First Impressions: A trip to the Isles of Scilly starts with the flight. The plane is small. Eight-seats small. One minute we were bumping across a field in Land’s End; the next, soaring into the sky for the 15-minute journey. It’s an exhilarating ride, and approaching the Scillies on a clear, blue-sky day, has wow factor written all over it. Had it not been for the look of imminent disaster washed across the Mr’s face, it would’ve made for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The Scillies, 28 miles off Land’s End, and accessible by helicopter or boat if the flight’s not your thing, are remote and, as such, there’s not a great deal to do. But that’s the joy. Frazzled couples will be in blissed-out heaven: looking out over the archipelago from The Star Castle Hotel is a real world-away moment. A must is a boat trip with the ever-cheerful Tim The Boatman. Sailing between Bryher (check out Hell Bay, which was once a notorious spot for shipwrecks), flora-filled Tresco and Agnes (all 64 residents recently arranged to meet in the local pub but only 62 turned up…) at a leisurely pace is the perfect antidote to months of wedding planning. Cancel the therapist and fall asleep on a sandy beach, while the sea (it’s so clear – really, truly, crystal clear – and blue, oh-so blue) laps by your side.
Room for Romance: The Star Castle, perched high above St Mary’s, is exactly that. A castle, in the shape of a star – romance alert! (Girls like stars, boys). Its ramparts are the perfect place for a proposal, while the original dungeon bar screams (ahem) authenticity. All 11 rooms of the 16th century bolthole are in keeping with the original features – think four posters and William Morris-esque patterns, while in the grounds lie 28 chalet-style rooms, where wood panelling and wicker touches suggests a Hamptons beach house vibe, although they’re simple enough to bring back the sand in your shoes. Book a West-facing room, slip into a wooden lounger on your private terrace and cosy up together watching the sun set. The average age of visitors may be towards the middle, so you’re not going to be lining up the tequila slammers of an evening, but what you are getting is a quiet, genteel vibe where you can be yourselves among the undisturbed surroundings.
Wine & Dine: The castle dining room (once the Officers’ Messroom) serves up hearty grub, while The Conservatory (in the gardens) specialises in fish dishes. The modern-looking fish & chips starter (we know, starter) is a taste sensation and a refreshing move away from the usual soups and terrines.
We love… The remote romance. From picnic-on-the-beach proposals to UK minimoons and staycations, the Scillies are all about steadily enjoying home-grown beauty – but with a globe-trotting edge. Weddings at The Star Castle are about as bespoke as you can get (there is no wedding package, as such; the message: if we can do it, you can have it). The Scillies are proof a just-the-two-of-you beachside wedding doesn’t have to involve 16-hour flights and multiple transfers (the eight seater isn’t big on bags but you can send any excess on another flight). The Star Castle staff are as happy acting as witnesses, before serving up sandwiches and chips for two, as they are rolling out the red carpet for a 45-person do, complete with champagne and canapés atop the castle overlooking the sprawling blue and white vista.
We don’t love… As idyllic as it is, remember it’s still the UK, so pack accordingly. On a sun-drenched day, you’re in heaven. When the rain rolls in, you’re pretty exposed, but those into fresh air & fun will know there’s no better feeling than peeling off a rain-soaked Berghaus before sinking into a cosy, romantic night protected by the heavy walls of a 16th century castle.
Go There… Train to Cornwall: First Great Western Advance single fares from London Paddington start from £20.50 each way. To qualify for the best value tickets and offers, buy your ticket in advance. You can buy before you board by visiting firstgreatwestern.co.uk or calling 08457 000 125.
Flight to the Scilly Isles: Skybus operates flights six days a week between Land’s End and St Mary’s, with prices from £100 per person return. Departures also available from Newquay, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton. For information or to book, visit ios-travel.co.uk or call 0845 710 5555.
The Star Castle: Prices start from £128pp per night based on two adults sharing a garden room on a dinner, bed & breakfast basis. Valid for travel between 22 September and 2 November 2012. Visit star-castle.co.uk, call 01720 422 317 or e-mail email@example.com