The Eastern Isles (Scilly)

July 2011

Sadly this was my last full day on the islands. Having walked around all the inhabited islands of Scilly which have footpaths I decided to take another boat trip to see some of the small uninhabited islands. This time I chose the Eastern Isles. The boat didn’t land on any of these islands sadly (but landed on St Martin’s at the end of the trip) so this is another boat trip, rather than a walk.

The weather is a mixture of sunshine and showers, but thankfully the showers are mostly brief and the sun out for most of the time. The Eastern Isles are off the north east coast of St Mary’s and the South East coast of St Martin’s.

I had taken my usual camera with me to Scilly, along with a spare battery and a spare memory card. The spare memory card turned out to be insufficient as I took far too many photos, and I ended up buying another one there (to my surprise there was a suitable shop). However during this day the second battery I had also ran out, so I switched to a back up compact camera I also took with me (obsessive?), which takes AA batteries, hence some of the pictures are not very good, not helped by sea spray getting on the lens and me not noticing. Still if I’d have done the same this year I might have to return home without the camera at all due to some daft terrorism rules.

The boatmen is diligently wiping down the seats on the boat due to a brief shower just before we are due to leave, but almost immediately, it starts to rain again. It doesn’t last long though, so I switch to sitting on my coat to keep my bum dry. The first two islands are Great Gannick and neighbouring Little Gannick, which are linked by a rock and sand bar, at low tide.

Little Gannick

Little Gannick

Great Gannick is almost perfectly round and rocky at the top, whilst Little Gannick is flatter.

We head east passing Little Ganilly, which is larger and similarly round and pass Little Arthuer and Great Arthur, with a view back to the sand bar separating Great Gannick and Little Ganinick.

The sand bar between Great Gannick and Little Gannick

The sand bar between Great Gannick and Little Gannick

We pass Little Ganilly which has a sand bar just north of it, Ganilly Bar which no doubt has claimed a few ships in the past. We soon reach the back of Great Arthur and Little Arthur.

There are Cairns on this island including a chambered cairn (for burials), so the island has obviously been lived on in the past. The south of Great Arthur is rocky and rugged, like the coast of St Martin’s, whilst Little Arthur is smaller.

Great Arthur

Great Arthur

The low land between Great Arthur and Little Arthur.

The low land between Great Arthur and Little Arthur.

Heading east from here we reach the largest of the Eastern Isles, Great Ganilly. This is no longer inhabited but there are the ruins of field systems on the island, showing that it has been in the past. The island has two beaches, West Porth on the west coast. It probably won’t surprise you to learn the beach on the east coast is called East Porth.

Great Ganilly

Great Ganilly

The shores around the south of the island in particular are rocky and a couple of small islands (rocks, really) are to the east and out of bounds for landing on.

The coast of Great Ganilly.

The coast of Great Ganilly.

The coast of Great Ganilly.

The coast of Great Ganilly.

There is less wildlife here than the Western Rocks, as we don’t see any seals but there are plenty of sea birds. Heading away from Great Ganilly, I get a good view back to the island.

Great Ganilly.

Great Ganilly.

Heading further out to the little rocky islands of Great Innisvouls, Little Innisvouls and Menawethan. The last of these also has a cairn on it, so has obviously been lived on in the past too.

Great Ganilly.

Little Innsivouls

Little Innsivouls

I’m pleased to see we are taken out right to the eastern most of the islands, which is a rocky really, Hangague, a little remote from the rest of the islands, it is a popular nesting site for birds.

Little Innsivouls

Hanague

Returning to the main cluster of islands, we reach Menawethan, which is rocky with the rocks covered in lichens.

Menawethan

Menawethan

Menawethan

Menawethan

Soon it is time to head back to St Martin’s and we get a last lock back at the outer rocks.

Menawethan

Menawethan

Then we head back past the lovely beaches of Great Ganilly, sadly without stopping there.

Here though we have more luck with the wildlife and the first seals are sighted, swimming in the water.

Seals

Seals

We stopped to watch them for a while, which was a lovely sight. Presumably if the tide was out they might be lying on the rocks.

The islands have some unusual rock formations too, and certainly don’t look easy to live on.

IMG_3950

Looking back where we’ve come it’s clear why you need to know what you are doing with a boat in this area, as there are so many rocks to potentially run aground on.

Rocks

Rocks

Soon our trip is over, and we head back to St Martin’s. I have lunch on the beach and then walk around the island again. It was only a couple of days I was here before, but it feels like being back on an old friend! I follow the rather rustic directions for the exhibition of island photographs, which shows all the various events that take place on the islands over the years.

Rustic directions

Rustic directions

Last time I concentrated on the coast but this time I head more inland and get good views over the island from the higher ground. Some of the roads marked on the map are nothing more than sandy tracks, including the one passing to the south of the school.

St Martin's

St Martin’s

 

St Martin's

St Martin’s

After a bit of a walk I head down to the glorious white sandy beach to relax.

The white sands on St Martin's

The white sands on St Martin’s

Sadly the weather has other ideas and the showers return, so I end up sheltering under an umbrella for some of the time and then return to walking. It’s a gorgeous island and I end up walking most of the way round again!

Near the top of the island I come across an OS trig point, near the Day Mark and the ruins of some buildings, which is marked as a chapel on the map.

I spot some more seals now off the coast of St Martin’s, which is a nice sight. Soon I head back to town as it is time to take the boat back to St Mary’s. The tide once again is very low and we pass close to some rocks, you can see under the water. As we reach St Mary’s the boatmen is chatty and someone comments they could see all the rocks underneath and how close they look, but he assures us “we get much closer to them that that at times”.

It had been a lovely trip and I’m very glad I made the effort to come over to these beautiful islands, which feel tropical and very different from the mainland. It is also such a relaxing place, with no worries about crime, vandalism, it all feels so safe and pleasant.

The next day I have a flight booked around the middle of the day so I have time to wander back down to Hugh Town for a last look around. As I’m going I pass the taxi driver who took me here just dropping off some other people. He remembers me by name which is nice and without prompting says “I haven’t forgotten you – I’ll be here for you later”, which was re-assuring. I had a last look round then had to return to pack up my tent. The driver arrives exactly when he said he would and took me to the airport for the helicopter back.

I check in, which doesn’t take long and glad to be relieved of my bags, I go and sit out on the seat at the front, which offers a lovely view over Old Town and the coast over a few private planes. I don’t think there can be many airports with such a nice view and it’s nice it is so relaxed that you are still free to wander outside after checking in. I watch a flight arrive to Exeter and then soon after the helicopter I will be going home on arrives. I can watch them loading the luggage off and then head back into the terminal. We leave a little late, but it doesn’t matter much. I’m sad to leave, but enjoy the last view of St Mary’s.

View over St Mary's

View over St Mary’s

The islands soon disappear from view, and we spend a few minutes with just sea to see. As we near the mainland, I spot Longships Lighthouse and the rocks it was built to warn of.

Longships Lighthouse

Longships Lighthouse

There is a good view over the far west of Cornwall and Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove

Soon we are heading back over Penzance and Newlyn

Penzance and Newlyn

Penzance and Newlyn

We arrive about 20 minutes late at Penzance, but we are unloaded quickly and the mini bus is already there to take me and a couple of others to the station. We leave and I get to Penzance still with plenty of time for my train. Unfortunatly, it is one of the small 2 carriage trains, and by the time we reach St Austell it is full and standing – an unwelcome return to the mainland. I change at the next stop Par though, where at least it’s a longer and less crowded train for the rest of the journey home, which has started from Newquay.

I enjoyed my trip here immensely. I had already boooked to return to the South West to walk more of the coast path in a couple of months time and subsequently decided to take a day out to make a day trip back to these lovely islands – something I also did again the next year. I’m sure I’ll go back again sometime too and perhaps get the chance to land on and walk around some of the uninhabited islands too.

Trips to the Eastern Isles are generally run most days during the summer months from St Mary’s. There are also trips to these islands from the other islands of Scilly but less often, so you need to check the board on the island you are staying on for details of trips here.

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