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Holiday Guides for United Kingdom - England

Take a Scilly holiday

Discover the Isles of Scilly, the UK's island paradise

The Isles of Scilly are Britain's answer to an island paradise. Lying 28 miles off the coast of Land's End, they consist of five inhabited islands and a further 100 uninhabited ones - each having its own individual charm.

They feel a world away from the mainland, but the Scillies are accessible via a short flight on an aeroplane or helicopter. The Scillionian III, which sails from Penzance, offers travellers a more leisurely way of arriving on the islands.

Most passengers book flights to the main island, St Mary's, where there are boat connections to the four smaller islands - Tresco, St Martin's, St Agnes and Bryher. Flights operate out of Land's End, Exeter, Newquay, Bristol, Cardiff and Southampton - with the best flight offers to be found off-season.

The helicopter also flies to Tresco, the second-largest island, and one made famous by the Abbey Gardens - described as "a perennial Kew without the glass". The garden, which enjoys a tropical climate, is home to 80 species of plants hailing from countries ranging from Brazil to Burma. Tresco is the only island that remains privately owned, by the Dorrien-Smith family.

Visitors to the Scillies tend to choose their island carefully. St Mary's is the largest and has the most to do - but to sample the real Scilly, travellers should opt to stay on one of the off-islands. Perhaps the most charming is Bryher, home to around 50 permanent residents. On its one side, Bryher faces the full force of the Atlantic, while the other is home to the calm waters of the Tresco Channel and the Mediterranean-esque Green Bay. From Watch Hill, the islands' highest point, visitors are afforded superb panoramic views - and on a clear day, you can just about see Land's End in the distance.

St Martin's, the most easterly of the inhabited islands, has arguably the best beaches. It is also home to the quayside St Martin's Hotel, which was built to look like a row of granite cottages.

St Agnes has more of an individual feel. While it doesn't offer much in the way of beaches, it has probably the islands' best-known pub, the Turk's Head. It is also home to Scilly's most recognisable building, the old lighthouse, and is a hot-spot for coastal walks.

Part of the charm of Scilly is the lack of cars, so car hire is out of the question. Apart from a small number of roads on St Mary's, the Scillies preferred mode of transport, on dry land at least, is a quad bike or Land Rover. Tourists tend to use their own two feet - you can walk the entire coast of Bryher, for example, in one afternoon.

According to the 2006 census, the population of the Isles of Scilly is 2,100 - 1,068 of whom live in the capital on St Mary's, Hugh Town.

The islands' weather is unique in Britain. The effect of the Gulf Stream ensures that snow or frost is something of a rarity, while exposure to strong winds that roll in off the Atlantic can often result in some spectacular winter gales.

Potential visitors to the islands are encouraged to lay their hands on a holiday guide, which will inform them of the different types of accommodation available on the islands.