St. Mary's

St. Mary's


The Mainland of the Islands



The largest island in the group yet still only two and a half miles by one and three quarters, St. Mary's is the administrative hub of the islands and the terminus for year round transport links with the mainland. The main town, Hugh Town, was sold to the inhabitants by the British crown in 1949. The rest of the island belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall. St. Mary's is the only island within the Isles of Scilly with a significant road network; in 2005 there were 619 cars and vans on St. Mary's.

Dramatic scenery, ancient burial chambers, arts and crafts, or a visit to the bulb fields - St. Mary's, with its shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and hotels, offers a lively centre for your holiday. Vics Tours provide an amusing view of the island today, whereas the Longstone Heritage Centre and the Museum in Hugh Town give a glimpse of the past. Children will enjoy Porthcressa beach and a walk around the Garrison combines a look at the Elizabethan fort, Star Castle, with a panoramic view of the off-islands. St. Mary's provides an ideal base from which to explore, using the launches which operate daily between the islands.

St. Mary's

The capital is Hugh Town, which sits on a narrow sandbar and is in reality no bigger than a village. However, most of the towns facilities may be found here - Barclays and Lloyds bank (which has a cashpoint), a sub-post office, hospital/health centre and various shops offering groceries, hardware, clothing, books, newspapers, souvenirs and suntan lotion. The population in the 2001 census was 1,666.

By sea, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company provides a passenger and cargo service from Penzance, which is currently operated by the Scillonian III passenger ferry, supported by the Gry Maritha cargo vessel. The other islands are linked to St. Mary's by a network of inter-island launches. The ship to Penzance and the fleet of colourful inter-island launches to the off-islands operate from the quay. By air, the island is served by St. Mary's Airport. Although most of the accommodation is in Hugh Town, guest houses and self-catering accommodation may be found elsewhere on St. Mary's.

The Mermaid Inn sits on the end of the quay and the local brew just has to be sampled. It also has an excellent restaurant upstairs overlooking the quay.

There is a circular bus service that operates from Easter through to October on the nine miles of road, linking most of the island's communities. Various coach, minibus and vintage car tours run during the summer, bicycles may be hired and taxis are normally available throughout the year.

St. Mary's Church is a parish church located in Hugh Town. It was designed and built by Augustus Smith who was at this period the Lord Protector of the Islands. The church was consecrated on 7th September 1838 and replaced the church at Old Town which was inconvenient for the Hugh Town population and in need of repair. The interior contains the coloured and gilded wooden lion from the flagship of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, wrecked here in 1707.

The Anglican church of St. Mary was built at Old Town during the 12th century, with re-building carried out in 1666 and 1743. By the 19th century, it was derelict and under the orders of Augustus Smith, Lord Proprietor of the Islands, it was restored. The churchyard has been enlarged and re-designed several times. Today it is divided into several sections with the oldest surrounding the church itself. This part of the cemetery features a monument to Augustus Smith as well as mass graves of passengers drowned in the sinking of SS 'Schiller' in 1875. During the 19th century, terraces were cut into the hillside to make room for more burials. The grave of Lieutenant Roy Graham (1924–2007), who led the 1967 naval diving expedition that discovered the wreck of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell's flagship HMS 'Association', can be found in one of the newer sections of the cemetery.

The remains of a small castle known as Ennor Castle exists in the village of Old Town on the south coast of St. Mary's. The castle occupies a small but prominent knoll on the east side of the broad Lower Moors valley behind Old Town Bay. The walls of the keep no longer survive above ground level though there is some unmortared walling and a spread of dense rubble on the south east side. The earliest reference to Ennor Castle is in a deed of 1244 and by 1306 Ranulf de Blanchminster held the castle. A royal licence to crenellate the castle was granted to Ranulf in 1315. The fortunes of the castle were eclipsed when the fortification of Scilly was revised to serve national defence considerations in the late 16th century, when Star Castle was built. Ennor Castle became redundant and its stone was used for building purposes in the village of Old Town.

John Wesley preached here on 13th September 1743. The Wesleyan Methodist Society was established in 1788 and the first chapel erected in 1790. This was replaced in 1828. The present Methodist church was built in 1899 by A.J. Trenear in Hugh Town and is part of the Isles of Scilly Methodist Circuit.

There are many ancient monuments to be discovered on the island from a megalithic village and tombs to Civil War fortifications. Including an uncompleted 16th century fort known as Harry's Walls which was intended to command the harbour of St. Mary's. The Museum in Hugh Town and the Heritage Centre in the middle of the island, display much of Scilly's rich history. A lighthouse is located on the southernmost point of the island at Peninnis Head and was built in 1911. Giant's Castle is an Iron Age cliff castle on the coastal path between the airfield and Porth Hellick Bay.

The Coastguard's Lookout Tower is also known as the Telegraph Tower. It was used by Radio Scilly for broadcasting. Dating from 1803, it was one of three gun towers built on St. Mary's by Major Daniel Lyman. They were intended to accommodate eight to ten men and mount a 32-pounder carronade at the top. It was at this tower about 1898 that Guglielmo Marconi heard wireless signals transmitted from Porthcurno, a distance of thirty miles.

There has been an RNLI lifeboat station on St. Mary's since 1837. The first two lifeboats were kept in a boathouse on the town beach at Hugh Town. Following its closure in 1855 the lifeboat station was re-opened in 1874 and a boathouse was built on the beach at Porth Cressa. In 1899 a new boathouse and slipway were built at Carn Thomas and the first motor boat arrived in 1919. The station has a remarkable history of bravery with 56 awards for gallantry being presented to the crews.

Five Islands Academy (previously Five Islands School) has a combined primary and secondary campus in St. Mary's. A boarding house, Mundesley Boarding House, serves secondary students from other islands. Students at the sixth-form college level reside and board elsewhere, in mainland Great Britain.

The Islands swimming pool is at Carn Friars Lane, TR21 9AB.

Holy Vale Vineyard in the centre of the island was planted in 2009 by the owners of Star Castle.

Notable Residents

Sir Harold Wilson KG, OBE, PC, FRS, FSS (1916-1995) had a holiday bungalow on St. Mary's in the 1960's and could often been seen wandering around the island. He was later buried at St. Mary's old church in May 1995.

John Godolphin (1617–1678) An English jurist and writer, an admiralty judge under the Commonwealth, was born on St. Mary's..

Augustus John Smith (1804–1872) Was Lord Proprietor of the Isles of Scilly for over thirty years. In 1834 he acquired the lease on the Isles of Scilly from the Duchy of Cornwall for £20,000.

Ancient Sites

Bant's Carn Burial Chamber and Halangy Down Ancient Village

Ennor Castle

Garrison Walls

Giants Castle

Harry's Walls

Innisidgen Lower and Upper Burial Chambers

Porth Hellick Down Burial Chamber

Art Galleries

Art Galleries on St. Mary's


Potteries in St. Mary's


Walk Scilly - April.

World Pilot Gig Championships - End of April.

Isles of Scilly Regatta - End August.

Taste of Scilly Festival - Early September.


Cafes in St. Mary's


Pubs in St. Mary's

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