Hugh Town, England

Photo: don cload [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: don cload [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
You’re craving a trip to England. You want to see historical sites older than your own country, eat real fish and chips, and listen to that accent that always sounds so proper, even when nothing proper is being said. But there’s one problem. You aren’t ready to trade summer weather for gray skies. The summer just isn’t long enough. So England will have to wait. Unless you visit the sunniest place in the country.

This isn’t a joke. There really is a place in England known for its Mediterranean climate. The Isles of Scilly are located about 30 miles southwest of Cornwall. The five main islands have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Rough seas separate them from the mainland. Farmers and fishermen, puffins and grey seals live here. While gardens, vineyards, and windswept beaches dot the small islands.

You arrive on St. Mary’s, the largest of the Isles of Scilly. The ferry from Penzance docks in Hugh Town, where fishing boats bob in the harbor, little shops fill the main street, and a castle stands guard from a rocky peninsula. That castle, Star Castle, is an eight-point, star-shaped fortress that was built in 1593 following the Spanish Armada. Gun batteries line the garrison, the dungeon is now a bar, and the views facing west are breathtaking.

You’ll return to your hotel—ahem, castle—later, but right now, it’s time to explore. Visit Old Town, the islands’ oldest settlement, to see the remains of Ennor Castle and St. Mary’s Old Church. Climb to the island’s highest point, Telegraph Tower, to stop at an 1803 lookout tower and Bant’s Carn, a 3rd century BC stone burial chamber. See the art studios on Rocky Hill. Pass stocky common snipes and red-billed water rails in the wetland areas. And beach hop between Watermill Cove, Porthloo Beach, and Porthmellon Beach.

It’s at this last beach, Porthmellon Beach, where you find Spero’s, a beachside restaurant. Grab a table on the deck, order a Scillonian crab sandwich, and sip a glass of Seyval Blanc wine. White-capped waves crash against the shore. A fishermen whistles as he fixes his boat. Two seagulls fight over a small fish. While you soak up the sun and the salty air. Your craving has been completely satisfied.

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