St Martin’s is the northernmost of the populated Isles of Scilly and the third largest of the islands. It has three settlements, Higher Town, Middle Town and Lower Town (imaginative I’m sure you’ll agree). It is also the furthest from St Mary’s, so I have a slightly longer journey to get here, but the travelling by boat past beautiful scenery is all part of the charm of being in Scilly.
We are dropped off at the New Quay near Higher Town, the largest of the towns on the island (which despite the name is more a village really). The weather was humid with hazy sunshine. The island looks very inviting as we pull up at the quay, with a glorious sandy beach stretching for half a mile or so to the right.
Once again the sea is beautifully calm and to the south I can see the uninhabited Eastern Islands.
Climbing up the jetty gives a good view over the beach at Higher Town which is beautifully unspoilt and backed by dunes.
The path nearest the coast actually goes behind a few houses on this beach, so I decided to walk along the beach instead, which was a far nicer walk. At the western end, the beach becomes a bit more rocky.
At the end of the beach I can pick up the coast path onto English Island Point, so called because there are some rocks just off shore called English Island.
Ahead there is another more rocky beach leading to Brandy Point beyond, another reference I assume to the smuggling that was prevalent right across the South West. Sadly I didn’t see any Brandy there now.
The coast path heads through the bracken at the back of the beach and along the low cliffs, giving a good view back to the beach.
Ahead the coast becomes more rugged again as it heads through rocks and heather to Brandy Point.
At the point itself I have a good view over to the uninhabited Eastern Isles of which the largest is Great Ganilly and has evidence of previous habitation. Unlike the Western Rocks, public access is permitted to some of the Eastern Isles provided you have access to your own boat, as I’m not aware of any trips landing on the islands. The rocks nearest is English Island which is not so much an island as well, some rocks.
From the top of the rocky outcrop at Brandy Point I can see the eastern most tip of the island which is collectively known as St Martin’s Head. The path is pretty obvious, too.
Rounding the beach at rMullet Pool I can now see the top of St Martin’s Head, which is marked by a day mark, a bit like a lighthouse, but without the light (so a house, then). It is a navigational aid for shipping.
This eastern facing coast is more rugged than most of the coast on Scilly and there is almost a cave forming by the actions of the sea. Once at the top of the headland by the day mark I have a lovely view west over the north coast of the island, with the lighthouse on Round Island in the distance visible, although from here it looks like it is on St Martin’s.
Just off the north west corner of St Martin’s is another uninhabited island, White Island. This is joined to St Martin’s when the tide is far enough out.
Immediately below St Martin’s Head is another sandy beach, although it’s pretty tiny, but in true Scilly style is deserted. St Martin’s is probably the hilliest of all the islands and this east coast does remind me of the South West Coast Path.
I head down onto the beach, which has a small stretch of sand and enjoy the peace, with just the sound of birds and the gentle sound of the sea lapping to be heard. The beach itself is mostly rocky once out to sea though, and I can see all the rocks in the beautifully clear water.
The walk passes another little headland called Burnt Hill, presumably after an old fire long ago. I can’t say the names on St Martins’ are very imaginative. Rounding Burnt Hill I come to another little beach, Bull’s Porth. This is another rocky beach and someone has made a nice seat out of driftwood and nets washed up around the coast, which is a nice touch. I’m sit on it, but it has one rather large problem – you have to sit next to the Crazy Frog (sorry for those that had been trying to block this out of your memory).
Just off the coast here is another rock, Murr Rock. The coast ahead to Turfy Hill Point (see, they did it again with those names!) is rocky with low cliffs topped with grass and bracken (and presumably turf, originally).
Looking back you can see Burnt Hill and Murr Rock just off the coast.
As I near Turfy Hill Point there is in fact a bit of sand although the water has rocks under it.
Looking back to the east I can see the Day Mark again, giving an impression of how far I’ve come.
Rounding Turfy Hill Point I reach the beautiful St Martin’s Bay (another imaginative name). It looks lovely. But first I have a more pressing matter to attend to. It’s lunch time, and I didn’t bring any lunch, deciding to see what I could get on St Martins. A path heads inland from here to the post office and shop around 400 metres inland. I stop to have a look in the little church on the way, although it looks more modern than I expected, both inside and out. I found the shop and got my lunch and returned to the coast path to eat it.
After lunch I headed down onto the sands, rather than follow the coast path along the back of the beach. One thing that puzzled me on these trips. When coming over on the boat they were always crowded and I was quite amazed at the number of people that could fit in the boats, especially the older open wooden boats. Yet once on the island, they all seem to disappear since there is no one else on this beach. Perhaps the pub is the big draw!
It’s a nice walk along the beach and at the far end I can look back over the lovely beach. By now I can see 3 people on the beach. Not exactly crowded though.
On reaching the north west point, Top Rock Hill (presumably so named because it’s at the top of the island and rocky) I see the rocks leading out to White Island are exposed. So I decided to head out there, not able to resist another island to explore!
The path is hard going, as it’s climbing over lose rocks, covered in sea weed. I make it though and here is the view back to St Martin’s.
This island is open to the public at all times, subject to tides, but it’s clear the public doesn’t make it over here very often, and the gulls don’t like it, as they keep swooping inches above by mead and squawking (though they don’t actually touch me).
There is a feint path around the island, which I follow. The north coast is rocky but there is a good beach on the south coast, Porth Morran.
The island itself has a few rocky outcrops on it.
The northern tip of the island is very rocky and there is some sort of ancient maze perhaps made into the grass on the western coast.
Ahead I have the beach at Porth Morran and follow this looking out to another tidal island, Perangie Isle, although I can see pretty much all of it from here, as it’s just rocks really. The view is good from the highest point of the island.
I can look east over pretty much all of White Island, too. I don’t see anyone else having come over onto the island, either.
At the southern most tip of the island I can look north over the beach and the higher ground at the north of the island.
Once here, it’s time to head back over the rocks to St Martin’s having had a pleasant walk around White Island.
Rounding Top Rock HIll I come to the beach at Porth Seal. Porth is a Cornish phrase for beach I think whilst Seal suggest it’s a beach where seals can be seen. But I don’t see any. It’s a nice beach, though.
Rounding the beach I reach Tinkler’s Point where I get a good view over to the higher and rocky Round Island off the coast, with it’s inviting looking lighthouse. I’d like to visit the island, but there don’t seem to be trips over to it, which is a shame.
Although I can’t see it yet I’m close to Lower Town and the quay and I can see the uninhabited islands of Tean and St Helen’s ahead off shore.
A bit of height is gained again rounding Tinkler’s Point giving a good view north over the northern tip of the island and White Island beyond.
Coming round the corner I’m suddenly back in civilization, with the lovely beach and the very long jetty. This is where I will be catching the boat back from, as like at Tresco the previous day, the tide changes enough that the New Quay where we were dropped off has no water in it at low tide.
Behind the beach is the St Martin’s Hotel, which was designed to look like houses. Which is why it looks like houses.
Poor old St Martin’s has suffered in recent years. The hotel was open where I was here, but a year or so later both the hotel (the only one on the island) and the pub closed, leaving St Martins with few facilities. Happily, both the pub and hotel have now re-opened under new owners. With no evening boats to my knowledge to St Martin’s, it must be tough to make the pub work, though.
West of the jetty is another fabulous beach, Neck of the Pool, which is one of the biggest beaches on the islands. It’s a little more popular than the others, probably on account of the fact it is walking distance from the hotel and pub.
I decided to keep to the beach as it heads to the Old Quay, which I don’t think is used much any more, as there is only one boat in it, now high and dry from the tides.
As the tide is out I can just walk past the end of the harbour wall to the headland at Cruther’s Point. It’s hard going though but I decided to go this way as there is no path out to the headland marked on the map, so this takes in all the coast. However it involves walking over lose boulders and pebbles, so not to be recommended.
Around this headland I am back at New Quay, not quite yet devoid of water, but I can see it’s very shallow so probably soon will be. So my circuit of the island is complete and as I have plenty of time, I explore the interior, too.
I’m surprised to see the island has a shoe maker of all things. Heading further inland, Higher Town lives up to it’s name, being quite high and so giving good views over the island.
I then followed the road through Higher Town and then the path passed the school. Lucky school children, living in a place like this! The road (which becomes a sandy track in places), continues down to Lower Town and soon I am back at the quay.
I spent the rest of the day on the lovely beach at Neck of Pool in the south west of the island.
I liked St Martins. Like all the islands it is beautiful but it felt more homly and less commercial than neighbouring Tresco. That said it would be very very hard for me to pick a favourite island, they all have something different and special too offer.
Soon it is time to take the boat back and it seems we’ve all made it to the correct quay, since it soon arrives and takes me back to St Mary’s.
Here is details of the transport to St Agnes:-
From St Mary’s the St Mary’s Boatmen Association run regular trip boats over to St Agnes. These are normally daily and there is often an evening “supper boat” too.
From St Martins : St Martins Boat Services