Discover star quality on the Isles of Scilly

Star Castle

Castle Dining Room

St Martin and Tresco



Each island is unique and the scenery is the best on offer. With the mildest climate in the British Isles, dramatic landscapes and white sandy beaches we discovered on a recent trip that there really is nowhere quite like the Isles of Scilly. By Jill Bareham - Editor Police Life / Ambulance Life

Heading for the first time to the Isles of Scilly we were already feeling a little nostalgic as we decided to leave the car keys at home and travelled from deepest Essex by train first to London and then to Exeter before catching our plane.

We had read about the islander's old-fashioned service and traditions, historically low crime rate and were looking forward to experiencing the mildest climate in the British Isles.

We departed Paddington with First Great Western and enjoyed a very comfortable journey to St David's Exeter arriving approx two and a quarter hours later.

Fast forwarding to our landing, about an hour after departing Exeter airport, (shorter flights are available from Newquay and Lands End) we were soon patting ourselves on the back as we caught our first glimpse of the islands with their white sand beaches and pristine water. Were we really still in the British Isles or had we been miraculously transformed to the British Virgin Isles?

The airport is on the main Island of St Mary's and our hotel the Star Castle had arranged for us to be collected. Ten minutes later we were checking in and then almost immediately after a quick look at our giant garden room situated in the hotel grounds, we were heading down the hill past the Star Castle's entrance. We were eager to get our bearings by joining the Island coach tour, which was about to depart.

Star Castle highly recommended

Now on board the coach we would soon be congratulating ourselves again and revelling in self-satisfaction as the coach pulled over for its maiden stop. Our well-informed and very likeable driver/guide, asked us passengers to look west out to sea where Samson stood- the largest of the uninhabited islands. This was the first of many island observations that would follow in the next three days. We could just about spot the remains of the few Samson's cottages before they were abandoned long ago.

Uninhabited Island

Samson's colourful history followed, courtesy of our native coach driver. We were deep in thought; contemplating how hard life must have been for the last two families who were removed from Samson in 1855 by Lord Proprietor Augustus Smith. At this moment, our driver directed his passengers to look behind them, this time inland, to view the garrison site on the hill with its cannons guarding the 16th fortress within.

Our self-congratulatory moment then came as our fellow travellers' eyes were directed to the formation of the castle walls on the site. They were constructed in the figure of an eight-pointed star. This castle, our driver informed the passengers, is now an hotel; the Island's only four-star hotel and he added: "In all my years driving visitors I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about this hotel."
After checking into our well-appointed garden room about an hour beforehand, and having a quick nose around the hotel grounds to take in the breathtaking views, we were already pretty confident we were on to a good thing. It was of course very satisfying and reassuring to hear a ringing endorsement from such a well-informed and likeable native islander.

Island hopping

St Mary's is the largest of the islands, but whichever island you stay on, most visitors' itineraries include a fair amount of island hopping.
Our first island trip was to St Agnes which although only a mile long with around eighty inhabitants, this was our favourite island. One end of the island is rich in heather, then there's the distinctive lighthouse, and sheltered bays for swimming. It has a post office, pub and a dramatic curving white sandbank. Also the locals we met were very friendly.

Gourmet Delight

Before leaving St Agnes to visit the famous gardens at Tresco, we had a quick drink in the Turk's Head and planned to return the next evening for a meal on the 7 o'clock boat trip and to return at nine. In the end though, we were unable to resist the gourmet delights of the award winning Star Castle. Amongst its mouth-watering starters that night was a Titan of local dressed crab, topped with tempura battered monkfish cheeks, which were also local with guacamole sauce and a micro herb salad. We weren't going to miss out!

It was during dinner or when enjoying a pre-dinner drink in the Dungeon Bar at the hotel that we met most of our sources! You see, The Isles of Scilly and the Star Castle Hotel have a very loyal customer base and the whole atmosphere and environment brings with it a warmth and unequalled friendliness. The general banter amongst the guests was to exchange information on the day's activities and to offer recommendations and provide first-hand accounts to first-timers like us.

A Busy Itinerary

For those looking for adventure there are also numerous water-sports, but we were firmly in the explore the islands camp. We did find time to also enjoy a gentle cycle around St. Mary's from the very reasonable bike hire shop. This was about a ten-minute walk from our Garden room. There are also rooms within the castle but these don't have a garden.

Getting around

For island-hoppers the boats leave at the quay conveniently situated at the bottom of the hill marking the entrance to the Star Castle. The numerous boat trips include options of combining several islands in one day or itineraries to stay a little longer.

One of the great things about staying at the Star Castle  (as well as the freshly daily caught lobster by the hotel proprietor) is the service of their own boatman. During breakfast which included locally caught haddock, as well as smoked salmon, kippers, full English, exotic fruit and much more.

Tim the boatman would visit guests in both the Conservatory and Castle dining areas to help work out your own itinerary for the day and discuss all the options to visit the islands. If he couldn't take you he would advise you of which boat to take down at the quay.

As well as ensuring guests enjoyed the facilities at the hotel, which include a tennis court and heated swimming pool the staff provided us with lots of helpful information. They were keen to ensure you made the most of your time when visiting the islands or going out and about on St.Mary's.

The hotel is family-owned and has a unique charm. It deserves its outstanding reputation. The castle walls really are in the formation of a star and in our opinion, this hotel lived up to its name!


Readers with families can also enjoy the experience as the Star Castle has recently launched a fantastic family offer starting this month and running through August.

The special offer comprises of a 7-night stay for a family of four from £849 per adult and just £99 per child. The price includes breakfast daily and return ferry crossing from Penzance to St Mary's, plus a half day Sea Safari (to see the seals and puffins on the outer islands) for all the family. There's also a half-day sailing lesson for all the family, too.
Facilities include heated indoor pool and tennis court as well as a large Pirate's Play Area just a stroll away from the hotel.

We think kids will love the history of the Star Castle too, which started life in the 1600s, when it was built in the shape of an eight-pointed star to defend England's most southerly point from invaders. These days it's a delightful family-owned four-star hotel.  For further information you can call the Star Castle on 01720 422317. They'll be happy to answer any questions and advise on transport options.  

Advice for readers staying at the Star Castle Hotel on St.Mary's or visiting the islands.

Do bring
A healthy appetite.
Swimwear for the indoor pool and beautiful quiet beaches.
Suncream.  Although officially one or two degrees warmer than the mainland if you find the right spot we found this can rise dramatically.
Camera. The scenery is stunning.

Leave behind
Bling. It will look out of place
Restaurant vouchers.
Books- well don't take too many. There is more to do than you think and if you have your evening meal at the Star Castle you wont want to rush it.  The book will wait.

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