Isles of Scilly Holidays - Small Group Guided Tours

Our Isles of Scilly holidays include a packed itinerary of daily excursions. Enjoy guided walks and talks with local experts and plenty of island-hopping.

Highlights

  • Enjoy the Isles of Scilly at your pace with a small group, plenty of flexibility and experiences to suit all weathers such as guided walks, cycling, birdwatching, vineyard tours, star gazing and, for the August tour, a special focus on Scilly's fascinating geology and mineral treasures.
  • Enjoy top-quality accommodation on the main inhabited Island, St Mary’s, staying at the historic Star Castle Hotel built in 1593 and converted to a hotel in 1933.
  • Hear tales of maritime bravery and famous shipwrecks from one of Britain leading shipwreck experts
  • Enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Dungeon Bar and dine every evening in the award-winning restaurant in the former Officers’ Mess.
  • Explore two or three of the four inhabited ‘off-islands’ with short trips by passenger boats accompanied by a local guide.
  • Visit an uninhabited island to see seabirds and evidence of historical settlements (weather dependent).
  • Meet local experts, entrepreneurs, and generations of Scillonians during your Scilly Isles holiday. Find out why they love living on Scilly.

Overview

Join our small group on a journey around the picturesque Isles of Scilly, a subtropical sanctuary off the Cornish coast that holds its fair share of stories from times gone by.

We’re delighted to have secured accommodation for all our tours at the Star Castle Hotel. It is steeped in history – a complete example of an Elizabethan fort, built in 1593, in response to the threat following the Spanish Armada in 1588. Later, during the English Civil War, it was the final Royalist stronghold and refuge for the future King Charles II in 1646. With its modern extensions, it is a most comfortable and welcoming hotel.

Spend six days of your Scilly holiday exploring everything that the islands have to offer, from a vibrant garden hiding a monastery to discovering the sites where ancient ancestors laid their heroes to rest. History soaks the islands through, and you’ll learn how the tranquil Isles have weathered natural and manmade tempests over the years.

Your expert local guides and guest speakers will help you make the most of this island paradise, showing you which wildlife to watch out for and helping to unpick the history behind some of the most striking landmarks, and ‘read the rocks’ of Scilly and uncover their fascinating 300million year old story. With pre-dinner talks on the islands’ rich maritime history and scattered shipwrecks, along with the rich tapestry of early settlers who called Scilly home, you’ll sink into island life and get that much more out of exploring the islands.

Scilly isn’t just a feast for the eyes, however – throughout this Isles of Scilly holiday, you can savour freshly caught fish, award-winning appetisers and simple good food at pubs, restaurants, bars and chippies tucked away across the islands.

Please note: Travel to or from the Isles of Scilly can be weather dependent and is prone to disruption, so please bear this in mind when booking on this tour and ideally allow for a little flexibility, especially at the end of the tour.

  • Activity Level: Easy, with optional longer walks (view activity level definitions). Access to islands off St Mary’s will require climbing onto and off of passenger boats, and if visiting uninhabited islands you may need to disembark in the shallows.
  • Transport: Getting there: The Isles of Scilly can be reached by plane from airports in Cornwall and Devon; by helicopter from Penzance Heliport, or by ship from Penzance Harbour. Getting around: Primarily on foot, with passenger boats between the islands.
  • Accommodation:  Five nights in the Star Castle Hotel on St Mary’s, a former artillery fort where the customers come first.
  • Weather: The Isles of Scilly benefit from a subtropical climate, meaning mild conditions and an average temperature ranging from 8 °C to 17 °C across the year. These conditions favour the islands’ flower growers, who typically harvest and export narcissi from October through to March, when the mainland can be facing sub zero temperatures. Rain is a possibility so we recommend bringing warm and waterproof clothing, but any poor weather often passes quickly on the islands.

 

Tour Map

T026 Itinerary Map

Day 1 – Arrival and Meeting on St Mary’s

Star Castle and Gardens

Check into your hotel and meet your fellow travellers.

After arriving on St Mary’s, you’ll be collected at the quay or airport and transported with your luggage to your castle for the week, the Star Castle Hotel on the east end of the island. Peer over the parapets, chat to the locals and get settled in, then enjoy the first group dinner of your Isles of Scilly holiday in the castle’s award-winning restaurant.

Days 2-5 – Exploring the Islands

Tresco and Bryher

Enjoy the islands at your pace, with flexible schedules and semi-guided tours.

Island life runs at a slower pace than on the mainland, and our itinerary reflects this. The weather also plays a part, so we will adapt the itineraries to suit the weather and tides, taking into account the special requests of the group. Whatever the conditions, there will always be plenty to catch your attention during your stay on Scilly. During this tour, some or all of the following will be included, depending on the time of year:

  • A guided walk of the Garrison Walls, excellently preserved defensive measures located right outside the Star Castle Hotel on St Mary’s.
  • A walking tour of the islands’ ancient ruins and enlightening artifacts that are changing our understanding of island life, through curated exhibitions on each of the inhabited islands.
  • (August tour only) An exploration of the fascinating geology of Scilly, from granite foundations to being shaped by glaciers, and looking at how sea level changes have shaped the landscape and history. Ideal for multi-generation families and young explorers!
  • A trip to St Martin’s to include a visit to its very own vineyard, complete with tasting.
  • Weather-permitting, an evening visit to St Martin’s observatory to search the stars and see Luke Jerram’s Luna sculpture. The Isles of Scilly are officially England’s ‘darkest district’, providing optimal conditions for viewing the wonders of the universe.
  • After-breakfast and pre-dinner talks about the islands from local experts, covering topics including shipwrecks, the diverse birdlife and the mammoth task of bringing lifesaving lighthouses to the islands.
  • Enjoying delicious meals across the islands, including the catch of the day, freshly baked bread, and local seafood.
  • Spending a half-day on Samson to see evidence of settlements from 5,000 years ago up until the last settlers left in 1855. This is an uninhabited island, reached by a paddle through the shallows – guaranteed to get your feet wet!
  • A scenic walk around Tresco Abbey Gardens, where tropical conditions support an abundance of exotic flora. Topped off with a cream tea and a visit to the island’s impressive figurehead collection, and perhaps a sighting of the local red squirrels.
  • Explore the English Civil War history still visible on Tresco, and hear about the struggle to wrest control of the islands.
  • A visit to Bryher to learn about a key Bronze Age burial discovery, stop in at the Hell Bay Hotel and enjoy the Pender family’s mouth-watering fresh fish and seafood at their café. Bryher also boasts a small but impressive gallery, full of art, photography and ceramics from local creators.
  • Head to St Agnes to explore a miniature maritime maze, see the island’s shipwreck exhibition and spend time in Britain’s most south-westerly pub. St Agnes has the only dairy farm on Scilly, providing delicious ice cream to passers-by.
  • Take a boat trip beyond the main islands to see the puffin colonies, bobbing seals, and playful dolphins.
  • Witness sea life beneath your feet with a unique glass-bottomed boat trip.
  • Head out at dusk to meet up with the islands’ bat group and learn about find out more about the local and visiting bats that call Scilly home.
  • Time to catch up with fellow guests and share stories of your very own Scilly experience.

Our tours are designed to suit you, so there will also be plenty of free time to pop into galleries, head out on an adventure of your own or simply sit and enjoy the amazing views.

 

Day 6 – Tour Ends

St Mary's Harbour

Home time. Fly or sail back to the mainland.

Savour the final breakfast of your Scilly Isles holiday at the Star Castle Hotel, then (reluctantly) head to the airport, harbour or heliport to catch your ride home.

Note: this provisional itinerary is subject to change.

Reaching the Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly can be reached by Skybus from airports at Land’s End (20 minutes), Newquay (30 minutes) or Exeter (1 hour); by helicopter from Penzance Heliport (15 minutes), or by the Scillonian ship from Penzance Harbour (2 hours 45 minutes).

For more information, please call or email us.

Single Supplement

Single room supplement for September is £349 / $437 and April £175 / $219 

Activity Level and Terrain

Island Hopping

The activity level is rated as EASY (view activity level definitions) and is suitable for occasional walkers, with walks ranging from between 1-3 miles on paved roads, coastal paths and sandy beaches. This tour does involve climbing into and out of passenger boats to reach other islands, along with descending and ascending stone steps on quays. Additionally, the very short approach road to walk up to the Star Castle Hotel is steep, but it only takes about five minutes if coming up from the harbour or the town. You will never need to do this walk with your luggage on your Scilly holiday, as the hotel team take care of that!

If travelling to an uninhabited island, you may need to disembark in the shallows and walk to shore, so sturdy, waterproof footwear is essential. Rain is always possible, and participants should be prepared with warm and waterproof clothing. The climate on the Scillies is mild, with average temperatures ranging from 8°C to 17°C over the course of the year.

Transport will be by licensed passenger boats between the islands, and primarily on foot the rest of the time.

Bicycles are available to hire on Tresco; and bike and electric buggy hire is available on St Mary’s.

If walking is an issue, alternative arrangements can be made during the scheduled longer walks, so please let GeoCultura know in advance. To enjoy the full experience, a good level of fitness is required – please call us to discuss this if you have any concerns.

The Tour Includes/Excludes

The Tour Includes:

  • The services of your tour host who will be with the group throughout the tour, staying at the hotel
  • Local experts who will accompany the group and give talks on selected days
  • All transportation costs when travelling between islands
  • All accommodation costs for up to five nights
  • All breakfasts and up to five a la carte dinners
  • All service charges and most gratuities

The Tour Excludes:

  • Extra or optional activities not described in the tour
  • Lunches not included
  • Personal expenditures, any alcoholic drinks with meals, and extras at the hotel such as laundry bills
  • Transportation to the start venue or from the end venue of the tour. Participants will need to make their own arrangements for travel to and from St Mary’s. Please email or call us and we will provide detailed advice to explain the transport options
  • Passport and visa fees

Alternate Activities

The tour leaders can provide suggestions for alternate activities for individuals who prefer not to participate in certain parts of the tour walks or visits.

Accommodation

Nights 1-5: Star Castle Hotel, St Mary’s

Star Castle

St Mary’s only four-star hotel which originally served as an Elizabethan artillery fort, the ‘location, setting and history are exceptional’. The Star Castle’s food is ‘totally amazing, and so well balanced that the diner is never outfaced’. Typical dishes might feature venison with black truffle, or lobster and crab caught from the hotel’s own boat, with produce from the kitchen garden. GeoCultura guests are most likely to be allocated rooms in the Garden Rooms. Subject to availability, there is an option to request and pay for an upgrade for a sea view room or a room in the castle. Book early if this is important to you. Details on request.

Star Castle Bedroom. Photo by Mark Bolton

Photo by Mark Bolton

Deposit and Payment Terms

Deposit: A deposit of 10% of the tour price is due upon registration for a tour.

Final payment: Full payment is due 60 days before a tour begins, or upon registration if within the 60-day window.

Cancellation by participant: A participant may cancel a registration after securing a confirmed place on a tour for any reason. The following refund terms will apply:

  • Greater than 60 days before tour begins: Any monies paid plus half of the deposit will be refunded
  • 30 to 59 days before tour begins: 35% of tour price will be refunded
  • 15 to 29 days before tour begins: 25% of tour price will be refunded
  • Within 14 days of tour or during the tour: No monies will be refunded

Cancellation by GeoCultura: GeoCultura reserves the right to cancel any tour due to low enrolment, inability to run the tour or concerns about the safety, health or welfare of participants. If a tour is cancelled before it begins, all monies paid will be refunded (including any deposit).

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions page for additional details.

One or two of the following leaders will be present on each tour.

Dr Vickie Heaney

Dr Vickie Heaney

Dr Vickie Heaney’s background is in zoology with a PHD specialisation in seabirds, and the Isles of Scilly provide plenty of birdlife for her to study and conserve.

As a Seabird Ecologist with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Vickie’s work includes monitoring the Isles’ avian visitors, and improving conditions through initiatives like the Seabird Recovery Project. Among other outcomes, this has been credited with bringing successful breeding populations of Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels back to Scilly.

Vickie’s other passion is printmaking, and from her studio on St Mary’s she creates limited runs of linocut prints inspired by seabirds, nautical themes and island life, together with hand decorated ceramics with striking designs.

With Jess Vian, Vickie runs Isles of Scilly Tours. During the winter months, her ornithology expertise takes her to the far south, helping to engage expedition cruise ships passengers about wildlife in places like the Falklands Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica.

 

 

Jess Vian

Jess Vian

Like many, Jess caught the Isles of Scilly bug from a young age after visiting the islands on holiday. After moving to the islands to work the 2001 summer season, Jess has never looked back. Throwing herself into island life, she has held an impressive number of roles over the years, working in the agricultural, tourism and transport industries.

Jess has a particular interest in the history of Scilly, with a specialisation in the lighthouses that dot the coastline and surrounding islands. Additionally, she has previously chaired the Isles of Scilly Museum Association and continues to support the organisation, as both a Trustee and the current Vice Chair.

Alongside Dr Vickie Heaney, Jess runs Isles of Scilly Tours, helping to guide visitors across and around the islands. Outside of guiding, Jess manages her smallholding of goats, chickens and ducks, and runs a small business making soap from goats’ milk.

 

 

Richard Larn OBE, Cornish Bard and Knight of Mark Twain

Richard Larn

Richard has had a storied history in the Royal Navy, having served for 27 years in a variety of significant roles. After teaching himself to dive in 1947 in the River Thames, his passion for exploring shipwrecks took off, and since then Richard has dived all over the world and on hundreds of wreck sites.

Richard’s career highlights include discovering and investigating the wreck of HMS Association off the coast of the Isles of Scilly, and using his ingenuity to help raise the Mary Rose in 1982, a feat which earned him a personal letter of thanks from the then-Prince Charles.

Other notable moments include Richard being awarded an OBE for his work in cataloguing UK shipwrecks through the National Maritime Record, and discovering the wreck of the Admiral Gardner which yielded millions of copper coins.

Richard has written over 60 books on the subject of shipwrecks, including nine about the Isles of Scilly, and will be talking about his adventures, British naval history and a number of key Scilly shipwrecks.

 

 

Upcoming tours
09 - 14 Sep 2024
Prices from GBP £1,999.00
09 - 14 Apr 2025
Prices from GBP £1,750.00
PRIVATE TOUR OPTIONS

T026 Tour Map