Getting Around the Isles of Scilly - Friendly Guides

Getting Around the Isles of Scilly

Getting around the inhabited off-islands

Inter-island boat services link the five inhabited islands on Scilly plus Samson, a popular uninhabited isle to visit. You will need to be fairly fit and agile to get on and off the ferries especially the older boats. In the summer there are daily sightseeing trips to view more remote parts of the group (these don't land) and to see seals and seabirds. Boat trips on Scilly are weather and tide dependant.

More information: Call at the TIC in Hugh Town, St Mary's Boatmen's Association, St Agnes Boating, Bryher, St Martin’s and Tresco Tresco Boats.

Ferries from St Mary's.
St Mary's Boatmen's Association run most of the trips from St Mary's. Ferries run to the inhabited islands throughout the year. There's a reduced service out of season (you'll probably need to book). Ferries to the inhabited off-islands usually depart Hugh Town Quay at about 10.15am with returns throughout the afternoon. Departure times and frequency change according to the tides, weather and time of year so check departure boards and Twitter/Facebook accounts. Buy your ticket at the kiosk on Hugh Town Quay or onboard. 

Off-island ferries.
If you're staying on an off-island, it will have its own boat service with daily services to St Mary's plus a rotating mix of sightseeing and evening trips throughout the week. In addition to their main ferry, most also have a smaller jet boat used for private charter and water taxi runs. Check online and on island notice boards for the next days trips.

Circular Boat Trips.
All the island boat services offer circular trips around the uninhabited islands. With the exception of Samson, these don't usually land but afterwards you can usually land on one of the off-islands to stretch your legs, get a cup of tea and return on a later boat. Details are chalked on departure boards and on Twitter/Facebook accounts

The only uninhabited island where ferries regularly land and a highlight of many holidays on Scilly. Abandoned houses still stand along with many prehistoric tombs on the hill tops. Prehistoric field walls cross the sand flats. Remember to take water, sun cream and a picnic with you.

Eastern Isles.
Probably the most popular of the circular trips and usually the one with the calmest sea conditions. Great for getting close to grey seals who haul themselves out on Little Innisvouls. Seabirds nest on the steeper rocks. Private charter boats can drop you on Nornour or Arthur Quay.
Duration: 1¾ hours. Also lands on: St Martin’s

Annet, Western Rocks and the Bishop.
A trip to the far southwest of Scilly. Of all the boat trips, this is the one most dependent on sea conditions. If they're not right this trip might not run for a week or more – so it's best to go while you have the opportunity. If it's too rough to go all the way to the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, a shorter 1¼ hour trip may run to Annet for seals and seabirds.  
Duration: 2½ hours. Also lands on: St Agnes

Norrard Rocks.
A trip to the rocks and reefs to the west of Samson and Bryher – Illiswilgig, Scilly Rock and the Garden of the Maiden Bower. Grey seals and puffins.
Duration: 1½ hours. Also lands on: Bryher/Tresco

Holy Isles and Round Island Lighthouse.
Islands that make up the northern edge of Scilly between Tresco and St Martin's. Round Island with its lighthouse, St Helen's, Teän. Puffins on Men-a-vaur. Private charter boats can drop you on St Helen's or Teän.
Duration: 1½ hours. Also lands on: Tresco, Bryher or St Martin’s

St Mary's circular.
A trip around the whole island. A taste of the open sea and coming in close to some of the bays and inlets like Porth Hellick and Pelistry.
Duration: 1¼ hours

Gig Racing.
Follow the island gig races. Women race on Wednesday evenings and men on Friday evenings. The courses vary and trips often end up in an off-island pub.

Seabird Specials.
Various trips throughout the year in different parts of Scilly to make the most of when seabirds are around. Includes evening trips to catch the return of shearwaters and puffins when they come back to Annet after a day fishing at sea. Puffins are around April to July, shearwaters stay a few weeks later and passing migrants arrive in spring and autumn. Often with commentary by a local bird expert.

Ancient Scilly.
Sit back and hear about the history and archaeology of Scilly with an expert on-board commentary, as you cruise the islands.

These extracts are from our Isles of Scilly Guidebook and our Scilly Island by Island books.