If you love watching wildlife in nature, and enjoy being out on the sea, a visit to the Isles of Scilly is perfect. The Bishop is the perfect destination for getting to in order to do just that. It is an impressive lighthouse positioned amongst the treacherous Western Rocks, full of sunken ships and their treasures, on the last piece of land in the UK before you reach America.
The Isles of Scilly are a beautiful group of islands off South-West England, and I did a quick description of them in my first ever blog post, almost exactly one year ago! It so happens that I am back on the Isles of Scilly visiting family and waiting for a new passport, so have a lot more in-depth articles on the islands to share.
Starting the journey to view the wildlife and lighthouse, you are taken out in one of the boats normally used to ferry passengers between the islands, as in the picture below.
You are taken first to Annet Island, famous for its bird population, where at certain times of year you can spot the little puffins, as well as other aviary species. The Isles of Scilly are well known for the birds that migrate through here, leading to groups of people coming in to watch them, particularly around October, that are fondly known as twitchers.
Leaving Annet behind you venture into the Western Rocks, wild, remote, spread around in clusters, and somewhat foreboding, especially knowing all the maritime shipping disasters that happened. The most famous shipwrecks come from a British armada sailing back from Spain in the 18th century, where amongst the rocks many ships were lost, taking the lives of 2000 seamen and a fortune in treasure. It can be an eerie place too be.
Amongst all that remote rock are the puppy faced seals, adding some life to the otherwise barren place. There are hundreds of them, bathing around on rocks and swimming in the sea. They always give you a somewhat quizzical look, as if to wonder who on earth are all these silly, (or scilly)!, creatures looking upon them. The expert boatmen take you as close into the rocks as they dare, too give you as close a look as possible.
Now you come onto a masterpiece of construction, the Bishop Rock lighthouse. Completed in the mid 19th century, it was essential to warn ships about the perils ahead amongst the rocks. It would have been hard to construct, being so remote, and with difficult atlantic seas to contend with. Hats off to the workers who built it.
In the old days, the lighthouse keepers were winched aboard from a local boat ,on a rope attached to the lighthouse. It must have been a strange experience living in such a remote place, that is apparently the smallest island in the world with a building positioned on it.
The Bishop Rock is also the first place that trans-atlantic rowers would reach from America, having completed their journey. It must be a relief to finally see land after such a feat of endurance.
You have a spin around the lighthouse, and maybe some humour from the boatmen, for example that if the brakes on the boat were to fail, the next stop is America!
Now you head on back to the main islands, going through the Western Rocks to get there. Many seals are still lounging around, and you will get the chance to get close to them again, and maybe see some more birds. You will also get to see the remains of the buildings the men who built the lighthouse used to live in, on a remote little island. It would have been a hard existence for sure.
You now have the chance to either get off on St Agnes Island to have a walkabout, and maybe a tasty ice cream from the local farm, or head on back to St Mary’s.
Viewing wildlife on the Isles of Scilly is good, and if you are lucky you may see dolphins, or very rarely a basking shark, amongst others. But to be honest the best thing is just being out on the sea, rolling over the waves, and enjoying the remoteness of where you are.
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