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A Scilly Pub Crawl

The Turks Head pub, Scilly.

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 mildTriple 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.

The New Inn, Tresco.
The New Inn, Tresco, Isles of Scilly.

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 Regensburg. (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.

11 replies on “A Scilly Pub Crawl”

The other pub on Scilly is the Sevenstones on St Martins. It was good when I was last over there in 2007, but tripadvisor suggests that it’s been rather less good more recently and it is currently closed.

Sevenstones – as featured in An Island Parish, no less. Shame if it’s closed.

We went to Scilly about 20 years ago and stayed in Hugh Town. Never saw the Mermaid or the Old Town Inn (which sounds excellent); I remember the Bishop & Wolf struck me as a bit more biker/actual locals-ish, as distinct from the Atlantic’s tourist-friendly ooh-arr-local vibe. We never got to St Martin’s either – we’d made it our goal to get to all the other islands in a week, but the weather turned. The landlord’s daughter at the hotel where we were staying started telling us an Awful Story about Strange Goings-On on St Martin’s, but it was a bit too Awful to be told in full at breakfast and then somebody called her away, so we never heard the end of it.

As far as we could tell from t’internet, it has closed, which is just as well, because we ran out of days to visit islands and didn’t get to St Martin’s at all.

When I was there 20+ years ago, the Turks Head seemed curiously unaware of its position as the southernmost pub in the British Isles. It was also the only pub I’ve ever seen an anemometer in: very useful, apparently, to know the wind speed outside if you want to be certain you won’t be carried off by a gale away out over the Atlantic as soon as you open the door to go home.

Those same gales, of course, bring in the occasional stray avian visitor from thousands of miles away, which makes the island a hot favourite with twitchers, I was told the St Agnes tea shop makes the twitchers hand over the money for their order first before bringing it out, because if the twitchers get sudden news of a sighting of something rare, whoosh, they’re off out the gate without wasting time paying for their cream teas.

When I was there they were selling t-shirts with the Turk on the front and “The most southwesterly pub in the British Isles” on the back, so I think they’ve worked it out!

We should also add that if you are going to Scilly, it’s worth keeping an eye on evening boats as they run for special occasions, including beery ones. On the day we arrived they were running boats to Tresco (and back!) for a beer festival at the New Inn. As we’d just got off the Scillonian, we didn’t fancy another trip quite so soon.

Sorry to butt in but couldn’t help noticing that you missed the other pub in Hugh Town on St Mary’s – The Scillonian Club, here you could have enjoyed well kept real ale from £2.90 a pint with a view over St Mary’s Harbour.
Yours faithfully
The Landlord x

Hello, Rich! We did notice the club, but didn’t count it as a pub. We’ll definitely pop in next time.

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