Let's do the time warp on Tresco

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Walk of the month: The Isles Of Scilly - This wind-blasted granite coastline, with its old forts, feels more Middle Ages than Middle England. Mark Rowe takes a step back

A race to the top: could I clamber to the modest summit of Gimble Point on Tresco before the mist rolled in?

One of the wonders of the Isles of Scilly is that you can usually see the weather coming a long way off. The mist had been the proverbial distant speck as I'd set off from New Grimsby, yet, palpably moving before my eyes, it rolled in off the Atlantic like monochrome candyfloss squeezing its way through the narrows of the Tresco Channel.

I did make the summit before the curtain dropped – just – to command the same superb views as the darting and swooping blacked-backed gulls and fulmars.

Of all the islands of Scilly – five of them inhabited and around 200 other rocks, large lumps and skerries – Tresco has the reputation as the most manicured, the most exclusive island (prices are such that by the end of your trip you will come to regard a packet of crisps as a luxury). But Gimble Point, on the northern headland of Tresco, is a wild bedrock of granite, an outpost of raw north Cornwall coastline. And with two castles close by and a wind-blasted heath, this was less Middle England, more the Middle Ages.

My walk began in New Grimsby, the picturesque settlement at the heart of Tresco, an island barely two miles in length and one mile wide. You can do the maths: no walk here takes very long, but you could linger all day over the sights encountered along the way.

Heading clockwise out of New Grimsby, with the rugged island of Bryher across the channel, I'd quickly come across the two castles. Cromwell's Castle is the more recent, built close to the shoreline, with a moss-encrusted spiral staircase and 18th-century graffiti applied by soldiers stationed here; it stands in the shadow of the more dilapidated King Charles's Castle. Both are echoes of the Civil War, in which Tresco was just about the last foothold for the Royalists.

Beyond the castle was Gimble Point, from where, before the mist came down, I had a panoramic view of many of the islands, along with, six miles to the south-west, the iconic, Bishop Rock lighthouse, buffeted by rollers completing their 3,000-mile ride from the Americas.

I contoured along the northern headland, the path as narrow as a goat's gait and often dipping close to the tideline. Piper's Hole is around here, an underground freshwater cave. The Atlantic Ocean shovels water though a narrow channel so fiercely that it blows spray in the air like a geyser. You can nose around the cave, though bring a torch, and possibly a ball of string to find your way back.

Piper's Hole stands at the foot of Tregarthen Hill, home to Bronze Age burial sights. Scilly is riddled with these, and it seems the cairns became popular partly because in such a low-lying, scattered archipelago it was easy to align a tomb propitiously with the setting sun.

The coast path threaded south-east from here, passing Old Grimsby, Tresco's original port, and just beyond the 16th-century fortification known as the Blockhouse, I stumbled upon my personal favourite beach – not just on Tresco but all of Scilly – Cook's Porth. It was captivating, backed by marram grass and, thanks to the fragmenting mist, with a gorgeous view of a range of islands, including St Helen's, Tean and St Martin's. The sand was so soft it felt liquid, like rainwater trickling through my hands.

A little further south I passed Pentle Bay at high tide, and so missed the intriguing chance to scout around for the submerged prehistoric hut circles and boundary walls that are revealed at low water. Cutting inland, I made for Tresco Abbey Gardens. This is the nerve centre of the island's tourist industry, so time your visit around cruise ship landings. If you do so, you'll find the gardens possess a grace and light touch where flowers from 80 countries, including Burma and South Africa, thrive in this sub-tropical environment.

The adjacent abbey has 12th-century Benedictine origins, and is home to the descendents of Augustus Smith, a Hertfordshire squire who trans-formed Tresco from a redoubt for privateers and smugglers. Before you leave, it's worth looking at Valhalla, the garden's open-air collection of figureheads retrieved from local shipwrecks. A cannon also lies here, recovered from HMS Association, the ship that went down in 1707 after Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the Nelson of his day, got his location disastrously wrong.

Leaving the gardens, I headed for New Grimsby along a lane shaded by a glorious tree canopy. An iridescent flash of feathers winged across the path, landing with an undignified thwack by a thicket of bamboo. Tropical parrots, too? Not quite. The bird was a male golden pheasant, brightly coloured with a yellow crown, dark wings, red underparts and superb, barred tail. Barely a hundred pairs occupy the UK's undergrowth but here in the mild Scilly Isles it is found roosting at night in the treetops.

Directions

Distance: four miles.

Time: three hours.

Map OS Explorer 101 Isles of Scilly.

Directions: Head clockwise out of New Grimsby, pass the quay and follow signs for Cromwell Castle. Above King Charles's Castle make for the headland and follow any of the various paths east. Walk through Old Grimsby, pass the school to the Blockhouse and pick up the coast path. At Pentle Bay, turn right along the main track and follow signs to the Abbey Gardens. On leaving the gardens, retrace your steps past the Abbey and turn left along the lane to New Grimsby.

Compact Facts

How to get there

First Great Western (08457 000 125; firstgreatwestern.co.uk) runs a train service to Penzance. From Penzance, you can catch a helicopter with British International (01736 363871; islesof scillyhelicopter.com) to Tresco and the nearby island of St Mary's from £146 return. The Scillonian (0845 710 5555; islesofscilly- travel.co.uk) sails to St Mary's (two hours 40 minutes) from £86 return. Skybus (0845 710 5555; islesofscilly-travel.co.uk) flies to St Mary's from Lands End, Newquay, Southampton, Exeter and Bristol from £135 return. The Flying Boat Club (tresco.co.uk) offers self-catering accommodation for up to six people in Pegasus from £1,455 per week. If you take the boat, you will require overnight accommodation. In Marazion, near Penzance, The Godolphin Arms (01736 710202 ; godolphinarms.co.uk) offers double rooms with breakfast from £90 per night.

Further Information

Isles of Scilly Tourism (simplyscilly.co.uk).

News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015