Skip to content
Got it

BIH Helicopters

The helicopter service from Penzance to St Mary's started back in 1964, and to Tresco in 1983. Both services ended in October 2012.

Originally part of British Airways, the service was privatised and became British International Helicopters in 1986.

BIH has now sold the Penzance site to Sainsbury's and decided to concentrate on its more lucrative North Sea and Falklands Island contracts.

External Links and References

Scillonian III

The Scillonian III is know locally as "the stomach pump", an indication of how rough the crossing can be at times.

It operates six days a week March to November and, as well as passengers, brings significant amounts of freight to the islands.

When we were there, it was noticeable that on the two days when she could not get through because of the high seas, the shelves in the local Co-op started looking very bare.

It is operated by Isles of Scilly Travel (a.k.a. the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company), who also run the Skybus fixed-wing aircraft.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Isles of Scilly Travel
      The official site covering both the Scillonian III and Skybus.

In 1987 the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, operators of the Scillonian III ferry, started operating fixed-wing aircraft between Land's End and St Mary's using eight seater Britten Norman Islanders under the Skybus branding.

It has since expanded, and now offers flights from Newquay, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton using three 19 seater De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters in addition to the three Islanders.

The service operates six days a week all year round but is vulnerable to fog as well as bad weather, particularly at St Mary's Airport.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Isles of Scilly Travel
      The official site covering both the Scillonian III and Skybus.

Community Bus

Unfortunately, I totally failed to take a photograph of the Scillies' only land-based white-knuckle ride, the Community Bus. It gets replaced from time to time with similar "time-expired" vehicles, anyway.

Hopefully any replacement won't require a system of ropes and pulleys to open and close the doors, and brakes that sound as if they rely on a similar Heath Robinson lash up.

It is run, without any public subsidy, by a chap called Steve Sim, who likes to push his bus to the limit (admittedly that's about 25 mph, but on the narrow Scilly roads that's more than fast enough), and very useful it is too. Timetables are available from the Tourist Information Centre. Please see the general disclaimer on my home page.

Island Rover

Island Rover offer coach tours around St Mary's which take just over the hour and provide a useful introduction/taster of the island. In addition to 'Katie', a 1948 Austin K2, presumably named after the ambulance in Ice Cold in Alex, they also run an open-sided Optare Metrorider and a Volvo B6.

Although I was initially disappointed that we were too late to get on the old Austin and had to settle for the Optare, it was such a lovely day that I was soon very glad of the open sides. Glynne Lucas, the owner of Island Rover and our driver that day, has a very dry sense of humour, and it would be worth the money just to listen to his anecdotes.

External Links and References

  • External Links

Inter-island Ferries and Boat Trips

Regular ferry services are run from St Mary's by the St Mary's Boatmen's Association, from Tresco and Bryher by Bryher Boat Services, from St Agnes by St Agnes Boating, and from St Martin's by St Martin's Boat Services. Some of these operators also offer fast taxi-style RIB services at a price.

All the operators also offer more leisurely tours taking in places such as the Easter Isles or the Northern Rocks and usually landing on one of the inhabited islands for part of the day.

There are also a few independent operators offering more personal tours in smaller boats such as Blue Hunter, Calypso II, Crusader, the RIB Firebrand IV and the glass-bottomed Sea Quest

External Links and References

Pilot Gigs

Back in the days of sail, the Scilloneans made a good living ferrying pilots out to vessels approaching the English Channel or the St George's Channel using fast gaff-rigged Pilot Cutters.

The pilot families also owned smaller Pilot Gigs, 30ft six-oared rowing boats, which were used for inter-island travel, lifesaving, salvage, lighthouse relief, etc.

With the coming of steam, the cutters became redundant, but the gigs remained. They are now used in the local sport of gig racing.

Races are held each week on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the season, and the St. Mary's Boatmen's Association organise spectator boats for each race.

The World Pilot Gig Championships are held on the Isles of Scilly over the May Bank Holiday, with teams from Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. There are even a couple of boats from the Netherlands, making it a truly international event.

External Links and References