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Islands of Cornwall: The Scillies, Looe Island & St Michael’s Mount

Cornwall has a number of small islands just off its rugged coastline and each island has its own fascinating history and individual charm.

Looe Island

Looe Island is within sight of the town of Looe and is even closer to the headland at Hannafore Point. However few locals have ever set foot on the island, also known as St George’s Island, until very recently. Traces of an early Christian settlement and Roman remains have been found on Looe Island and pre-1289 it was the site of a monastery belonging to Glastonbury Abbey. During the 17th and 18th century it was a haunt for smugglers who used it to evade the boats of local excisemen.

More recently Looe Island was owned and lived on by two reclusive sisters, Babs and Evelyn Atkins who wrote a couple of books about living there. They both lived into their late eighties and when Babs died in 2004 the island was bequested to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to be preserved as a nature reserve. Visitors can take a trip by boat and enjoy a self-guided walk around the island and its Visitor Centre, tides permitting.

St Michael’s Mount

This popular Cornish attraction includes a guided tour of the medieval castle, beautiful sub-tropical gardens on the steep rocky slopes and a delightful small community to explore around the island’s small harbour. At low tide it is possible to reach the island on foot.

A trip to St Michael’s Mount offers nature spotting, stories of historic battles and sieges, tales of the Spanish Armada sailing by and guided tours of this comfortable family home of the St Aubyn family. Visit the Priory Church with its 15th century rose window and enjoy a welcome meal at the Sail Loft restaurant. As usual, words cannot do justice to this excellent National Trust owned property; you have to see it for yourself.

Scilly Isles

The Scilly Isles are the most southwesterly point of the UK, 28 miles from Land’s End. In a scattering of around 2,000 islets, the five main islands are St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin’s, Bryher and St Agnes. Getting there is an adventure in itself, by helicopter from Land’s End and Newquay or by boat from Penzance.

Tresco is the most visited island with its famous gardens within the ruins of Tresco Abbey. The terraced paths weave between the exotic and colourful plants. Visitors can hike around the island in peace as there are no vehicles. Enjoy lunch on the terrace or in the conservatory at the Island Hotel or sample locally baked produce in the gardens of several island pubs and tearooms. The ship’s figureheads at Valhalla are a remarkable collection, salvaged from shipwrecked vessels around the Scilly Isles.

St Mary’s is the largest and most populated of the Scilly Isles and has a fully functioning community of banks, shops and churches. It has some interesting megalithic tombs and Civil War fortifications as well as offering woodlands, heaths and sand dunes.

St Martins boasts some fine sandy beaches, fishing and cliff top walks or visit the unspoilt natural beauty of St Agnes and Bryher.

If you are visiting Cornwall, make sure you include at least one of these lovely islands in your itinerary and discover more of Cornwall’s history and natural beauty.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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