The friendly island of Bryher is a rugged yet beautiful island of vibrant contrasts located 28 miles off the Cornish coast. Just one and half miles long by half a mile wide its coast line is remarkably varied.
We left the island of Tresco after a memorable dinner at the Ruin Beach Café. Early morning at the New Inn and I look out to the trot of moorings that runs up between Tresco and Bryher. It is pretty quiet at this time of year, but magnificently blue.
All visiting seafarers are invited to use the New Inn’s showers as part of the deal. You pay just £2 a night to enjoy this nirvana, including water and rubbish collection, but a visit to the New Inn is the icing on the top.
Set around a courtyard that is a garden back from the shore, most rooms get an impeccable view over to Bryher, and many a glorious sunset. For breakfast help yourself to fruit, cereals and fresh baked breads and croissants. There is a choice of pancakes or the full English – what decisions – but I need to catch the ferry to Bryher this morning, to find out ‘Why the whales came’, so I go for pancakes and do not regret it. A fluffy batch with proper crispy, streaky bacon and a good jug of maple syrup.
A short, brisk stroll and I am aboard the ferry over to Anneka’s Jetty (aka Bar), so named when the enthusiastic, track-suited Radio 2 DJ took the challenge from the Islanders to rebuild this vital low water landing point.
HEADING TO HELL
Bryher is the smallest of the Scillies and whilst its east coast is sheltered the west coast faces the full brunt of the Atlantic and there is always a bit of wave watching to be done out at Hell Bay. This is where I am heading.
I pop into Island Fish as I wander up the quiet lane from the quay and all is a frenzy of boxing and packing as Amanda prepares to take her stall to Tresco for the afternoon market. This family business is thriving, with father, daughter and husband all helping out, from the catch to the cook.
“We all knew well enough that the west coast of the island was dangerous, far too dangerous for children, whatever the weather……….At Shipman’s Head and Hell Bay there were black cliffs hundreds of feet high that rose sheer from the churning sea below. Here even on the calmest of days the waves could sweep you off the rocks and take you out to sea.” From ‘Why the Whales came’.
I keep going, as I do not want to miss lunch, but am tempted by Bryher Gallery and the well packed village shop. Ahead of me I see a spread of low buildings and beyond this I can see waves breaking, though it is a very calm, warm day.
I have arrived at Hell Bay – which clearly it is not. Everything is very quiet. I am a little late and most of the residents are out walking, sailing or visiting the other islands, so I can enjoy the art on the walls and the view from the sheltered patio.
Chatting to Philip Callan, who manages the Hell Bay Hotel, he explained that the hotel quietens down in early October and shuts before half term, as there is not quite enough to do here as the days get colder and shorter.
Most guests stay on Tresco and visit Hell Bay for lunch or dinner. Its reputation is superb, and I have no complaint with my pastrami sandwich, but look forward to visiting another time to try the full shebang and sample the delights of the Crab Shack.
I just have time to pop into the lovely little church of All Saints on the path to ‘Quay’ and am rewarded with some delightful stained glass, with a light touch on the colour it looks modern and discover the artist’s mark of the phoenix which means it is Oriel Hicks’ work on neighbouring St Marys.
Other top eating places on Bryher are Fraggle Rock, fondly referred to as ‘the pub’ and the cosy Vine Café, a top stop off for walkers in need of a sausage sarnie or afternoon tea. One of our followers reports…
“This cafe is wonderfully old fashioned and the owner works extremely hard, seemingly on her own, constantly baking delicious cakes and meals. I do not know how she does it! The atmosphere is very relaxed so fits in perfectly with Bryher. We had coffee, tea, scones and cake which were all delicious and at a reasonable price. The decor is unchanged – it is cosy without being fussy, with old cushions, children’s games. All very reassuring to come back to year after year. But the main thing is, of course, the food which is wonderful. Unfortunately we missed the lemon meringue pie this time but hopefully next year.” Yottie West Country
Fraggle Rock does a Friday fish & chip night, year round, and is very popular with kayakers who can come in straight off the water as it enjoys a sheltered spot just north of Bar.
I need to be on the quay for 3.30 and admire the crystal clear waters as a Jet Boat whizzes over, hails me from the cabin and I jump aboard after a gaggle of school children swap places. I get back on Tresco to find a fine gaggle of shoppers at the Island Fish stall and all the lobsters gone. Never mind, I am off to the New Inn for the seafood risotto and sticky toffee pudding – and the next chapter in Why the Whales came!
Dates for the diary:
World Gig Championships: 29 April – 2 May
Low tide pop-ups; Mussels & Prosecco: 8 May
Why the Whales Came is a children’s story written by Michael Morpurgo and first published in 1985. It is set on the island of Bryher in the year 1914.
need to know
The New Inn 01720 422844 – open year round
The Vine Café 01720 423168 – open for Easter 2016
Fraggle Rock 01720 422222 – open year round for Friday F&C +
Hell Bay 01720 424122
Island Fish 01720 423880
Samson Hill Pizzas – 07450 521137 who do wood fired take-out pizzas during summer