How Are The Isles Of Scilly Connected To The British Mainland By Air?

Due to extensive uncertainty regarding international travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, domestic travel has become increasingly important in the United Kingdom. The British mainland neighbors several smaller islands, that stretch from the Shetlands in Scotland right down to the Channel Islands, which are nearer to France than the UK. The Isles of Scilly are another significant British archipelago, but how can you get there by air?

Isles of Scilly Skybus
Isles of Scilly Skybus’s largest aircraft is the de Havilland ‘Twin Otter’. Photo: CornwallFlyer via Wikimedia

What are the Isles of Scilly?

The name ‘Isles of Scilly’ refers to a British archipelago that is situated to the southwest of the mainland and consists of 145 small islands and islets. Of these, just five are inhabited, housing a total population of 2,023 permanent residents. As well as its inhabitants, the Isles of Scilly is home to the world’s smallest football league – it has just two teams!

The vast majority of the Isles’ residents (1,723 in the 2011 census) live on St Mary’s. This is the largest island in the archipelago, with an area of just over 6.5 square kilometers. St Mary’s is home to the largest settlement in the Isles of Scilly, Hugh Town.

Hugh Town had a population of 1,097 inhabitants in the 2011 census, and it is the Isles’ administrative center. The other four populated islands are Tresco (3 square km), St Martin’s (2.4 square km), St Agnes (1.5 square km), and Bryher (1.3 square km).

Tresco Heliport
Tresco Heliport serves the archipelago’s second-largest island. Photo: Andrewrabbott via Wikimedia

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Plane journeys to the mainland

In terms of air travel, the Isles’ hub can be found in the form of St Mary’s Airport (ISC). This boasts two asphalt runways, the longest of which measures nearly 700 meters. Isles of Scilly Skybus flies to and from St Mary’s from three mainland destinations in southwest England. These are Land’s End (LEQ), Newquay (NQY), and, seasonally, Exeter (EXT).

The airline presently flies four de Havilland Canada DHC-6 ‘Twin Otter‘ turboprop aircraft. These 19-seaters take 20 minutes to fly from St Mary’s to Land’s End, 30 minutes to Newquay, and an hour to Exeter. Skybus also flies three Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders. It has proudly been providing a vital link between the Isles and the UK mainland since 1984. Simple Flying reviewed a Skybus service from Land’s End to St Mary’s last month.

Isles Of Scilly Skybus
The Britten-Norman BN-2 ‘Islander’ is also known for flying to the Isles of Scilly. Photo: James via Flickr

Helicopters are also an option

In addition to its fixed-wing operations, St Mary’s Airport also sees helicopters from Penzance Heliport (PZE) come and go. Penzance Helicopters operates these services, using aircraft from Sloane Helicopters. The journey time is just 15 minutes.

St Mary’s is not the only destination served by Penzance Helicopters. Indeed, the company also flies its twin-engined, 12-seat AgustaWestland AW139 machines to Tresco Heliport (no IATA code). Once again, these journeys have a scheduled duration of a quarter of an hour.

Overall, the Isles of Scilly is a picturesque corner of the UK with an interesting variety of regional air services allowing mainland visitors to experience its charm.

Have you ever flown to or from the Isles of Scilly? If so, did you do so by plane or helicopter? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!