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Isles of Scilly

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Title: Isles of Scilly  
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Subject: Civil parishes in Cornwall, Cornwall, Geography of Cornwall, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, Scilly naval disaster of 1707
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Isles of Scilly

Isles of Scilly
Aerial photo of the Isles of Scilly

Isles of Scilly in the ceremonial county of Cornwall
Location 45 km (28 mi) off the coast of the Cornish peninsula
Archipelago British Isles
Adjacent bodies of water Celtic Sea, English Channel, Atlantic Ocean
Total islands 5 inhabited, 140 others
Major islands St Mary's, Tresco, St Martin's, Bryher, St Agnes
Area 16.03 km2 (6.19 sq mi) (Ranked 285th)
Sovereign state
Status Sui generis, unitary
Country  England
Region South West
Ceremonial county Cornwall
Largest settlement Hugh Town (pop. 1,068)
Leadership Cllr Amanda Martin
Executive Theo Leijser
Andrew George
Designated: 13 August 2001
Population 61,300 (Ranked 311th) (as of 2011 est.)
Ethnic groups 97.3% White British, 2.4% Other White, 0.3% Mixed[1]

The Isles of Scilly (; Cornish: Syllan or Enesek Syllan) are an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain.

Although the Isles of Scilly are still part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall, and some services have been combined with those of Cornwall, 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. 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 farming and agriculture. Natural England has designated the Isles of Scilly as National Character Area 158.[2]


  • History 1
    • Ancient history 1.1
    • Norse and Norman period 1.2
    • Later Middle Ages and early modern period 1.3
    • Governors of Scilly 1.4
  • Geography 2
    • Tidal Influx 2.1
    • Climate 2.2
  • Government 3
    • National government 3.1
    • Local government 3.2
    • Flags 3.3
  • Education 4
  • Economy 5
    • Historical context 5.1
    • Tourism 5.2
      • Ornithology 5.2.1
    • Employment 5.3
    • Taxation 5.4
    • Transport 5.5
    • Tenure 5.6
  • Culture 6
    • People 6.1
    • Sport 6.2
    • Media 6.3
    • Novels 6.4
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


Ancient history

View from Tresco, the second largest of the islands
Looking across Tresco, one of the 5 inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly 45 km (27.96 mi) from the coast of Cornwall in the United Kingdom

Scilly has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and until the early 20th century its history had been one of subsistence living. Farming and fishing continue, but the main industry now is tourism.

The islands may correspond to the Cassiterides (Tin Isles) visited by the Phoenicians and mentioned by the Greeks. However, the archipelago itself does not contain much tin—it may be that the islands were used as a staging post.

It is likely that until relatively recent times the islands were much larger and perhaps joined together into one island named Ennor. Rising sea levels flooded the central plain around 400–500 CE, forming the current fifty-five islands and islets, if an island is defined as 'land surrounded by water at high tide and supporting land vegetation.'[3] The word Ennor is a contraction of En Noer (Moer, mutated to Noer), meaning the 'great island'.[4]

Evidence for the older large island includes:

  • A description in Roman times describes Scilly as "Scillonia insula" in the singular, indicating either a single island or an island much bigger than any of the others.
  • Remains of a prehistoric farm have been found on Nornour, which is now a small rocky [5][6]
  • At certain low tides the sea becomes shallow enough for people to walk between some of the islands. This is possibly one of the sources for stories of drowned lands, e.g. Lyonesse.
  • Ancient field walls are visible below the high tide line off some of the islands (e.g. Samson).
  • Some of the Cornish language place names also appear to reflect past shorelines, and former land areas.[7]
  • The whole of southern England has been steadily sinking in opposition to post-glacial rebound in Scotland: this has caused the rias (drowned river valleys) on the southern Cornish coast, e.g. River Fal and the Tamar Estuary.

Offshore, midway between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly, is the supposed location of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse, referred to in Arthurian literature. This may be a folk memory of inundated lands, but this legend is also common among the Brythonic peoples; the legend of Ys is a parallel and cognate legend in Brittany.

Scilly has been identified as the place of exile of two heretical 4th century bishops, Instantius and Tiberianus, who were followers of Priscillian.[8]

Norse and Norman period

Olaf Tryggvason, who visited the islands in 986. It is said an encounter with a cleric there led him to Christianise Norway.
At the time of King Cnut, the Isles of Scilly fell outside England's rule, as did Cornwall and Wales.

In 995 Olaf Tryggvason became King Olaf I of Norway. Born c. 960, Olaf had raided various European cities and fought in several wars. In 986 he (supposedly) met a Christian seer on the Isles of Scilly. In Snorri Sturluson's Royal Sagas of Norway, it is stated that this seer told him:

Thou wilt become a renowned king, and do celebrated deeds. Many men wilt thou bring to faith and baptism, and both to thy own and others' good; and that thou mayst have no doubt of the truth of this answer, listen to these tokens. When thou comest to thy ships many of thy people will conspire against thee, and then a battle will follow in which many of thy men will fall, and thou wilt be wounded almost to death, and carried upon a shield to thy ship; yet after seven days thou shalt be well of thy wounds, and immediately thou shalt let thyself be baptised.

The legend continues that, as the seer foretold, Olaf was attacked by a group of mutineers upon returning to his ships. As soon as he had recovered from his wounds, he let himself be baptised. He then stopped raiding Christian cities, and lived in England and Ireland. In 995 he used an opportunity to return to Norway. When he arrived, the Haakon Jarl was facing a revolt. Olaf Tryggvason persuaded the rebels to accept him as their king, and Jarl Haakon was murdered by his own slave, while he was hiding from the rebels in a pig sty.

With the Norman Conquest, the Isles of Scilly came more under centralised control. About twenty years later, the Domesday survey was conducted. The islands would have formed part of the "Exeter Domesday" circuit, which included Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire.

In the mid-12th century there was reportedly a Viking attack on the Isles of Scilly, called Syllingar by the Norse,[9] recorded in the Orkneyinga sagaSweyn Asleifsson "went south, under Ireland, and seized a barge belonging to some monks in Syllingar and plundered it."[9] (Chap LXXIII)

"...the three chiefs—Swein , Þorbjörn and Eirik—went out on a plundering expedition. They went first to the Suðreyar [Hebrides], and all along the west to the Syllingar, where they gained a great victory in Maríuhöfn on Columba's-mass [9 June], and took much booty. Then they returned to the Orkneys."[9]

"Maríuhöfn" literally means "Mary's Harbour/Haven". The name does not make it clear if it referred to a harbour on a larger island than today's St Mary's, or a whole island.

It is generally considered that Cornwall, and possibly the Isles of Scilly, came under the dominion of the English Crown late in the reign of Athelstan. In early times one group of islands was in the possession of a confederacy of hermits. King Henry I gave it to the abbey of Tavistock who established a priory on Tresco, which was abolished at the Reformation.[10]

Later Middle Ages and early modern period

Scilly was one of the Hundreds of Cornwall (formerly known as Cornish Shires) in the early 19th century.
Scilly Isles: map by John Bartholomew (1874)

At the turn of the 14th century, the Abbot and convent of Tavistock Abbey petitioned the king,

"stat[ing] that they hold certain isles in the sea between Cornwall and Ireland, of which the largest is called Scilly, to which ships come passing between France, Normandy, Spain, Bayonne, Gascony, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall: and, because they feel that in the event of a war breaking out between the kings of England and France, or between any of the other places mentioned, they would not have enough power to do justice to these sailors, they ask that they might exchange these islands for lands in Devon, saving the churches on the islands appropriated to them."[11]

William le Poer, coroner of Scilly, is recorded in 1305 as being worried about the extent of wrecking in the islands, and sending a petition to the King. The names provide a wide variety of origins, e.g. Robert and Henry Sage (English), Richard de Tregenestre (Cornish), Ace de Veldre (French), Davy Gogch (possibly Welsh, or Cornish), and Adam le Fuiz Yaldicz (Spanish?).

It is not known at what point the islands' inhabitants stopped speaking the Cornish language, but the language seems to have gone into decline in Cornwall beginning in the Late Middle Ages; it was still dominant between the islands and Bodmin at the time of the Reformation, but it suffered an accelerated decline thereafter. The islands appear to have lost the old Celtic language before parts of Penwith on the mainland, in contrast to the history of Irish or Scottish Gaelic.

During the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians captured the isles, only to see their garrison mutiny and return the isles to the Royalists. By 1651 the Royalist governor, Sir John Grenville, was using the islands as a base for privateering raids on Commonwealth and Dutch shipping. The Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp sailed to the isles and on arriving on 30 May 1651 demanded compensation. In absence of compensation or a satisfactory reply, he declared war on England in June. It was during this period that the Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War started between the isles and the Netherlands.

In June 1651, Admiral Robert Blake recaptured the isles for the Parliamentarians. Blake's initial attack on Old Grimsby failed, but the next attacks succeeded in taking Tresco and Bryher. Blake placed a battery on Tresco to fire on St Mary's, but one of the guns exploded, killing its crew and injuring Blake. A second battery proved more successful. Subsequently, Grenville and Blake negotiated terms that permitted the Royalists to surrender honourably. The Parliamentary forces then set to fortifying the islands. They built Cromwell's Castle—a gun platform on the west side of Tresco—using materials scavenged from an earlier gun platform further up the hill. Although this poorly sited earlier platform dated back to the 1550s, it is now referred to as King Charles's Castle.

During the night of 22 October 1707, the isles were the scene of one of the worst maritime disasters in British history, when out of a fleet of 21 Royal Navy ships headed from Gibraltar to Portsmouth, six were driven onto the cliffs. Four of the ships sank or capsized, with at least 1,450 dead, including the commanding admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell.

The islands appear to have been raided frequently by Barbary pirates.

Governors of Scilly

An early governor of Scilly was Thomas Godolphin, whose son Francis received a lease on the Isles in 1568. They were styled Governors of Scilly and the Godolphins and their Osborne relatives held this position until 1834. In 1834 Augustus John Smith acquired the lease from the Duchy for £20,000. Smith created the title Lord Proprietor of the Isles of Scilly for himself, and many of his actions were unpopular. The lease remained in his family until it expired for most of the Isles in 1920 when ownership reverted to the Duchy of Cornwall. Today, the Dorrien-Smith estate still holds the lease for the island of Tresco.


Map of the Isles of Scilly
Location of the Isles of Scilly (circled)

The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago of five inhabited islands and numerous other small rocky islets (around 140 in total) lying 45 km (28 mi) off Land's End. They are all composed of granite rock of early Permian age, an exposed part of the Cornubian batholith.

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 sub-tropical 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.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity [5][12]

This table provides an overview of the most important islands:
Island Population
(Census 2001)
Area (km²) Main settlement
St Mary's 1,666 6.29 Hugh Town
Tresco 180 2.97 New Grimsby
St Martin's (with White Island) 142 2.37 Higher Town
St Agnes (with Gugh) 73 1.48 Saint Agnes
Bryher (with Gweal) 92 1.32 Bryher
Samson -(1) 0.38  
Annet  – 0.21  
St. Helen's  – 0.20  
Teän  – 0.16  
Great Ganilly  – 0.13  
remaining 45 islets  – 0.50  
Isles of Scilly 2,153 16.03 Hugh Town

(1) Inhabited until 1855.

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 (Crocidura suaveolens).

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.

Tidal Influx

The tidal range at the Isles of Scilly is high for an open sea location; the maximum for St Mary's is 5.99 m (19.7'). Additionally, the inter-island waters are mostly shallow, which at "spring tides" allows for dry land walking between several of the islands. Many of the northern islands can be reached from Tresco, including Bryher, Samson and St Martin's (requires very low tides). From St Martin's White Island, Little Ganilly and Great Arthur are reachable. Although the sound between St Mary's and Tresco, The Road, is fairly shallow, it never becomes totally dry – but according to some sources it should be possible to wade at extreme low tides. Around St Mary's several minor islands become accessible, including Taylor's Island on the west coast and Tolls Island on the east coast. From Saint Agnes, Gugh becomes accessible.


The Isles of Scilly have a temperate Oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb), among the mildest and warmest climates in the United Kingdom. The average annual temperature is 11.8 °C (53.2 °F) in comparison to London, where it is 11.6 °C (52.9 °F). Winters are among the warmest in the country due to the moderating effects of the ocean. Summers are not as warm as on the mainland. They are one of the sunniest areas in the southwest with on average 7.6 hours per day in July. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −7.2 °C (19.0 °F) on 13 January 1987 and the highest was 30 °C (86.0 °F) on 16 August 1947.[13] The maximum snowfall was 23 cm (9 in) on 12 January 1987. The Isles of Scilly, with fewer than 2 days of air frost per year (on average), are in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness zone 10. This is the only UK domain which falls in this hardiness zone. Less than one day per year has a maximum air temperature above 30 °C (86 °F) (on average); the isles are in the American Horticultural Society (AHS) Heat Zone 1, which is the coolest.
Climate data for St Mary's Heliport, 1981 - 2010 averages
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 9.7
Average low °C (°F) 6.2
Precipitation mm (inches) 94.8
Avg. precipitation days 14.5 13.0 11.5 10.4 8.5 6.9 8.9 9.7 10.2 14.4 14.9 15.2 138.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 58.8 79.8 124.4 192.4 218.5 206.3 204.1 203.4 160.1 113.0 74.6 54.4 1,689.8
Source: Met Office[14]


The Scillonian Cross, the unofficial flag of the Isles of Scilly.
Saint Piran's Cross, the flag of Cornwall. The Isles of Scilly were one of the Hundreds of Cornwall, and although they have been a separate county since 1930, they are still part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall.

National government

Politically, the islands are part of England, one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. They are represented in the UK Parliament as part of the St Ives constituency. As part of the United Kingdom, the islands are part of the European Union and are represented in the European Parliament as part of the multi-member South West England constituency.

Local government

Historically, the Isles of Scilly were administered as one of the hundreds of Cornwall, although the Cornwall quarter sessions had limited jurisdiction there. For judicial purposes, shrievalty purposes, and lieutenancy purposes, the Isles of Scilly are "deemed to form part of the county of Cornwall".[15] The archipelago is part of the Duchy of Cornwall[16] – the duchy owns the freehold of most of the land on the islands and the duke exercises certain formal rights and privileges across the territory, as he does in Cornwall proper.

The Local Government Act 1888 allowed the Local Government Board to establish in the Isles of Scilly "councils and other local authorities separate from those of the county of Cornwall"... "for the application to the islands of any act touching local government." Accordingly, in 1890 the Isles of Scilly Rural District Council (the RDC) was formed as a sui generis unitary authority, outside the administrative county of Cornwall. Cornwall County Council provided some services to the Isles, for which the RDC made financial contributions. Section 265 of the Local Government Act of 1972 allowed for the continued existence of the RDC, but renamed as the Council of the Isles of Scilly.[17][18]

This unusual status also means that much administrative law (for example relating to the functions of local authorities, the health service and other public bodies) that applies in the rest of England applies in modified form in the islands.[19]

The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a separate authority to the Cornwall Council unitary authority, and as such the islands are not part of the administrative county of Cornwall. However the islands are still considered to be part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall. Some areas of local government are shared with Cornwall, such as health, and the two councils submitted a joint bid for a Cornwall and Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

With a total population of just over 2,000, the council represents fewer inhabitants than many English parish councils, and is by far the smallest English unitary council. The latest elections took place on 2 May 2013; there were 21 seats for elected councillors, and all twenty elected were independents: thirteen from the St Mary's ward and two each elected by residents of St Martins, St Agnes and Tresco, one from Bryher, with one vacancy there. Some 164 people are employed by the council to provide local services. These numbers are significant, in that almost ten per cent of the population is directly linked to the council, as an employee or a councillor.[20]


Two flags are used to represent Scilly:

  • The flag of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, which incorporates the Council's logo.[21]
  • The unofficial Scillonian Cross, selected by readers of Scilly News in a 2002 vote.[21][22]

An adapted version of the old Board of Ordnance flag has also been used, after it was left behind when munitions were removed from the isles. The Cornish Ensign has also been used.[21][23]


Carn Thomas Secondary School, St Mary's

Education is available on the islands up to age 16. There is one school, the Five Islands School, which provides primary schooling at sites on St Agnes, St Mary's, St Martin's and Tresco, and secondary schooling at a site on St Mary's. Secondary students from outside St Mary's live at a school boarding house (Mundesley House) during the week. In 2004, 92.9% of pupils (26 out of 28) achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C and above, compared to the English average of 53.7%.[24] Sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds are entitled to a free sixth form place at a state school or sixth form college on the mainland, and are provided with free flights and a grant towards accommodation. Post eighteen, suitably qualified students attend universities and colleges on the mainland.


Historical context

Since the mid-eighteenth century the Scillonian economy has relied on trade with the mainland and beyond as a means of sustaining its population. Over the years the nature of this trade has varied, due to wider economic and political factors that have seen the rise and fall of industries such as kelp harvesting, pilotage, smuggling, fishing, shipbuilding and, latterly, flower farming. In a 1987 study of the Scillionian economy, Neate found that many farms on the islands were struggling to remain profitable due to increasing costs and strong competition from overseas producers, with resulting diversification into tourism. Recent statistics suggest that agriculture on the islands now represents less than 2 percent of all employment.[25][26][27]


The Daymark, on St Martins, is the nearest point to the mainland of Cornwall.

Today, tourism is estimated to account for 85 per cent 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.[28][29] 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.”[26]

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.


Because of its position, Scilly is the first landing for many migrant birds, including extreme rarities from North America and Siberia. Scilly is situated far into the Atlantic Ocean, so many American vagrant birds will make first European landfall in the archipelago.

Scilly is responsible for many firsts for Britain, and is particularly good at producing vagrant American passerines. If an extremely rare bird turns up, the island will see a significant increase in numbers of birders. This type of birding, chasing after rare birds, is called 'twitching'.

The islands are home to ornithologist Will Wagstaff.


The predominance of tourism means that "tourism is by far the main sector throughout each of the individual islands, in terms of employment... [and] this is much greater than other remote and rural areas in the United Kingdom”. Tourism accounts for approximately 63 per cent of all employment.[26]

Businesses dependent on tourism, with the exception of a few hotels, tend to be small enterprises typically employing fewer than four people; many of these are family run, suggesting an entrepreneurial culture among the local population.[26] However, much of the work generated by this, with the exception of management, is low skilled and thus poorly paid, especially for those involved in cleaning, catering and retail.[30]

Because of the seasonality of tourism, many jobs on the islands are seasonal and part-time, so work cannot be guaranteed throughout the year. Some islanders take up other temporary jobs ‘out of season’ to compensate for this. Due to a lack of local casual labour at peak holiday times, many of the larger employers accommodate guest workers, who come to the islands for the summer to have a ‘working holiday’.


The islands were not subject to Income Tax until 1954, and there was no motor vehicle excise duty levied until 1971.[31]


Tresco Heliport
Self-drive electric golf buggy on St Mary's - September 2012
Scillonian III in St Mary's Harbour
Boarding the St Margaret to Penzance Sikorsky S-61 in September 2012, a short time before the service ceased in October 2012

The islands are linked to the mainland by air and sea services, and they rely on boat services for inter-island connections.

St. Mary's is the only island with a significant road network; in 2005 there were 619 registered vehicles on the island. The island also has taxis and a community bus service. Vehicles on the islands are exempt from annual MOT tests.[32][33][34] On St Mary's you can hire electric powered golf cart type buggies for use on the island's metalled road network.

Air access to the islands is via St. Mary's Airport. Tresco Heliport on Tresco operated until late 2012 and is now closed to scheduled services. The following air services currently operate:

By sea, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company provides a passenger and cargo service from Penzance to St Mary's, which is currently operated by the Scillonian III passenger ferry, supported by the Gry Maritha cargo vessel. The other islands are linked to St. Mary's by a network of inter-island launches.[36]


The freehold land of the islands is the property of the Duchy of Cornwall (except for Hugh Town on St Mary's, which was sold to the inhabitants in 1949). The duchy also holds 3,921 acres (16 km2) as duchy property, part of the duchy's landholding.[37] All the uninhabited islands, islets and rocks and much of the untenanted land on the inhabited islands is managed by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, which leases these lands from the Duchy for the rent of one daffodil per year.[38] The Trust currently has four full-time salaried staff and twelve trustees, who are all residents of the Isles. The full Trust Board is responsible for policy whilst a Management Team is responsible for day-to-day administration. Its small income and the small number of staff have led to the Trust adopting a policy of recruiting volunteers to help it carry out its extensive work programme. While volunteers of all ages are welcome, most are young people who are studying for qualifications in related fields, such as conservation and land management.

Limited housing availability is a contentious yet critical issue for the Isles of Scilly, especially as it affects the feasibility of residency on the islands. Few properties are privately owned, with many units being let by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Council, and a few by housing associations. The management of these subsequently affects the possibility of residency on the islands.[39]

Housing demand outstrips supply; a problem compounded by restrictions on further development designed to protect the islands' unique environment and prevent the infrastructural carrying capacity from being exceeded. This has pushed up the prices of the few private properties that become available and, significantly for the majority of the islands' populations, it has also had an impact on the rental sector where rates have likewise drastically increased.[40][41]

High housing costs pose significant problems for the local population, especially as local incomes (in Cornwall) are only 70% of the national average, whilst house prices are almost £5,000 higher than the national average. This in turn affects the retention of ‘key workers’ and the younger generation, which has a consequent impact upon the viability of schools and other essential community services.[28][41]

The limited access to housing provokes strong local politics. It is often assumed that tourism is to blame for this, attracting newcomers to the area who can afford to outbid locals for available housing. Many buildings are used for tourist accommodation which reduces the number available for local residents. Second homes are also thought to account for a significant proportion of the housing stock, leaving many buildings empty for much of the year.[42]



According to the 2001 UK census, 97% of the population of the islands are white British,[1] with nearly 93% of the inhabitants born in the islands, in mainland Cornwall or elsewhere in England.[43] Since EU enlargement in 2004, a number of eastern Europeans have moved to the island, joining the Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans who traditionally made up most of the islands' overseas workers. By 2005, their numbers were estimated at nearly 100 out of a total population of just over 2,000.[44]


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.[45]

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 seventeen times each season and compete for two cups and for the league title. The league was a launching pad for the Adidas "Dream Big" Campaign[46] in which a number of famous professional footballers (including David Beckham) arrive on the island to coach the local children's side. The two share a ground, Garrison Field, but travel to the mainland for part of the year to play other non-professional clubs.

In December 2006, Sport England published a survey which revealed that residents of the Isles of Scilly were the most active in England in sports and other fitness activities. 32% of the population participate at least 3 times per week for 30 minutes or more.[47]


The islands are served by a radio and television transmitter at Telegraph, on St Mary's, which is a relay of the main transmitter at Redruth (Cornwall) and broadcasts BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and BBC Radio Cornwall and the range of Freeview television and BBC radio channels known as 'Freeview Light'.[48] Radio Scilly, a community radio station, launched in September 2007.

There is no local newspaper; Scilly Now & Then is a free community magazine produced 8 times a year and is available to mainland subscribers while "The Scillonian" is published twice yearly and reports matters of local interest. Scilly Today is a news and information website produced by Radio Scilly that sources and publishes around 5 Scilly stories each weekday. There is an active news forum on

Internet access is available on all the inhabited islands; a maximum ADSL speed of 8Mbit/s is available.

The Isles of Scilly were featured on the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of South West England. Since 2007 the islands have featured in the BBC series An Island Parish, following various real-life stories and featuring in particular the newly appointed Chaplain to the Isles of Scilly. A 12-part series was filmed in 2007 and debuted on BBC2 in January 2008.[49] This has since been followed by further series.


The events of Nevil Shute's novel Marazan occur, in part, around these islands.

Four children's books written by Michael Morpurgo, Why the Whales Came, The Sleeping Sword, The Wreck of the Zanzibar and Arthur, High King of Britain, are set around the Isles of Scilly.

"The Riddle of Samson", a novel by Andrew Garve (a pen name of Paul Winterton) is set mainly around the Isles of Scilly.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Isles of Scilly - Ethnic Group". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  2. ^ NCA 158: Isles of Scilly Key Facts & Data at Accessed on 8 Sep 2013
  3. ^ 'The Fortunate Islands' by R.L. Bowley
  4. ^ 'The Drowned Landscape' by Charles Thomas.
  5. ^ a b Thorgrim. "Nornour". Retrieved 18 November 2009. 
  6. ^ Dudley, Dorothy. "Excavations on Nor'Nour in the Isles of Scilly, 1962-6", in The Archaeological Journal, CXXIV, 1967 (includes the description of over 250 Roman fibulae found at the site)
  7. ^ Weatherhill, Craig (2007) Cornish Placenames and Language. Wilmslow: Sigma Leisure
  8. ^ "Priscillianus and Priscillianism". Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of Sixth Century. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
  10. ^ Blackford, Oscar (1925). The Cornish Church Guide. p. 194. 
  11. ^ "Petitioners: Abbot and convent of Tavistock. Addressees: King and council.". The National Archives. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  12. ^ "County flower of Isles of Scilly". Plantlife International – The Wild Plant Conservation Charity. Retrieved 7 April 2006. 
  13. ^ "Local Climate Profile" (PDF). Council of the Isles of Scilly. 28 May 2009. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  14. ^ "St Mary's Heliport Climatic Averages 1981-2010".  
  15. ^ Local Government Act 1972 (1972 c.70) section 216(2)
  16. ^ "Around the Duchy - Isles of Scilly". Duchy of Cornwall official site. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "Isles of Scilly Cornwall through time". Retrieved 19 January 2007. 
  18. ^ "Isles of Scilly RD Cornwall through time". Retrieved 19 January 2007. 
  19. ^ Examples include the Health and Social Care Act 2003, section 198 and the Environment Act 1995, section 117.
  20. ^ "Council of the Isles of Scilly Corporate Assessment December 2002" (PDF).  
  21. ^ a b c "Isles of Scilly (United Kingdom)". Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  22. ^ "How Do You Get A Scillonian Cross". Scilly Archive. Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  23. ^ "Cornwall (United Kingdom)". Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  24. ^ School and College Achievement and Attainment Tables 2004 Department for Education and Skills; retrieved 31 July 2010.
  25. ^ Gibson, F, My Scillionian Home... its past, its present, its future, St Ives, 1980
  26. ^ a b c d Isles of Scilly Integrated Area Plan 2001–2004, Isles of Scilly Partnership 2001
  27. ^ Neate, S, The role of tourism in sustaining farm structures and communities on the Isles of Scilly in M Bouquet and M Winter (eds) Who From Their Labours Rest? Conflict and practice in rural tourism Aldershot, 1987
  28. ^ a b Isles of Scilly Local Plan: A 2020 Vision, Council of the Isles of Scilly, 2004
  29. ^ Isles of Scilly 2004, imagine..., Isles of Scilly Tourist Board, 2004
  30. ^ J.Urry, The Tourist Gaze (2nd edition), London, 2002
  31. ^ "Travel: Living in a world of their own: On the shortest day of the year, Simon Calder took the high road to Shetland and Frank Barrett took the low road to the Scillies, as Britain's extremities made ready for Christmas". The Independent (UK). 24 December 1993. 
  32. ^ Motor Vehicles (tests) Regulations 1981 (SI 1981/1694)
  33. ^ "A Sustainable Energy Strategy for the Isles of Scilly". Council of the Isles of Scilly. November 2007. pp. 13, 21. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  34. ^ "Travel Information". ScillyOnLine. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  35. ^ "Skybus Timetables". Skybus. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  36. ^ "Isles of Scilly Travel – Travel by sea". Isles of Scilly Travel. Retrieved 17 January 2007. 
  37. ^ Mitchel, Sandy. Duchy of Cornwall – Prince Charles' Backyard – Prince Charles – Not Your Typical Radical. National Geographic Magazine. May 2006:96–115. Map ref 104. Map source Duchy of Cornwall Property Services Department Sandy Mitchell. "Prince Charles not your typical radical".  
  38. ^ "Isles of Scilly". Duchy of Cornwall. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  39. ^ Martin D, 'Heaven and Hell', in Inside Housing, 31 October 2004
  40. ^ Sub Regional Housing Markets in the South West, South West Housing Board, 2004
  41. ^ a b S. Fleming et al., “In from the cold” A report on Cornwall’s Affordable Housing Crisis, Liberal Democrats, Penzance, 2003
  42. ^ The Cornishman, Islanders in dispute with Duchy over housing policy, 19 August 2004
  43. ^ "Isles of Scilly - Country of Birth". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  44. ^ "East Europeans in the Isles of Scilly". The Guardian. 23 January 2006. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  45. ^ Rick Persich, Chairman World Pilot Gigs Championships Committee. "World Pilot Gig Championships – Isles of Scilly". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  46. ^ Beth Hilton (30 October 2007). "Beckham and Gerrard make surprise visit". Scilly News » Blog Archive ». Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  47. ^ "Active People Survey – national factsheet appendix (Microsoft Excel)". Sport England. Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  48. ^ "ukfreetv-Full-Freeview vs Freeview Light: map". 
  49. ^ "An Island Parish". BBC. Retrieved 16 January 2007. 

Further reading

  • Woodley, George (1822) A View of the Present State of the Scilly Islands: exhibiting their vast importance to the British empire, the improvements of which they are susceptible, and a particular account of the means lately adopted for the amelioration of the condition of the inhabitants, by the establishment and extension of their fisheries. 344 p.; London: Rivington

External links

  • Isles of Scilly travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Isles of Scilly Tourist Information Centre Website
  • Travel website about the Scilly Isles
  • Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Website
  • Council of the Isles of Scilly
  • Map sources for Isles of Scilly
  • Cornwall Record Office Online Catalogue for Scilly
  • Isles of Scilly at DMOZ
  • Images of the Isles of Scilly at the English Heritage Archive
  • Geology of the Isles of Scilly
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