Family Traveller editor, Jane Anderson, delves into Tresco, Britain's very own slice of island paradise
As you disembark the smart inter-island ferry at Tresco’s New Grimsby pier, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a children’s adventure book (take your pick from Swallows and Amazons, The Famous Five or Treasure Island). Owned by the Dorrien-Smith family, Tresco is one of five inhabited islands that make up the tiny Scilly Isles archipelago, just 28 miles from the tip of Cornwall.
It’s one of those places that once discovered is never forgotten. So beloved is this miniscule island with a micro climate that allows tropical palms and lavish succulents to flourish, families come back year on year and pass down properties through generations.
Its dreamy white-sand beaches and clear azure waters are perhaps more reminiscent of the Maldives than they are of Cornwall. It’s only the water temperature that betrays the illusion; not that it’s a problem for enthusiastic toddlers splashing in the shallows or pushing-the-boundaries teens leaping off the pier.
A first stop for families is the bike hire station. Being a car-free island, cycling is idyllic and safe here, stopping at quirky little honesty stalls en route selling shell jewellery and pot plants, or popping into Gallery Tresco with its local artists proudly on display, and coming across view after gorgeous view.
Interiors geeks will love the Lucy-Tania shop, where you can pick up glorious material and cushion covers, curated and created by the crafts people who make all the tasteful soft furnishings for the holiday cottages.
As you cycle around, you’ll gradually piece the island together by its landmarks, such as Cromwell’s Castle or the Old Blockhouse, a fortification built in 1548 by the government of Edward VI to protect the island against French and Spanish aggression, with awesome views over to neighbouring St Martin’s.
Across scenic Old Grimsby Bay, don’t miss a slap-up pizza lunch at the Ruin Beach Café with its idyllic beach setting. Parents can relax over a bottle of wine and a seafood platter and still keep an eye on kids pottering around the glorious stretch of beach.
Flora and fauna is a key attraction here, thanks to the impressive Tresco Abbey Garden. Kids will feel like Alice in Wonderland as they wander around this botanical dreamland, coming across giant bromeliads form New Zealand, alien-like protea from South Africa, shell grottos and benches clad in moss and lichen.
The family-friendly accommodation on Tresco goes above and beyond with a selection of cottages sleeping up to 10 people. These range from cosy traditional cottages dotted across the island, to New England-style beachfront Flying Boat properties, to luxurious Sea Garden cottages on Tresco’s east coast.
Seabreeze is new this year and has five ensuite bedrooms, open-plan kitchen and dining space, sumptuous lounge and ample outdoor space including yoga deck, fire pit and seafront garden.
Inside it’s all classy coastal cool in the living space and muted tones and calming pastel hues in the lounge. Each bedroom has a different but complementary colour palette and the luxury of a Roberts radio! Lighthouse cottage is also under construction this winter, and it will have four ensuite bedrooms.
Families can dine out around the island or head to Tresco Stores and Deli (more mini Fortnum and Mason than mini mart) to stock up. There’s also a gorgeous wellness centre with indoor and outdoor pool and spa on this tiny island paradise.
Self-catering accommodation costs from £865 (traditional cottages) and from £1,785 (Flying Boat/Sea Gardens) during the Easter and October half-term holidays.
Penzance is the gateway to the Scillies by Scillonian III ferry. Standard singles cost from £55 adults, £28.50 children (aged two to 15), £17 infants (under twos). Or you can fly from Land’s End Airport with Skybus – single flights cost £90.50 adults, £72.50 children (aged two to 15), £30.25 infants (under twos).
Penzance Helicopters also begins a new service from the mainland to both the main island on St Mary’s and Tresco from 17 March 2020 (£245 adults, £205 child return).
For parents who who still crave that boutique hotel experience, there are two gems in town that happily accommodate families en-route to the Scillies. The Artist Residence boutique hotels have built a reputation as some of the most innovative in the UK, and the Penzance property is no exception.
Families can book into the cosy three-bed cottage with its own built-in bunk beds, a separate twin/double room and a master suite. And don’t miss dinner in its rustic smokehouse restaurant, The Cornish Barn, where kids can feast on local burgers with a side of sweet potato fries. The cottage costs from £220 per night.
The Chapel House is an imposing Georgian mansion with the most beautiful lounges filled with light and art. Hidden away in the garden are two fabulous two-storey family apartments. Give the kids the sumptuous bedroom downstairs with its monsoon shower.
Once they’re safely tucked up, head up the wooden stairs to the kitchen cum lounge with plush sofa bed, wood-burning stove and balcony to enjoy a bottle of bubbly and panoramic views of St Michael’s Mount. Family apartments from £250 with breakfast.