Walk Scilly - St Mary's & St Martin's
In the two and a half days I spent over on the Isles of Scilly, my friend Tanya and I managed to cram in a LOT of exploring. From stepping off the Scillonian III at St Mary's harbour it was a nonstop adventure.
Our first port of call was to head toward Hugh Town to meet a very lovely gentleman called Euan, the Executive Vice Chairman of Visit Isles of Scilly, who warmly welcomed us before handing me my press pack (I felt very boujie!) and giving us directions to where we would be staying for the next two nights; Mincarlo Guesthouse.
Slice of heaven
This beautiful B&B accommodation in the Isles of Scilly has quite possibly the best views of St Mary's. Overlooking Town Beach and St Mary's Harbour, this peaceful location really is a slice of heaven.
With panoramic sea views, comfortable and airy rooms, delicious and plentiful breakfasts, and super-friendly hosts, Mincarlo is the perfect B&B for a perfect getaway to the Isles of Scilly.
What I loved most about the location of Mincarlo was not just the yummy breakfasts and views of Town Beach, but how close we were to the sea.
Mincarlo boasts a gorgeous front terrace garden for guests to enjoy, with private steps that lead directly down to the beach. This meant that Tanya and I could get straight into the water, splash about, and then head straight back to our rooms to warm up in just a few steps.
Once we had checked in with the owners of the guesthouse, Bryony and Nick, and then spent a chunk of time oohing and aahing at our rooms and the views we had from the window, we decided to head straight out again to find somewhere for lunch.
One recommendation given to us by Visit Isles of Scilly was Juliet's Garden. This award-winning cafe is situated just above Porthloo Beach and has beautiful, terraced outside seating, as well as a large and warm converted barn loft for the cooler days.
After a morning spent sailing the seas via the Scillonian III, I was in need of a hearty lunch and a beverage to celebrate our arrival, and to mark the start of what was to be a fantastic two days of adventure across three of the five inhabited islands.
Looking over the menu, I decided upon one of my favourite sandwich fillings, a prawn and marie rose sarnie with a large Wingletang Gin and Mediterranean tonic!!
That's right folks; Wingletang Gin!! This gin has become one of my favourite tipples and is made on St Agnes island on Westward Farm. Here is a snippet of what to expect if you were to try this spectacular gin...
"St Agnes' Wingletang Downs are named after the 'Whins' of gorse and 'Tangs' of kelp that are found there. We wanted to capture the amazing aroma of the gorse in the glorious Scilly sunshine. To do this we collect gorse blossom on a sunny spring morning and distil them as a single botanical in a vacuum. This means that we can work at a low temperature so that none of the fantastic flavour is spoiled."
"Green, nutty notes come through from the gorse blending perfectly with the spiciness of our other botanicals. This is a gin that really stands out and is equally as good straight up with some ice as with a quality" Westward Farm
After we had filled our tummies with some yummy goodness and got a little merry from the Wingletang, we had a few hours free before our complementary dinner so, decided to go and explore more of St Mary's. We ended up walking a good chunk of the island before making our way back to Mincarlo, where we realised we had enough time to get in the sea for a dip.
There was also enough time for me to leave my mark and try my hand at a little sand art. What do you think of my attempt...
Time for Tapas
After a gorgeous swim, we made our way back to Mincarlo and got ourselves ready for a much-anticipated complimentary dinner at Dibble & Grub, a tapas restaurant located on Porthcressa Beach.
Specialising in Mediterranean cuisine, Dibble & Grub will leave you feeling fully satiated from plenty of tapas, salads, filled pittas and paninis to choose from. All of their dishes are freshly prepared from carefully sourced ingredients with an emphasis on locality, sustainability, traceability and quality.
They also cater extensively for vegetarian and vegan diets and almost their entire menu is gluten-free.
We had a feast of baked gouda, Spanish tortilla, cumin roasted aubergine, greek pork skewers, Moroccan braised hake, baked halloumi, and turmeric and spiced cauliflower. We then went all out and finished the meal off with a VERY delicious yet potent "Ubriaco" - a glass filled with St Agnes vanilla ice cream with a good slug of our choice of liquor. I went with the chocolate liqueur and Tanya went for the Bailey's Liqueur.
To end our evening, we popped into a local pub called The Atlantic - a popular pub for islanders - for a nightcap before waddling and swaying our way back to the B&B...
Our second day started out with a hearty breakfast of French toast with bacon and maple syrup, courtesy of Bryony and Nick of Mincarlo. We were given the best seat in the house, with sandy views of Town Beach behind us and the lapping waves tempting us to hurry up and go outside. A perfect start to a day filled with upcoming adventures, including a morning of hiking and a tour of St Martin's Vineyard.
Making sure we remembered the boat tickets that were kindly gifted to us, we made our way back to St Mary's Quay where we got the boat across to the second island of our visit; St Martin's.
The island is just two miles long, yet it has some of the finest beaches in the British Isles and with its iconic daymark, erected in 1683 by Thomas Ekins, it is the first island you spot as you cross from the mainland.
Hopping off at Lower Town Quay, our mission was to make it to the top coast path and find our way to the iconic red and white daymark, where we were greeted with some wonderful views of the Eastern Isles, and the northern tip of St Mary's.
It is fairly simple to find your way, you can't really go wrong if you follow the coast path. But we did have a map which supported us as we meandered around to the day mark. From Lower Town Quay, it takes about an hour to walk to the day mark if you hike at a fairly fast pace. However, you can expect the walk to take about an hour and 40 minutes if you take it at a more leisurely pace.
After spending a few moments taking in the views and snapping a few hundred pictures, we dropped down to find the only road on the island that took us to Polreath Tea Room. We reached the cafe just before it opened but luckily, we had a distraction to fill the time that came in the form of Hugo the Vizsla; a very friendly doggo who loves nothing more than greeting you at his garden gate and having his tummy stroked. You can take pictures but if you do, they ask you to please pop some pennies in their donation pot, which is raising money for their new air ambulance appeal.
After many MANY cuddles with Hugo and a chinwag with Hugo's owner, we popped into Polreath Tea Room and were happy to find out we were their first customers of the season! To celebrate we had a cup of coffee and a sugary cake; me a meringue, Tanya the most delicious ginger cookie that we went back and got more of to save for the journey home on the Scillonian III.
You can probably tell that this trip was filled with plenty of food and drink - but after all the walking we were doing, we needed the energy to keep us going! And going we did as we set off from Polreath Tea Rooms and made our way along the length of the island towards our next pitstop; The Seven Stones Pub.
Along the way, there are many lovely local businesses and makers that have stalls selling their wares. From local produce and Scilly Flowers to the local school selling handmade items (which both Tanya and I purchased from), there are plenty of wonderful businesses to swoon over. Be sure to stop off at Phoenix and Providence; an organic skincare brand made with seaweed which has been sustainably and responsibly foraged from the shores of St Martin's.
The Seven Stones
You've guessed it - lunchtime!
This time, we were treated to a complimentary meal at this quirky rustic family-run pub with magnificent views, where they source as much produce as possible from the island and surrounding seas.
Tanya and I decided on brisket beef filled jacket potatoes with a pint of cider and pilsner to wash it down. And we were VERY happy with our choice of food. From burgers to seafood, and sandwiches and "pub-grub" there is something for everyone at The Seven Stones pub. And with a large range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, you'll be spoilt for choice.
Once fed and watered (or cidered!) we retraced our steps along the lower section of the coast path, and made our way towards our next stop of the day; St Martin's Vineyard.
One of my favourite times on Scilly was getting to meet James and Holly, owners of St Martin's Vineyard and Winery. We spent a wonderfully squiffy afternoon touring the entire stretch of the vineyard, which included wowing over the vines that covered just over a hectare of south-facing slopes on predominantly granite soils. All of their grapes are grown on the vineyard within a stone's throw of the historic barn, in which they are pressed and then crafted into delicious wine.
On their self-guided tours, you can follow the vine trail around the vineyard to learn about the viticulture and wine-making that happens there on the vineyard. The wine-tasting section then includes a flight of St Martin's Vineyard wines - all produced on the vineyard.
The latter part gets a little fuzzy...
After a relaxed afternoon spent in the vineyard - huge thanks to Holly in particular who made our visit so warm and wonderful - we made our way to Higher Town Quay for the boat back to St Mary's and then onto Mincarlo. Here, we spent a couple of hours chilling in our rooms - and downing plenty of water - before getting ourselves ready for our final meal of the day; a half-grilled butter lobster and asparagus salad.
If you remember at the start of this blog, I mentioned the Executive Vice Chairman of Visit Isles of Scilly, Euan Rodger. Euan is also the owner of Tanglewood Kitchen and had very kindly delivered two lobster suppers to Mincarlo whilst we were out getting merry at the vineyard.
Situated in their kitchen to the rear of The Post Office on St Mary's, Tanglewood Kitchen includes a gourmet in-store hot and cold food collection, prepared local IOS crab and lobster, sandwiches, artisan cheese selections, picnics to go and a selection of IOS gins, rums, wines and ales. From the freezer, they also offer a selection of meals and foods to ‘cook at home’. In particular and in partnership with the Oriental Club, London, Tanglewood Kitchen are very proud to bring to Scilly a range of authentic curries and other dishes from their Dine at Home range...*jaw-drop*
We decided to take our lobster suppers out onto the picnic bench at the front of the guesthouse and enjoyed munching as the sun went down. Idyllic dining at its finest!
Not wanting the day to end, Tanya and I decided to take one more walk into Hugh Town and ended up at the very characterful local pub, The Mermaid. Apparently, this is more commonly known as the "naughty" pub and I can see why.
Full of life, as we sat and sipped on our drinks, we spent a solid hour people-watching. After a chocka day, it was lovely to sit with my bestie in peaceful harmony, the occasional observation or sentence spattered our comfortable silence, taking in the loud music and tipsy islanders and visitors who were all there to let their hair down and have a bit of fun. Perfection!
It's safe to say I slept like a rock that evening!
Our third day was just as jam-packed! Be sure to come back for part three of my Isles of Scilly adventure. A huge thank you to Visit Isles of Scilly, Mincarlo Guesthouse, Dibble & Grub Restaurant, Isles of Scilly Travel, St Martins Vineyard and Winery, Euan Rodger and Tanglewood Kitchen, and The Seven Stones Pub for hosting us and giving us this wonderful gift. Other than our beverages, this trip was gifted and I am more thankful than you could ever know.
I hope these blogs inspire you to take a trip across to the Isles of Scilly. I can guarantee you will have one of the most magical and memorable trips of your life. I hope to go back soon - maybe to camp! Watch this space...
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