Best Beaches in the Isles of Scilly

Want Caribbean-like white sands, unpolluted waters and a clutch of independent cafés serving up local specialities made with love? They’re not as far away as you might think.

Just 45 kilometres off the coast of Cornwall, this mystical archipelago feels a world away from mainland Britain. Tales of shipwrecks and pirates abound, and these stories aren't fairy tales but Scillonian history, backed up by real-life relics in the islands' pubs and Tresco Abbey Garden's collection of 30 or so figureheads, retrieved from merchant boats which met their watery end here over the centuries.

There are five inhabited islands - St Mary's, St Agnes, St Martins, Tresco and Bryher - and countless uninhabited rocks and islets. Across these lie some of the UK's best-loved beaches, their impossibly clean white sands washed by soft turquoise waves, and home to seals and puffins. On a calm sunny day, the hidden coves and powder-soft beaches look irresistibly tropical. Warmed by the full force of the Gulf Stream, these unpolluted waters are nevertheless freezing, even in comparison to Cornwall, without the mainland's heat to warm them. Embrace the chill factor, dive in and discover some of the best beaches in the Scillies.

Blockhouse Beach


Also known as Rushy Porth, this spit of chalky sand that appears at low tide is so pale, it makes the sea glow an almost luminescent green on a grey day. It's overlooked by a 16th-century blockhouse, hence the name, with far-reaching views over the rocky outcrops of St Helen's and Tean. A chilly morning dip off Blockhouse Beach is best rewarded by a slap-up breakfast and proper coffee at The Ruin beach café, just a short walk away in Tresco's Old Grimsby harbour.

Beady Pool

St Agnes

A sheltered rocky bay on the southern shores of the island of St Agnes, Beady Pool takes its name from the valuable ceramic beads that washed up here in the 17th century, after a Dutch cargo ship sunk offshore. Though they're increasingly rare, these little beads can still occasionally be found on the beach, which makes for many happy hours of treasure hunting.

Rushy Bay


Small and secluded, Rushy Bay is a fairly well-kept secret on the smallest inhabited Scillonian island of Bryher. It's framed by seagrass and has a tropical glow when the sun shines. Bring a picnic and settle in for the day - this beautiful spot is only accessible by walking along sandy footpaths, so tends to be quiet. The sea here is perfect for swimming, sheltered from wind and waves.

Appletree Bay


Perhaps the most picturesque of all the Scillies' beaches, Appletree Bay is everything you could expect from a holiday in Tresco: almost a kilometre of soft milk-white sand and crystal-clear waters, with plenty of space for running around and splashing in the shallows. If there's a southerly wind blowing, have a go at windsurfing or dinghy sailing here, too.

Pelistry Bay

St Mary’s

On St Mary's, the largest Scillonian island, rolling grass hills meet the sea with a sandy peninsula leading out towards Toll's Island. You can wade out there at low water, but swimming isn't recommended as the tide can turn quickly. For those staying on St Mary's, this is a great place for a day trip away from the crowds. Stop off for lunch at Carn Vean café, just back from the beach, where you'll find freshly caught crab, tea and cakes served up within a beautifully kept garden.

Great Bay

St Martins

Great Bay and Little Bay are in essence a continuous stretch of creamy sand on the remote and exposed northern shores of St Martins, the former having recently been voted the best beach in the UK. This side of the island is undeveloped and wild, leaving the beach utterly unspoilt.

Samson Flats


Stepping foot on the deserted island of Samson feels like something of an adventure. Abandoned farmhouses are somewhat spooky, but the shallow turquoise waters of Samson Flats at the northeast of the island are too inviting to resist. There's no proper quay here, so hiring a little motorboat and pulling it up onto the beach is the only option if you want to explore its untouched beaches.


St Agnes

The tiny Covean is a secret gem. So secret, in fact, that it doesn't even appear on the map. Head instead to Covean Cottage Café and Guesthouse and follow a tiny green path down to the sea. A snorkeller's paradise awaits, with a sheltered cove hemmed in by rocky outcrops teeming with marine life. Just around the headland is The Bar, a stretch of sand that at low tide connects the island to Gugh, and at high tide all but disappears.

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A Pocket Guide to the Isles of Scilly