There are pubs on four of the five inhabited islands in the Isles of Scilly and we couldn’t resist trying to visit them all.
First, in Hugh Town on St Mary’s — the nearest Scilly has to a bustling metropolis — we stopped in at the Mermaid, which sits on the harbour, not far from where the Scillonian drops off visitors from the mainland. Though it’s a pubco pub, it has special permission to sell local beer because of the challenge of keeping it supplied, and is decked out with gig racing paraphernalia. Unfortunately, on our visit, a beer from Ales of Scilly (Scuppered, we think) was just in the process of turning to vinegar, but a cosy atmosphere and Guinness saw us through.
Also in Hugh Town are Scilly’s two St Austell pubs. The Atlantic is huge but nonetheless has lots of corners to hide in. When freshly supplied, it has a decent selection of the brewery’s beers all of which were well looked after. We enjoyed a sarcastic pub quiz, surrounded by boaty types, along with pints of Trelawney and bottles of 1913 Stout.
Just up the road, the Bishop and Wolf (named after two lighthouses) offered an excellent pint of Proper Job along with the usual St Austell corporate interior decoration job. Nice enough but nothing to blog home about.
The last pub on St Mary’s is in Old Town and is called, obviously, the Old Town Inn. Being a little out of the way, we found it quiet, but, as the end of May approaches, were delighted to at last find a pint of mild — Triple FFF Pressed Rat & Warthog — in decent condition and tasty enough to stay for more than one. We were made to feel very welcome and, when we left, got a round of goodbyes and ‘take cares’ from the locals perched at the bar.
Thereafter, we were reliant on boats to reach pubs elsewhere in the archipelago. The New Inn on tropical Tresco, which we reached in the mid-afternoon, was all but empty. At one point, a bird hopped in through the door, ate some crisp crumbs under the pool table, and hopped out again. We found more mild — the lesser-spotted Black Prince! — along with Ales of Scilly Firebrand, which we found pleasant enough, if not earth-shattering. The real highlight, though, was kegged Harbour Brewing Pilsner which reminded us of really fresh, flowery beer from Würzburg or Regensbury. (It was, however, £2.50 for a half — ‘craft’ tax+tourist prices+Scilly supply premium?)
The Turks [sic] Head on St Agnes is yet another cosy nautically-themed tavern, though with a touch of Hampstead about it. Its house beer, Turks Ale, brewed by St Austell, has a pump clip designed by a former member of staff, and tasted to us as if it might be a blend of Proper Job and Tribute, though we stand ready to be corrected. St Austell’s seasonal special, Prince Albert, is a brown ale, and its accent on middling-dark malt flavours made a pleasant change. Skinner’s St Piran’s was in very good condition and is yet another decent golden ale from a brewery whose brown beers we don’t really like.
Fraggle Rock on Bryher almost didn’t make this list. It’s a cafe, really, but it does have draught beer and a pool table, and, at any rate, businesses on this small, quiet island have to do double duty. The views, especially from the garden, are stunning.
In conclusion, there are no bad pubs on Scilly, and, despite being out in the Atlantic, it offers a wider range of beers than most Cornish towns, and certainly more mild, in May at least. Don’t go there for the beer, but don’t worry that you’ll go thirsty, either.
Did we miss any? Let us know below and we’ll make sure to visit them next time.