Island Life – Tresco

There’s always something a little bit exclusive about an island – any island. The feeling of being miles away from real life, separated by tides and time from your usual work and worries. Somewhere that’s worth a little extra effort to reach.

Tresco is definitely exclusive – leased by the Dorrien-Smith family from the Duchy of Cornwall since 1834 – and pretty remote.

Tresco landscape © Tresco Island
Tresco landscape © Tresco Island

The Isles of Scilly lie 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall – an archipelago with a long history of romance, myth and mystery.

Some say the fabled Lyonesse in Arthurian legend was one of the Scillies that sank into the sea, although others claim Lyonesse was off the coast of Scotland – take your pick of myths!

Today Tresco, the second largest of the Scillies, is the island of ultimate luxury – unspoilt sandy beaches, clear blue waters and a subtropical climate.

Tresco Island Sea Garden beaches © James Darling Photography
Tresco Island Sea Garden beaches © James Darling Photography

Getting to Tresco

It’s a world away from mainland Britain but the trip is really short. You can take a small plane, helicopter or the more leisurely ferry to St Mary’s then on via a smaller boat to Tresco itself.

Just remember the seas can get pretty rough and delays are possible if the weather closes in.

Transport on Tresco © James Darling Photography
Transport on Tresco © James Darling Photography

Staying on Tresco

Here’s where Tresco really shows off its luxury island credentials.

Accommodation ranges from stylish self catering cottages with stunning views, rooms and apartments with every imaginable comfort and the award-winning New Inn.

Residents Lounge, New Inn Tresco © James Darling Photography
Relax in the New Inn residents lounge © James Darling Photography

Food on Tresco is inspired by the sea with menus featuring the finest locally-sourced ingredients. There are fine dining options, seafood galore and a deli packed with tempting treats for that perfect island picnic.

Fresh cooked lobster, Tresco © Rob Besant
Fresh lobster’s on the menu © Rob Besant

One important thing you need to know, Tresco is a car-free island, so you’ll have to use your own power – by foot or cycle, to get around or take one of the ebuses from the heliport or the latest battery buggies.

But as it’s only about two and half miles long by a mile wide, that’s hardly a problem.

What to see on Tresco

Flowers and more
The island is famous for the Abbey Garden, home to plants from more than 80 countries, many of which would not survive on the UK mainland. Known as ‘Kew without a roof’ it’s a wonderful collection of plants with something to see in every season.

Tresco Abbey, Isles of Scilly © Andrewrabbott, Wikimedia
Tresco Abbey © Andrewrabbott, Wikimedia, (cc by-sa 4.0)

Abbey Garden is also home to the Valhalla collection of figureheads salvaged from ships wrecked off the Scillies over the past 200 years. A stark reminder of the power of the seas that wash around this tiny isle.

Tresco Abbey Gardens © Tresco Island
Tresco Abbey Gardens © Tresco Island

And how about a little Abbey Garden gin, distilled from their own botanicals and flavoured with one of the garden’s favourites, the confetti bush.

Tresco Abbey gin © Tresco Island
Tresco Abbey gin © Tresco Island

Abbey Gardens, Tresco

Walk on water
Just a few times a year the channel between Tresco and its nearest neighbour, Bryher, is exposed by very low tides and you can actually walk from one to the other. They’re only a few metres apart but most of the year the waters run deep and strong between the two places.

Tresco Bryher foot crossing © Tresco Island
Tresco Bryher foot crossing © Tresco Island

But every so often the waters subside, usually in early spring and again in the autumn, and for a few precious hours there’s a unique opportunity to walk between the two.
The locals make the most of it and host a pop-up festival on the sandbanks.

Tresco and Bryher between island pop-up event © James Darling Photography
© James Darling Photography
Tresco and Bryher between island pop-up event © James Darling Photography
Sample the seafood at Tresco and Bryher’s between island pop-up event © James Darling Photography

Tresco to Bryher

Just make sure you’ve got the right footwear, have checked and double checked the tide times and keep an eye on the weather – it’s dangerous to try and cross in mist or fog.
There is a boat service as well, so you won’t be marooned.

In the summer Bryher looks like heaven, as the Atlantic waves lap the sandy shores. But see it in a storm when the breakers sweep in to meet the first land for two thousand miles, and you’ll see how Hell Bay gets its name.

Hell Bay, Bryher, Tresco Island © Adam White Photography
Hell Bay, Bryher, Tresco Island © Adam White Photography

Living history
Tresco has been in the front line of Britain’s defences since the 16th century.
Two Tudor forts – the Old Blockhouse and King Charles’ Castle – were built to defend the harbours at Old Grimsby and New Grimsby, where the Spanish or the French might try to land.

In the English Civil War Tresco, along with the rest of the Isles of Scilly, took time to make up their minds. The isles declared first for Cromwell, then became Royalist, then found themselves firmly back in Oliver’s hands again.

View from King Charles' Castle, Tresco © Tresco Island
View from King Charles’ Castle, Tresco © Tresco Island

Cromwell’s Castle was built to strengthen the harbour defences with Oliver’s Battery for his big guns created at Carn Near.

During World War I a seaplane base was established at New Grimsby. The site is now the Flying Boat cottages and restaurant.

Historic sites on Tresco

Green Porth, Old Grimsby Quay Tresco © Tresco Island
Green Porth, Old Grimsby Quay © Tresco Island

Things to do on Tresco

It’s all about the great outdoors with acres of privately-owned land to explore.

Hire bikes, go island-hopping with Tresco boats, have a sailing lesson or rent a kayak. Or take the Seal Express – a 50 minute RIB ride to the nearest seal colony. When the weather’s right you can even snorkel with the seals.

Cycling around Tresco, Isles of Scilly © Adam White Photography
Cycling around the island © Adam White Photography

The whole point of Tresco, whether you’re there for a short break, family holiday or a longer working-from-home-now-I-don’t-have-to-go-into-the-office option, is to kick back, relax, enjoy the fresh air, changing seasons and luxury lifestyle.

So, have we whetted your appetite for Island Life, Tresco-style?
To find out more check out their website

Tresco Island © James Darling Photography
© James Darling Photography

Main and feature photo of Tresco Island © Rob Lea


Where next?
Caravan, campervan or motorhome? Touring the UK
Airboat ride, Florida
Cinnamon Cappuccino Fudge

2 Comments
  1. Thanks for refreshing memories I have of the beauty that is Tresco. I actually won first place for my photo through the arch looking at the acrobatic children against a grey sky, it looked as though it was in black and white. Lunch at the lovely New Inn, and round the island in a buggy and a visit to the deli for lovely food. Hope to visit next year Covid permitting! Ann

    1. So glad we brought back happy memories for you. Like you we are patiently waiting for it all to end so we can travel again safely.

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