point.  And it is now raining hard again.   And not quite time for the ferry.  And a line of people already waiting.  And a boat unloading some stuff so we can’t even get on the quay yet.  But we did get on the boat back to St. Mary’s and got back in time to go back to the room for another spot of feet up and knee pampering before back down the hill for dinner.

Good dinner at Atlantic Inn and then back to the quay for the gig races.  The gig races are popular as there were three boats being filled.  We picked the closest one and sat on the left side.   Once all three boats were filled and there didn’t appear to be anyone else coming, we all left and headed out to the gig race spot which is west of St. Agnes (the Isle on the other side of St. Mary’s) and starts close to three rocks sticking out of the sea.  There was a lot of maneuvering around before the boats started racing.  There were 6 gigs.  Couldn’t really tell where the starting point was or exactly who was starting them.  The three boats that had come out from St. Mary’s were not alone to watch the races.  All together, about 7 large boats full of people and half dozen smaller private boats.  Some of the boats had cheering crews for one or another of the gigs.

We are sort of drifting along with the motor at idle.  The rowers are almost ready to go and most of the men who are rowing take off their shirts.  My hubby and I are bundled up in most of the warm clothes we have brought with hats and zipped up to the chin.  It’s not raining now but it is very chilly.   Suddenly, somehow, all the rowers heard the start and we are off.  Our chase boat revved up the motors and we are going lickety split now!  I never realized people could row that fast but we seem to be going quite a good pace to keep up with them.  Our boat is on the left side of the gigs so we are sitting on the further side away from the gigs.  dang.  Wish we’d sat on the right side of the boat.

Of the six gigs, two gigs are left behind quickly.  Three are keeping neck and neck for a mile or more.  One is kind of trailing the three leaders but they slowly fall behind.  It’s a three nautical mile race (I think that is slightly less than three land miles).  People in other boats are chanting and cheering.  People in our boat are cheering for Bonnet (one of the boats).  Two of the gigs pull ahead at about 2 miles finished mark.  One of the leaders is Bonnet.  We are getting close to St. Mary’s now and people are lined up around the Garrison (the old fort on top of the hill) to watch the races come home.  This is really exciting!

As we get closer to the harbor, Bonnet is slowly pulling ahead.  Our boat is keeping pace and we haven’t slowed down once so these men have been rowing fast for almost 3 miles now.  No wonder they took off their shirts before starting.  They must be really sweating by now.  We head into the harbor and as they pass a certain point, a horn goes off signaling that they have reached the finish.  Bonnet wins by more than a boat length but not much more than that.  Second place comes in and third place isn’t too far behind.  We sit in our boat and wait for all six gigs to finish even though it is several minutes before the last two boats come past the finish line.  When every boat passes the line, everyone in the chase and watch boats all cheer and applaud.  It’s cool that everyone is doing that because even the last boat over the line worked hard and rowed hard.  my gosh, this is a very, very hard race.

When the last boat is in, our boat goes back to the docks as well and everyone piles off and leaves.  good night.  we head back up to our hotel, back up the hill, back up the stairs.  We haven’t done that much, overall, but my knees are saying enough.  thank goodness you’ve decided to go to bed.  lovely day in spite of the rain.  exciting race.  a very good day in Scilly.

First Day in Scilly

Ask a Brit about the Isles of Scilly and you get (or at least we did), “I hear they are lovely but I’ve never been there”.  We got this from about 25 people that we surveyed.  Not once did we find anyone among our acquaintances that had actually been there but they all knew they were lovely.  So either the Isles of Scilly (I was warned NOT to call them the Scilly Isles) have been doing a bang up job of promotion or they really are lovely.

Idiot that I can be, I’d been housebound for several months due to a bad knee and had surgery on July 15.  Of course I was thinking that by Aug 6 I’d be fine and ready to go plus I really had to get out of the house.  I was going bonkers just sitting and reading every day.  My kindle bill on Amazon has been quite high.   I knew that one of the major things to do on the various Isles was walking and hiking but I had also found on line that you could rent a golf cart to get around so I happily set up a trip and rented the cart in advance, found the BnB and got flights from Gatwick to Newquay and then the Skybus from Newquay to St

Hugh Town harbour - low tide

Hugh Town harbour – low tide

. Mary’s.  Our BnB hosts advised us to get the travel insurance from Skybus as there are times when they cannot fly due to the weather.,  ummm, right.

We’re off in the morning.  I’ve got my walking stick for my dodgy knee and have made arrangements with Flybe to scooter me down from the the terminal waiting area to the gate.  I’ve done this once before and it’s a bit nervy as they never seem to take you down until the last minute when the departure signs are all flashing – Last Call.

Another lady was in the cart with me.  She was flying home to Newquay.  They told her she would have to walk down the stairs at the gate.  She was barely able to do that.  I could do it with a bit of gimping and going slow but she was struggling.  Oddly, the wheelchair was able to go down an elevator BUT supposedly the elevator was out of the secure area so she would have had to go through security again!  How strange and what an odd way to do it.  So she struggled down the stairs and then got back in the wheelchair to wheel to the plane where they had a lift to get her to the plane.  Seems like they could figure that out a bit better for people who can’t walk at all!

Usually we try to get an exit row but when you have asked for assistance, they aren’t gonna let you do that

Old Town Harbour

Old Town Harbour

.  Yep, the ride to the gate was nice but believe me, I could throw out the window and climb out the door just as well as the next person so our seats weren’t the best but the ride from Gatwick to Newquay isn’t too long.

Newquay airport is small.  You land, wait for your bags on the single belt, walk outside and down the sidewalk to go back into the departure area.  This is also the only airport we’ve been in the U.K. where you have to pay a 5 pound fee to get into the departure area.  Kids under 16 don’t need it and when we went to get ours, a woman had just accidentally purchased one for her under 16 child so we bought hers and got a second one for us.  This woman looked like she really needed to save all her pounds when possible as she had on the oddest skirt that was ripped to shreds in various places.  I know that jeans are considered fashionable when ripped at the knees and such  but pretty sure her skirt wasn’t supposed to be.  Maybe that’s just her traveling clothes in case of accident so she doesn’t lose anything nice.

Through security and into the departure lounge and we picked up a few snacks.  Flybe has drinks and snacks on board but you must purchase them and the flight on Skybus is only 1/2 hour plus it’s a really small plane so no flight attendant

Harbour view from Juliette's restaurant

Harbour view from Juliette’s restaurant

.  Also, the luggage weight is only 15kg.  very hard for us to fly with such a low limit – LOL.  we’ve really gotten bad about taking so much crap with us everywhere.

Off to one side of the lounge is a sign which says “Skybus departure area for safety briefing” or something like that.  We gathered over there and before too long, a Skybus employee came and put on the safety video which is like every safety video everywhere except telling you how small this plane is.  Then we head out to the tarmac to load up and since I am stumping along with my walking stick we are almost the last people on board the plane and therefore unable to get through the aisle to a good seat up front.  We end up sitting behind a rather large, covered, table type thing which gave us no where to put our small carry on bags nor our feet.  I stretched mine out into the aisle.

The co pilot gets on board and tells the people in the last row how to open the door in an emergency and then closes and locks the door/stairs combo.  he goes to the front of the plane and reminds us of the safety areas and then sits next to the pilot in the cockpit where there is no door between us and them

High Street Hugh Town

High Street Hugh Town
Read photo story!

.  lovely little plane.

We’re on the wrong side of the plane to see much of the coast but I’m thinking I’ll be able to get some good photos on the way back then because it’s 2 seats on our side and only one seat on the other side.  So we have views of the ocean and not much else.  But as I mentioned, it’s only 1/2 hour flight so we just relaxed and watched the ocean and the propellers and each other.

Landing on St. Mary’s island, doesn’t take long to get off the plane, wait for our bags, and hop into the bus.  They have a regular crew of people running the shuttles from the airport into town to drop you at your hotel or BnB.  They meet you right in the luggage area and have you sorted and ready to go before you’re quite sure what’s happening.  They do it so much that it flows quite nicely.  We’re in a van with two other couples who are all repeat visitors so we’re the “newbies” and he drove us through a couple of places to point out sites to us which the other people didn’t seem to mind.  We’re the last to be dropped at our BnB.  Each other couple made arrangements for pick up for the return to the airport so we did likewise when he dropped us at our BnB

Hugh Town Harbour when the tide is in

Hugh Town Harbour when the tide is in


Santa Maria Guest House looked to be a lovely place but as we drove there, we see that it is on a hill and it is up a long flight of stairs to get to the front door.  Great.  my knee is not happy now at all.  The shuttle driver kindly carries my suitcase up to the front door as I am pulling myself up the handrail.      We walk into the BnB and are greeted by our hostess who had gotten confused somehow that we were coming over by ship and had called me but because we were flying, I had my phone on flight mode and never got the call so she was a bit distressed but not at me since I’d sent her all the info and she just had forgotten.  We go into the lounge to sign in and get information on the house and what to do and such.  They point out places in Hugh Town and Old Town – we can see both from the front window – and I’m looking and thinking – dang, a lot of walking.   Then we get our key to room #5 (didn’t get a sea view room because didn’t ask for it in time) and have to go up another long flight of stairs to get to the room.  My hubby hauls up my suitcase for me this time.

After resting for awhile, we head into town to find a place for dinner and to look around.  They’ve told us we should make dinner reservations most nights because it is holiday season.  We find Kavorna, first place we hit, and make reservations for around 6 because I don’t want to walk around too much.  We walk to the wharf/quay and see that the tide is out because half the boats in the harbor are grounded.  Love the tides in these places.  Lots of choices on different isles to visit and lots to do but most of it is walking.  So we are probably going to do one thing a day and just rest and read the rest of the time.  Not the best way to spend time on the Isles of Scilly but gonna have to do it that way.

One thing surprised us that there were more cars than we thought.  For some reason, we had thought that there weren’t any cars except for the shuttle buses for the airports, some delivery people and some taxis.  But people have and own cars there.  Not many and as such the roads are quite narrow and most people walk in the streets but still, are plenty of cars.  Guess I should have realized that when the Skybus site had a link to renting a car.  We will manage without.

A nice dinner at Kavorna then stumping up the hill and up the double flight of stairs and our first afternoon in the lovely Isles of Scilly is at an end.

Random Zapping

My husband and I started our holiday yesterday for our 30th wedding anniversary.  We wanted to do something big so we’re traveling to South America to visit three countries where we haven’t been before.   Was an odd start because we left our daughter at home.  I say odd because usually she is the one traveling back and forth to her job in Africa so it was odd to say goodbye to her and walk out the door.   No problems getting to the airport early on a Friday morning in spite of having to travel the M25 “Parking lot”.  No problems checking in and dropping off our bags.  Didn’t even have a problem using the “fast track” lane where it scans your bar code and then opens the gate for you to walk into security.  It actually worked for us yesterday and half the time it doesn’t.

Get to the security line and I am removing all jewelry, my shoes (because I they have a kid light on them which is metal), my belt, my watch, my fitbit, etc.  My shoes and belt and purse go in a tray.  My computer  and my little bag of liquids and gels go in a tray and my carry on goes in a tray..  I walk through the scanner, fairly confident that I will pass without the miserable beep since I have NO METAL on me at all.  NOPE.  That’s what I get for thinking the machines are actually and truly functional.  I get beeped.  There is nothing metal on my body at all.  oh wait, my bra strap has two metal hook and eye clasps on it.  Not even an underwire!  No metal parts inside me either and yet I am zapped.  So it has got to be random!  Of course I now get a thorough pat down and that’s never enjoyable to have some unknown female run her hands all over your body.  And of course she didn’t find a single thing.  And of course you can’t even make a snarky remark or a joke or anything because you don’t know what kind of mood these officers might be in and they could keep you off your flight.

That done, I go to pick up my bags and notice that they have not come through the scanner even though it takes awhile to get the pat down.  Nope, opps, there they are but except for my computer and my little bag of gels and liquids, they have all blissfully been routed to the other side of the belt which means they will be further checked for explosives or drugs or whatever it is they get checked.   So I’m holding my pants up because my belt is in the other side.  I have no shoes on my feet and I’m holding my computer and little bag in in my hands.  Luckily we are not in a rush to make a plane.

Finally an officer gets to my two trays and just pulls out my carry on bag and hands it to me.  What the heck???  Why did it go to the “to be checked” side if they weren’t even going to look inside it.  But that’s fine.  They are always great about taking everything out and they you have to stand there and get everything back inside while people are bumping you and trying to get to their stuff.  So I take it happily and wait for my next tray to be checked.  He brings me my shoes, without checking them.  great.  more randomness that apparently was so unnecessary that even the officer working the security desk didn’t feel like he needed to check anything.

That leaves my coat and purse and belt and watch and fitbit.  He runs the little explosives checking pad over the outside of everything in the tray, sticks it in the machine, and it squawks negative and he brings me my tray.  15 minutes or random zapping of me and my stuff.  Heavy sigh.  Airports are SOOOOO much fun these days.

No further problems really, other than our airplane had one bathroom out-of-order, until we get to Miami.  We do the POWER WALK MILE that is so typical of airports these days or at least for us.  I think I have only had an airplane park close to the immigration desks maybe 3 times in my life.  Otherwise, seems like I am always walking from one far end of the airport to get into the country and out to get my luggage.

Miami has the passport machines.  We have not run across these before.  If you are a citizen or have certain other visas or reasons to be here, you go to one of the machines lines up on the wall, answer questions, slide in your passport to be scanned, it takes your photo, and then gives you a receipt.  My husband and I are standing side by side using two machines not realizing that if we are traveling together, they really only want us to use one machine and put both passports in as family members.  So we screwed up the first pass through and had to do it again.  When our receipts came out, there is the passport information on it, a horrid photo, and a big X across both of our passports.  X’s are NOT good.

You then take your little receipt and walk out pass an officer who sees the big X across your receipt and sends you into the line where you have to go past the immigration officers.  Crap.  more random zapping!  AND because just about everyone can use these machines (Brits with ESTA’s, etc) it means that there are a lot of people with x’s across their receipts and so the lines are much longer than if you had just gotten into a line without the blinking machine.  And true to most airports, there were two immigration officers sitting in the line of 30 or more desks.   I really try hard not to complain but yesterday I was tired and hot (being in Miami) and sweaty and so was really muttering under my breath about the whole thing.  I never, ever complain to the immigration people though as they can really be mean and keep you out.

We finally get up to a trainee who has an officer behind her guiding her moves and it takes her less than 3 minutes  check us into the country.  She even said, don’t know why you got an X.  Random zapping in all phases of airport travel it seems.  And it seems yesterday was my day to get zapped in all phases of it as well.

h well, we are here, we are on holiday.  We are going to have a wonderful time.  We do have about 7 more flights to get through.  I hope that this will be all the random zapping we get but probably not!

Missing Spring

This could be taken two ways:  I miss Spring, the season, in that it really isn’t here yet, or, I probably won’t be around my home this year when Spring comes and thus will miss the start of the season.  I am meaning the second part here.  In the three plus years we have lived in this house, I have been diligently planting spring flowers.  The first year, in my misunderstanding of the British countryside and wildlife, I planted around 100 tulips, all of which made the local deer quite happy and me quite miserable because I ended up with 3 stalks and 2 tulip flowers at the end of it all.  While I was exclaiming proudly to my new neighbor, who had great experience in this matter, she informed me that the tulips would not see the light of day as the deer would eat them all.  Yep.  At least I had also planted daffodils and some lilies and those all grew and were lovely.

So each year, I planted more and more daffodils and added crocus, more lilies, and anything else that looked like it might be unappetizing to deer (getting the lowdown from my neighbor).  I say, “I planted” as if I did the actual work but the house came with a gardener and I would get the bulbs and he would plant them where i said, “they would look good there, don’t you think?”.  Of course, he always agreed with me.  And more and more bulbs went into the ground.

As the house garden came already planted with some lovely rhododendrons, various grasses, some of which flower, some camellias, some fuchsia, some azaleas and a couple of lone rose bushes, my garden was looking more and more lovely each spring.  Plus there are plenty of different varieties of green bushes around and some red bushes, black bushes and other stuff that my gardener knows but I still have no clue.   Now I have to ask my gardener “Is there room” and I have not purchased any new bulbs for this year other than some tulips (yes 20 tulips – all in netted pots so no deer can eat them).

So Spring comes, starts early, green shoots start coming through the ground, all over the garden, sometimes a bit early and then get covered with snow again, but they keep coming.  As we walked around the garden this weekend, I realized that almost all my daffodils have pushed through the ground.  The crocus are about to burst into bloom.  The rhododendrons  and camillas  and several other bushes have plenty of buds, and the roses are retaliating as well.   My garden is so dang beautiful when all these flowers bloom.

And then it hit me.  We are going on holiday soon – a slightly longer than usual holiday – actually leaving my daughter at home for once, instead of the other way around when she jaunts off to work in Africa and leaves us behind.  AND there is a very good chance that I will miss the blooming of the garden in a big way!   I am sure that everything will not bloom and die during the time we are gone but I am also fairly sure that most of the daffodils and crocuses will be up and well on their way to being gone by the time we return.   How sad for me!!!

Spring is such a joyous time here because it comes after such nasty winters, whether there was a lot of snow and rain or just cold weather.  Everyone here loves Spring.  You can hardly get into one of the local DYI stores or gardening stores because everyone is there getting ready for Spring.  When we lived in Houston, wasn’t such a big deal.  There were flowers blooming all year-long so nobody was overly excited for Spring.  But HERE, it’s a lovely occasion to celebrate the season, watch the glorious colors and plants come to life in your garden, shake off the winter doldrums, and start being outside a lot more.   I have fallen into this category of being delighted when spring arrives but this year I will be in the tropics, in a rainforest, and not staring at my garden, just delirious with joy at all my daffodils and crocuses and tulips and rhododendruns and such.  Not the best of planning on my part.   Well, luckily, we will probably be here for next year’s spring as well.  I think I’d better go get some more bulbs.