• James & Holly

The Island of St Martin's

Wine is one of those things which can truly capture a place - the concept of terroir as expressed through the wine is the combination of soil, climate and vine which creates a wine unique to the plot of land it is grown on. So it goes without saying that our English Wine Week series of Guided Tours needs to include a post about the island of St Martin's itself!

Thrift flowering on Perpitch - just a few hundred metres along the coast from St Martin's Vineyard

First of all a primer, in case you aren't familiar with the geography of Scilly! St Martin's is one of the five inhabited islands which make up the Isles of Scilly archipelago, along with 140 other smaller uninhabited islands. The islands are part of Cornwall, although they are situated 28 miles south-west of the mainland. If you reach Land's End and keep going, you'll find us! St Mary's is the largest of the islands and is home to the majority of the inhabitants, whilst St Martin's lies a little to the north with a small and incredibly friendly community of around 140 people.


The Isles of Scilly with St Martin's visible as the large island to the north-east

The island is just under a square mile in size, but it's an island of impressive contrasts; Par Beach and Great Bay are wide expanses of soft white sand lapped by clear turquoise waters which could easily give the Caribbean a run for its money, whilst a walk up to the Daymark or across the causeway to White Island presents you with wilder heathland habitats and rocky cliffs down to the Atlantic churning below. With seven miles of wildflower-studded coastline to explore whilst seals bob just offshore to watch you pass by, it is a walker's and wildlife lover's paradise! Scilly's subtropical climate allows some exotic plant-life to flourish, which makes for some stunning displays as you explore the island. The colourful flowers nestled amongst the stone walls and in pretty cottage gardens are quite something!


The turqoise seas and sandy beaches which characterise St Martins' southern coastline

Thanks to its enviable position, the low levels of artificial lighting and the clear sea air, Scilly has some of the darkest night skies in the country and on a clear night, the canopy of stars with the Milky Way stretched above you is simply breathtaking. One of our most exciting recent developments is COSMOS - a community observatory which is open to visitors throughout the summer to explore the night sky. Whilst St Martin's is most popular in the summer, the draw of the night sky brings visitors in the spring and autumn too, with the Dark Skies Week at the beginning of October being a key event in any keen astronomer's diary.


The milky way visible over the eastern isles - viewed from the top of St Martin's Vineyard

We are in excellent company here with many local food and drink producers - if you're fond of a glass of wine, you might also be interested in checking out SC Dogs who produce premium rum and vodka right here on the island. The vineyard itself is right next door to two fantastic eateries - Little Arthur's Cafe and Adam's Fish and Chips, both of which grow, harvest, catch, cook and serve all of the food on offer - you can't get much more local than that! And islanders and visitors alike are kept well fed by Scilly Organics who grow an impressive range of fresh fruit and vegetables; from leeks, kale and purple sprouting in the winter through to strawberries, peaches and cape gooseberries in the summer.


A still from James Martin's 'Islands to Highlands' which explored Scilly cuisine & finished with a bottle of St Martin's Red!

It might be a little much to claim that we can capture all of this in a bottle of wine... but we think it's a great place to start!

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