If you thought white sand beaches only existed in the Caribbean, think again. The sub-tropical Isles of Scilly – just 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall – can certainly hold their own in the beautiful beach stakes, and have much more to offer as well. There are five inhabited isles to explore – St Marys, Tresco, Bryher, St Martin’s and St Agnes – and each one will take your breath away.
Dog-friendly Isles of Scilly: the must-sees
One of the biggest attractions on the Isles of Scilly is the Tresco Abbey Garden. Built in the 19th Century around the ruins of a Benedictine abbey, it is home to thousands of exotic plants.
In the Scillies, spring comes early, autumn stays late and winter barely exists. So whatever time of year you visit, there are sure to be flowers in bloom. Dogs on lead are welcome to explore the grounds but not the café or visitor centre. Adult tickets cost £15. Pets go free.
As the water around the islands is so clear, snorkelling and diving are big business. St Martin’s Dive School offers snorkelling safaris for £25 per person, while Scilly Seal Snorkelling, on St Martin’s, allows you to get close to the locals for £49. Obviously dogs are not allowed on these trips but I couldn’t not mention them because are so unique!
After being inspired by the Isles of Scilly, many creative types settle here. As you island hop, you will find a number of art galleries, artisan jewellers and crafty folk, who love nothing more than to show you their wares. St Mary’s – the main island – is home to most of them but there are plenty of others dotted around.
On our travels, we came across a number of enterprising locals selling delicious home-grown produce from stalls outside their homes, too. It harks back to a simpler time and is truly lovely. If you like what you see, pop some money in their honesty box and support the local community.
If you’re lucky enough to visit during one of the famous Low Tide Events – where you can walk between Tresco and Bryher – make sure you do it! Hundreds of people turn out for this uniquely Scillonian experience, which has a distinct party atmosphere.
Flags are erected in the middle of the sandbar, local bands play and pop-up bars and seafood stalls make sure revellers are fed and watered. It really is good fun and dogs are, of course, welcome.
Dog-friendly Isles of Scilly: the best walks
Each of the five islands has its own individual personality with lots to offer visitors. Whether you’re keen to get off the beaten track or explore the beautiful beaches, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
There are more than 30 miles of nature trails on St Mary’s alone, while you can walk the length and breadth of all the other islands. St Martin’s, for example, is just two miles long. The hike out to the red-and-white daymark – visible from the Cornish mainland – has a mix of beaches, grassland and rugged cliffs.
The Walk Scilly festival, which takes place twice a year in spring and autumn, attracts people from around the UK. It offers an interesting programme of walks – all led by local guides – and is a great way to explore and find out more about the islands’ history. Dogs are welcome to join in the fun, as long as they are kept on lead.
None of the islands have restrictions on footpaths for dogs and many of the beaches can be visited year-round, too. Bizarrely, dogs must be kept on lead at all times on Tresco so make sure you adhere to the rules. For more information about dog-friendly walks on the Isles of Scilly, visit the Tourist Information Centre on St Mary’s.
Dog-friendly Isles of Scilly: the best pubs and cafes
You can’t come to the Isles of Scilly and not visit the Seven Stones Inn. This family-run pub, on St Martin’s, is just a short walk from the island’s jetty and super dog-friendly. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome at the Seven Stones, which serves hearty pub grub and fine real ales. You also get great views from the beer garden.
For a yummy cream tea, made using local produce, head to the Polreath Tea Room on St Martin’s. This family-run business has been feeding hungry visitors since 1955 and occasionally offers evening meals, too. Dogs are allowed in the gorgeous garden as well as the rustic conservatory-style glasshous
Lovers of all things savoury should look out for Badcock’s Homemade Pasties on St Mary’s. At midday on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, a little white van arrives in the centre of town to sell piping hot, freshly-made pasties. Sandwich boards will point you to where the van parks up but you won’t miss the queue anyway! It’s well worth the wait.
Dog-friendly Isles of Scilly: where to stay
You can’t beat Karma St Martin’s – a luxurious beachside property that welcomes both humans and dogs with open arms. The islands’ official website also has plenty of other ideas for accommodation in the Isles of Scilly, whether you’re keen to camp or go self-catering.
Before your visit, read up on the Creature Comforts service offered by the Isles of Scilly Vet Support Group. For a small donation, they will provide everything you need for your break, from dog beds to crates and toys. Whether you arrive by plane or boat, it really is excellent – and saves a lot of space in your suitcase!
How do I get to the Isles of Scilly?
There are a few different ways. One of the most popular – and cheapest – methods is by boat. The Scillonian III passenger ferry has been running between Penzance and St Mary’s since 1977 and the crossing takes approximately 2hrs 45mins.
The ferry operates between mid-March and October and single fares start from £49.50 per adult. Dogs on leads are welcome onboard and travel for free. Just make sure you stay in the doggy-designated areas on the ship.
Alternatively, take the speedy Skybus to the Isles of Scilly. It flies from Lands’ End, Newquay and Exeter in as little as 15 minutes. If you’re travelling with a dog, you have to go from Lands’ End. Single fares start from £80 per adult. It’s an extra £40 for dogs, who will travel in a crate in the cabin.
Once you’ve arrived, getting around is easy. The St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association run regular services between the islands (tides depending), as well as day trips and excursions. Dogs are welcome on all the boats, provided they are on-lead and well-behaved. A straight return journey between two of the islands will set you back £9.50 per adult.
Where can I find out more?
Check out the official tourist board for further inspiration and ideas when it comes to visiting the Isles of Scilly.