Cornwall And The Scilly Isles – Magical Places To Explore

Cornwall And The Scilly Isles – Magical Places To Explore


I recently spent a week on the Scilly Isles and then a week in Cornwall two stunning locations with plenty to do and inspire teachers for their next  school trip.

A number of schools were on the Scillonian III  when I set off for the Scilly Isles.  One teacher from Bishop Stopford School near Kettering told me that they had been visiting the Scillies annually for 50 years!

 Each  year they set up camp near the Garrison on St Mary’s for four weeks and each week a different group from Year 8 spends the week camping with their teachers. Not only does this build confidence and independence it also helps them work as a team, learn about the geography of their own country and above all it is a week where computers and phones are banned and teaches them that you can survive without a phone! 

The main island is St Mary’s where most people stay and each day they can catch a different boat to one of the neighbouring islands, Tresco, Bryher, St Agnes or St Martins.  The boats are operated by the Boatmen’s Association who post the times of departure on the quay each morning depending upon the tides and the weather.  Visiting a different island, spotting wildlife and exploring it for a day is quite magical and teaches skills such as orienteering and map reading.  

As there is only one bus an hour they also have to learn to rely on their own two feet and another school camping at the far end of the island walked each day into Hugh Town almost three miles using the green lanes and tracks that run through the heart of the island, probably a new experience for many of the youngsters and an experience and memory that would last forever!

Heading back to Cornwall to stay was another magical experience.  There is so much to see and do and it is a shame that more schools do not make the journey to the south-west of England. I popped into the Lost Gardens of Heligan rescued by Tim Smitt in 1990 and now one of the most visited in this part of the world.  He then went on to create the Eden Project a popular venue where we take schools on a regular basis and makes a great  combined two day visit with Trebah Gardens when studying the rainforest.  Visit first the Tropical bio-dome at Eden combined with the workshop ‘don’t forget your leech socks’ an interesting insight into jungle life.  Follow this by a visit to Trebah Gardens situated in a steep valley where you start at the top looking over the canopy of tree before descending into the undergrowth below.  Its bit like descending into a jungle and the amazing plants were brought back  from all over the world

Immersing pupils in the nature, magic and stunning scenery of Cornwall inspires them in their learning.  The Seal Sanctuary at Gweek teaches them pupils about conservation and the environment and what pollution is doing to our seas and marine life.  Another geographical feature is coastal erosion and Bedruthan Steps on the Atlantic coast and is a firm favourite amongst the schools we look after for an educational trip, though we do always recommend to use a guide who specialises in both geology and fauna of the area and also knows the tides and dangers of the area.

Art and Drama is another favourite to study in Cornwall as many artists have over the century flocked to the area because of the light and stunning landscape.  The Tate at St Ives combined with an art workshop on the beach is a fun and exhilarating experience.   Visiting the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives and seeing where the artist lived and her sculptures in her garden competes the trip. 

For drama students, a visit to the Minack Theatre is a must.   I remember watching a performance of Evita here on a summer’s night as the sun went down, a truly wonderful moment.

The history of Cornwall is all around you.  St Michaels Mount is a famous landmark and a romantic place to visit.  Walking across the causeway to the harbour and catching a boat back if the tide is in is great fun and the history of the house and estate is fascinating too.  Dotted over the landscape are megalithic tombs, English Heritage protects many of the castles and famous landmarks in Cornwall, including Tintagel Castle and dating back to the Iron Age, the ancient villages of  Carb Euny and Chysauster both worth visiting and with all English Heritage sites free entry to schools.  

The China Clay quarries stand out like snow as you drive down the A30 still working today they are however a shadow of the major industry and employer they once were.  Another industry of a bygone time are the disused mines dotted inland and along the coast they are an iconic feature of the Cornish landscape and a thriving industry now lost, but a landscape that is constantly changing as the tall windmills that now sweep the hills are a source of alternative energy.

Geevor Tin Mines near St Ives is was one of the last surviving mines in Cornwall and makes another excellent educational visit teaching children about the history and life of the miners and the hardship they endured.  Wheal Martyn, the China Clay Mining Museum at St Austell, is another source of learning about the mining in the area.

There is so much to see and do, theme parks and excellent museums to visit as well as great houses and villages not to mention the opportunity of enjoying some water sports.  Cookery lessons can be had to learn about where our food comes from and the fruits of the sea.  There are plenty of sailing and surfing schools which offer lessons for schools and beginners in a controlled and safe way, but be warned teachers are encouraged to take part!

Above all total immersion in another world with nature is something that so many children do not experience these days is a valuable lesson for life.

For more information on our tailor made trips for schools to Cornwall email


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