The island with the garden
Tresco is a small, family-owned island measuring about two and a half miles long by a mile wide at its broadest point. It is the second largest island in the group with an amazing variety of scenery which is basically in three parts. In the north the landscape is wild and barren with the wind-blasted heathland and rugged granite outcrops. It is here that the visitor can explore King Charles's Castle, built in 1554 to defend New Grimsby Channel. During the Civil War, the fortress fell to parliamentary forces and a new fortification built from the ruins was constructed on the shoreline called Cromwell's Castle. Over at Old Grimsby on the east side of Tresco overlooking the white sandy bay at New Grimsby, the substantial remains of a small 16th century gun tower known as The Old Blockhouse can be found. It was built to protect the harbour and it was vigorously defended during the Civil War. Oliver's Battery, in the south of the island, by the Carn Near quay, was erected shortly after the capture of Tresco by Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War. It was built by Admiral Robert Blake in 1651 to lead the attack on St. Mary's. It is now ruined, and owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.
In 1105 Henry I gave Tresco to Tavistock Abbey which established a priory on the island, it was abolished at the Reformation and dismantled by Henry VIII in 1539. The island is administered for the crown by the Duchy of Cornwall and is leased to the Dorrien-Smith estate, which runs it as a time-share business. The Dorrien-Smith family (descended from Augustus Smith) have held the position of Lord Proprietors of the Scilly Islands since 1834. Augustus Smith (1804-1872), who became the Lord Proprietor of the islands, helped bring a prosperity to Scilly that is still enjoyed today. He built his home, Tresco Abbey, alongside the ruins of the old priory and set about creating a world class garden. Thomas Algernon Smith-Dorrien-Smith took over in 1872, then his son Arthur Algernon Dorrien-Smith took control in 1918 until 1920 when ownership reverted to the Duchy of Cornwall. Today, the Dorrien-Smith estate still holds the lease for the island of Tresco.
The church of Tresco is dedicated to St. Nicholas, who is the patron saint of sailors, children, travellers, merchants and those in distress, hence very appropriate. The current church was designed in 1829 to a very high standard by Lieutenant Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith in the memory of his uncle Augustus John Smith. It was funded by Lady Sophia Tower; the builders names are recorded in the porch.
The central section of the island is made up of green fields, cottages and farmland which leads down through an avenue of high, dense trees to the world famous Abbey Garden with its fine collection of sub-tropical and exotic plants growing with a luxuriance unknown elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Apart from plants obtained from Kew Gardens, ships captains and Scillonian master mariners were encouraged to bring back seedlings from distant lands and in the warm air and rich ground of Tresco, tree ferns from New Zealand, proteus and aloes from South Africa, acacias and eucalyptus from Australia soon took root and flourished in the magnificent garden. Tresco has two freshwater pools - the Abbey Pool and the Great Pool - and both attract birds such as Dunlins, Plovers and ducks such as Mallard and Teal. In the autumn rare migrants can often be spotted.
Beyond the garden, along the southward and eastern shoreline are some of the islands magnificent beaches, and it is here that the visitor can find countless shells such as periwinkles and guinea money amongst the silky, quartz-coloured sands.
Tresco is rich with evocative names such as Appletree bay, Tobaccomans point and racket town and in the Shipwreck Museum at Valhalla in the Abbey Gardens are the poignant and beautiful figureheads and stern-plates from some of the many wrecks around the islands. The collection of nearly 60 relics includes brass signal guns, bronze cannon and magnificently restored busts and nameplates.
Tresco is served by a year round helicopter link with Penzance and has a sub-post office and general store, a public house, cafes, two hotels, self-catering cottages, time-share and an Anglican church.
A community of about 150 people permanently lives on the island, with a mixture of young and old alike. Some families have lived on the island for many generations. There is a high percentage of young families and it is considered a safe and secure playground for children of all ages.
The Tresco Triathlon is held in mid June each year.
Ruin Beach Cafe
The New Inn
The Isles of Scilly
Tresco Abbey Gardens Cromwell's Castle King Charles's Castle Old Blockhouse
St. Mary's St. Martin's Bryher St. Agnes The Uninhabited Islands