Isles of Scilly

Friday, 20 April 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

St. Agnes Lighthouse © Andrewrabbott

St. Agnes Lighthouse © Andrewrabbott

The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. One of the islands, St Agnes, is the most southerly point in both England and the United Kingdom, being over 4 miles (6.4 km) further south than the most southerly point of the British mainland at Lizard Point. The population of all the islands is at around 2,300. Scilly forms part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall, and some services are combined with those of Cornwall. However, since 1890, the islands have had a separate local authority. Since the passing of the Isles of Scilly Order 1930, this authority has had the status of a county council and today is known as the Council of the Isles of Scilly. Little of the fauna on, above or in the seas surrounding the isles was described prior to the 19th century, when birds and fish started to be described. Most records of other animals date from the 20th century onwards.

The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago of five inhabited islands (six if Gugh is counted separately from St Agnes) and numerous other small rocky islets (around 140 in total) lying 45 km (28 mi) off Land’s End. The islands’ position produces a place of great contrast—the ameliorating effect of the sea, greatly influenced by the North Atlantic Current, means they rarely have frost or snow, which allows local farmers to grow flowers well ahead of those in mainland Britain. The chief agricultural product is cut flowers, mostly daffodils. Exposure to Atlantic winds also means that spectacular winter gales lash the islands from time to time. This is reflected in the landscape, most clearly seen on Tresco where the lush Abbey Gardens on the sheltered southern end of the island contrast with the low heather and bare rock sculpted by the wind on the exposed northern end. In 1975 the islands were designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The designation covers the entire archipelago, including the uninhabited islands and rocks, and is the smallest such area in the UK. The islands of Annet and Samson have large terneries and the islands are well populated by seals. The Isles of Scilly are the only British haunt of the lesser white-toothed shrew, where it is known locally as a “teak” or “teke”. The islands are famous among birdwatchers for their ability to attract rare birds from all corners of the globe. The peak time of year for this is generally in October when it is not unusual for several of the rarest birds in Europe to share this archipelago. One reason for the success of these islands in producing rarities is the extensive coverage these islands get from birdwatchers, but archipelagos are often favoured by rare birds which like to make landfall and eat there before continuing their journeys and often arrive on far flung islands first. This table provides an overview of the most important islands: St Mary’s (main settlement: Hugh Town), Tresco (main settlement: New Grimsby), St Martin’s (main settlement: Higher Town – with White Island), St Agnes (main settlement: Middle Town – with Gugh), Bryher (main settlement: The Town – with Gweal), Samson, Annet, St. Helen’s,
Teän, and Great Ganilly.

St. Mary's - Hugh Town Harbour © geograph.org.uk - don cload/cc-by-sa-2.0 Tresco © Tom Corser - www.tomcorser.com/cc-by-sa-2.0-uk St. Agnes Lighthouse © Andrewrabbott St. Agnes - The Turk's Head © Andrewrabbott St. Helen's © Tom  Corser - www_tomcorser.com/cc-by-sa-2.0-uk St. Martin's © Tom  Corser - www_tomcorser.com/cc-by-sa-2.0-uk St. Mary's © Daniel Bagshaw/cc-by-sa-2.5 St. Mary's - Portcressa Beach © Neil Adams/cc-by-sa-4.0
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St. Mary's - Hugh Town Harbour © geograph.org.uk - don cload/cc-by-sa-2.0
One continuing legacy of the isles’ past is gig racing, wherein fast rowing boats (“gigs”) with crews of six (or in one case, seven) race between the main islands. Gig racing has been said to derive from the race to collect salvage from shipwrecks on the rocks around Scilly, but the race was actually to deliver a pilot onto incoming vessels, to guide them through the hazardous reefs and shallows. (The boats are correctly termed “pilot gigs”). The World Pilot Gig Championships are held annually over the May Day bank holiday weekend. The event originally involved crews from the Islands and a few crews from Cornwall, but in the intervening years the number of gigs attending has increased, with crews coming from all over the South-West and further afield. The Isles of Scilly feature what is reportedly the smallest football league in the world, the Isles of Scilly Football League. The league’s two clubs, Woolpack Wanderers and Garrison Gunners, play each other 17 times each season and compete for two cups and for the league title. There is a golf club with a nine-hole course (each with two tees) situated on the island of St Mary’s, near Porthloo and Telegraph. The club was founded in 1904 and is open to visitors.

The adjective “Scillonian” is sometimes used for people or things related to the archipelago. The Duchy of Cornwall owns most of the freehold land on the islands. Tourism is a major part of the local economy, along with agriculture—particularly the production of cut flowers. Today, tourism is estimated to account for 85% of the islands’ income. The islands have been successful in attracting this investment due to their special environment, favourable summer climate, relaxed culture, efficient co-ordination of tourism providers and good transport links by sea and air to the mainland, uncommon in scale to similar-sized island communities. The majority of visitors stay on St Mary’s, which has a concentration of holiday accommodation and other amenities. Of the other inhabited islands, Tresco is run as a timeshare resort, and is consequently the most obviously tourist-oriented. Bryher and St Martin’s are more unspoilt, although each has a hotel and other accommodation. St Agnes has no hotel and is the least-developed of the inhabited islands. The islands’ economy is highly dependent on tourism, even by the standards of other island communities. “The concentration [on] a small number of sectors is typical of most similarly sized UK island communities. However, it is the degree of concentration, which is distinctive along with the overall importance of tourism within the economy as a whole and the very limited manufacturing base that stands out.” Tourism is also a highly seasonal industry owing to its reliance on outdoor recreation, and the lower number of tourists in winter results in a significant constriction of the islands’ commercial activities. However, the tourist season benefits from an extended period of business in October when many birdwatchers (“birders”) arrive.

Read more on Isles of Scilly, VisitCornwall.com – Isles of Scilly, VisitIslesOfScilly.com, Wikivoyage Isles of Scilly and Wikipedia Isles of Scilly (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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