National Character Area 158

Isles of Scilly - Key Characteristics

  • The area is made up of low-lying granite islands with a strong maritime influence.

  • The uninhabited islands and offshore rocks form complex seascapes.

  • The area is isolated from the UK mainland, with a strong sense of remoteness and tranquillity.

  • The unique pattern of small fields enclosed by evergreen hedges, called fences locally, protects the bulb and vegetable fields from salt spray and strong winds.

  • Many of the islands are largely treeless and wind-swept, apart from the occasional pine shelterbelts on Tresco and English elm copses on St Mary’s.

  • Hugh Town and Old Town on St Mary’s form the principal settlement, with small hamlets and solitary farmhouses elsewhere on St Mary’s.

  • Settlement patterns of the off islands (Tresco, Bryher, St Martin’s, St Agnes and Gugh) vary, with small clusters of buildings around quays or in sheltered spots and solitary farmhouses located in the centre of smallholdings.

  • White sandy beaches, embryonic sand dunes and unenclosed areas of maritime heath and grassland fringe the islands; some heathland is dominated by gorse and bracken.

  • There are outstanding examples of long-term human occupation, including chambered barrows and standing stones with forts and castles prominent on areas of higher ground.

  • The sea is a dominant influence that both unites and divides the islands; the crystal white sand and the turquoise sea of summer contrasts with a grey thundering sea that is typical of autumn and winter in the western rocks.

  • A network of roads and tracks and about 200 km of permissive paths provide access to all parts of the islands.

Relationship with the coast

The adjacent coastline is covered by the following Shoreline Management Plans:

  • Rame Head to Hartland Point

The adjacent coastline includes the following Marine Plan – Marine Character Areas (MCAs):

  • Isles of Scilly