St Mary’s is the largest of the islands, stretching three miles across and approximately nine miles in circumference.
The Garrison headland is the most westerly point of St. Marys. Parts of the fortification walls around the Garrison were originally built in the aftermath of the Spanish Armada. The footpath around the Garrison is great for a leisurely stroll. The circular walk offers views of all the off-Islands as you follow the path round, with great views of the sun rise over Peninnis from Morning Point.
Peninnis Headland and Old Town Bay
Follow the wonderful coastal path from Porthcressa Beach round the granite headland of Peninnis and down to the tranquil bay at Old Town. Striking rock formations, almost sculpted in appearance, surround the outer head of Peninnis. Past the lighthouse Pulpit Rock projects out to sea. How near the edge dare you stand? Old Town itself is home to a sheltered and picturesque bay – a great spot for a picnic or sunbathing. In the Churchyard at Old Town you will find the memorial to the victims of the Schiller, shipwrecked in 1875, and the grave of former Prime Minster Harold Wilson. In Old Town you will also find two lovely cafes – Old Town Cafe and Tolman Cafe – and a great real ale pub, the Old Town Inn. There is also a local shop selling hot savouries and art and pottery workshops, including John Bordeaux Pottery, Elm Studio (Christopher Perry) and Chris Smith’s studio.
Holy Vale is one of the most sheltered spots on St. Mary’s. It’s made up of a cluster of traditional granite cottages set in a wooded valley surrounded by sub-tropical plants and flowers. From Holy Vale you can take the wonderful nature trail to Porth Hellick. The winding path through old woodlands follows a little stream. Watch your footing as you wind through the tree roots and pass over the old wooden bridge which crosses the tiny stream. Here you can listen to bird song and spot pretty wild flowers, just like in a fairy tale.
Porth Hellick is home to a freshwater pool and is a popular spot for bird watchers. During the autumn many migrant birds from mainland Europe and North America take shelter here. The bay itself is very sheltered and is home to the prominent Loaded Camel rock formation and the standing stone that marks the spot where the body of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell was washed ashore after his ship, the Association, went down in bad weather near the Western Rocks in 1707.
Follow the coastal path east from Juliet’s Garden restaurant past Carn Morval Point and enjoy fabulous panoramic views across Samson, Bryher and Tresco. At Halangy Down you will find the remains of an ancient village and several burial chambers and tombs. Follow the path and road around further to Bar Point and Innisidgen where two further examples of burial chambers can be found. If you carry on along the coastal path you will drop down to Watermill Cove, a hidden gem and great spot for a swim in the summer months.
One of St. Mary’s most secluded beaches – a beautiful spot for a picnic and often sheltered. Pelistry Bay is a broad sandy beach. At low tide you can walk across the sand bar to Toll’s islands. Look out for the resident seals in the warmer months. If you fancy a spot of lunch or an afternoon tea, take the short walk up to Carn Vean tea rooms.