Isles of Scilly Attractions
The Isles of Scilly (pronounced "silly") lie 25mi/45km southwest of Land's End, the farthest tip of Cornwall. As well as five inhabited islands, this archipelago in the Atlantic encompasses 40 further islands and 150 rock formations with fine-sounding names which offer in part some magnificently beautiful scenery and undisturbed nature. Once a source of terror for seamen, as so many ships were wrecked against the rocky reefs here, the islands are now a holiday paradise boasting a mild climate (the result of their proximity to the Gulf Stream), marvelous sandy beaches, enormous granite formations, charming deciduous forests and moorland. As well as tourism, the 2,400 inhabitants live mainly from flower growing.From Penzance it is barely three hours by boat (daily except Sunday) or quicker by helicopter to Hugh Town, the tiny capital of the largest island, St Mary's (6sq.mi/15sq.km). Buses, taxis and bicycles are available on the island for short journeys, while excursion boats cruise between the islands.The Isles of Scilly were already settled in the Bronze and Iron Ages. The theory that the Scillies were the northern Tin Islands of antiquity, already known to the Phoenicians, is debated as much as the name "Cassiterides", given to them by Heroditus. To the Romans Sylicanis was an inhospitable foreign post, and even the Vikings only stayed in Syllanger for a short time. Between A.D.400 and 1000 many hermits lived on the islands, while Tresco was home to a community of monks. In 1114 Henry I gave Tresco to Tavistock Abbey to found a Benedictine monastery there. After this the islands were left in peace. Their poor inhabitants lived from fishing, a little agriculture and smuggling. In 1830 Squire Augustus Smith became Lord Proprietor of the islands, after which they experienced a 40-year-long economic heyday. Houses, churches, schools and even five shipyards were built, and flower growing began.