Special Voyages

Top Ten Anchorages in the Scillies

Top ten anchorages in the Scillies

If you’re lucky and have signed up for an Isles of Scilly sailing holiday with us, you might well visit some of these beautiful (not so secret now) anchorages. 

If you aren’t so lucky and haven’t booked your place yet, then…

Head straight to our Isles of Scilly Voyages here

Our Classic Sailing skippers have been exploring the Isles of Scilly since 1997. We often get asked “how many island anchorages can you visit in the Scillies ?”

The Cove between St Agnes & Gugh

The screech of terns rather than car tyres greets you here as the anchor drops in the crystal clear waters. Best to drop it over sand where you can see 7 metres down, as a few submarine cables lurk on the sea bed like a Loch Ness monster. There are no cars on the island, just a few tractors taking travellers bags from the ferry boat quay to the Troy Town Farm campsite.

I have sailed all over the world from the Indian Ocean to Patagonia and St Agnes still has the clearest seas I have ever swum in. I describe it as like diving into a gin and tonic and just as icy….but wow does it clear your head and make your body fizz.

The sand glitters with mica and at low water the larger island of St Agnes connects with Gugh with an impressive natural causeway that changes shape from month to month.

You can search for glass beads in beady pool on Wingletang Common, or grab a bottle of wine from the Turks Head and go and watch the sun go down over the Western Rocks.

A pilot cutter in the Cove
A pilot cutter in the Cove


Porth Conger – Row your gig to the Turks Head

A one boat anchorage for deep keeled vessels like Eve or Agnes and plenty of kelp so light winds only. This is the way the small inter island ferries come into St Agnes stone quay so you can watch the whole world go by. There is a steep slipway straight from the Turks Head Pub  into Porth Conger – if you want a swift exit.

The Turk Head on St Agnes. The most South Westerly pub in England.
The Turk Head on St Agnes. The most South Westerly pub in England.


Great Ganilly Amongst the Eastern Rocks

You could get a sailing ship in this one, and we have. Adam took 116 ft gaff ketch Bessie Ellen into this less well-known anchorage surrounded by deserted islands. We have swum with seals in the kelp forest, cooked mackerel and pollock for breakfast on the beach and been spied on by peregrine falcon chicks high up in the granite cliffs in the past. Crews have rowed around nearby Menewerthan where the seals hang out on a rocky reef. At low water you can walk to Nour Nour where there are remains of a bronze age settlement. When we had Eve of St Mawes, Ganilly was one of our adopted beaches and crews would often do a beach clean and take the rubbish that washes up away. We hope the other vessels in the fleet will continue the tradition.

Uninhabited island is ours for the evening. Ganilly in the Isles of Scilly
Un-inhabited island is ours for the evening. Ganilly in the Isles of Scilly


St Helen’s Pool & Golden Ball Reef

A long bit of pilotage to get into this large ship anchorage protected by St Helen’s, Tean and Golden Ball Reef and a lot of sand banks at low tide. At high water it looks very lonely and exposed with no inhabited islands nearby and many small bird reserve islands. At low water your crew will be very impressed to be in a perfect natural rockpool with room for a small fleet of tall ships. In past times ships would anchor here and drop off any crew with contagious diseases in the quarantine hut on St Helen’s. At night the sweep of Round Island light wakes the bird colonies so there is always the sound of seabirds and the rumble of surf on Golden Ball Reef. 

Agnes amongst the Eastern Isles in the Scillies
Agnes amongst the Eastern Isles in the Scillies


Great Bay, St Martin’s – where are the turtles ?

A low tide entry is best for this inviting looking sweep of sand and high dunes on the back of St Martin’s. Many underwater rocks lurk on the outer approaches but once behind them you are in paradise.  Make sure you have an exit plan though for any state of tide, as swell can swing in quickly. The sand is so soft and so few footprints spoilt this pristine bay, you can almost imagine turtles coming into nest in the moonlight (they don’t, but it does look very Caribbean-like in the sunshine)

ships boat from Sailing lugger Grayhound, Sailing in the Isles of Scilly
ships boat from Sailing lugger Grayhound, anchored in Great Bay, Isles of Scilly


Bryher – Under Hangman’s Rock

There are some very robust moorings in the fjord-like New Grimsby Sound between Bryher and Tresco, but they are popular in peak season. You can still anchor between Hangman’s Rock and Cromwell’s Castle although landing at low water in a dinghy is difficult. Sunsets over Shipman Head are great, and the water in this deep tidal sound is amazingly clear.  Henry the Tresco harbourmaster is one of my favourite Scillonians so please be nice to him.

Classic Sailing Top 10 Anchorages in the Scillies
Classic Sailing Top 10 Anchorages in the Scillies


Old Grimsby – The Other side of Tresco

Stunning for wading birds on the sand dunes and sand/mud flats at dawn and dusk and great for spotting the ‘lesser spotted watersportus sloanus’ in the mid-day sun. Same view as the Atlantic Hotel but for a smidgeon of the cost.

low tide view from Eastern Tresco sand flats by Will Wagstaff
low tide view from Eastern Tresco sand flats by Will Wagstaff

Sampson – When the Whales Came

Agnes has anchored here but Eve always goes to Scilly on Spring tides so the Puffin Island anchorage seems too shallow. Sampson starred in the children’s film “When the Whales Came” and it is true that the islanders abandoned it as life was just too hard to survive.

Porth Cressa – Retail Therapy Anchorage

The nicest out-of-town car park for boats in the Scillies. Just the other side of the isthmus from Hugh Town harbour. Lovely beach and nice walks around the garrison wall or around the whole island. Buy a souvenir shirt with “6 degrees West” on it to prove you beat out into the Atlantic to Scilly against the prevailing winds. You deserve it!  Wave at Will Wagstaff’s house – our island wildlife guide.

Secret Anchorage number 1

Sorry – you’ll just have to sail with us for this one.

Big Ship Anchorage – St Mary’s Sound

If you have a beautiful tall ship, why hide it? Be the centre of attention and make sure everyone on the islands knows you are visiting. Watch the twice weekly gig boat races from the privacy of your own deck.


seal in the Scillies
"Mine. My Island" – Western Grey Seal by Debbie Purser

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