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Flying Land's End to Scilly

Two yellow footprints on a metal plate. Ordered to stand there, they weighed us as carefully as the suitcases. This is Lands’ End Airport. Weight counts. A glance through the terminal’s large picture windows to the propeller driven cigar holders explained why. This is old fashioned flying.

The safety briefing before we boarded was brief but longer than the flight. Told escape exits are by the front and rear seats and how to operate them, it was reassuring until the two of us boarded. We were in the middle two seats. Elderly passengers struggling to climb in front and back wouldn't be nimbly vacating their seats in an emergency, and there was no aisle on the tiny BN2 Islander. On this flight to St. Mary’s in the Scillies we were going nowhere in an emergency but down.

One of the two pilots - squeezed together so tightly they should have been married for decency’s sake - turned to the

wheezing couple sitting in front of us. ‘I’m glad it’s you,’ the woman passenger said, ‘you got us there safely last year.’ I was tempted to ask what happened the year before, but I was worried I'd hear a story of heroic rescues and the sad demise of the couple in the middle two seats.

‘Remember,’ a young woman by the door told everyone before closing it, ‘the lifejackets are under your seat.’ Believe me, our travelling companions were barely capable of getting into their seats and definitely in no condition to bend to get under them.


The prop on the right jerked and spun into life and the left followed. The pilots suddenly looked serious and began fiddling with switches and levers on a primitive panel. The engine revved, the plane shook and we catapulted forward, rising and banking to a fine view of the Cornish coast.

I let go my partner’s broken fingers, readying to lever the couple in front out of the escape door, but sooner than you could say, ‘l've messed my pants,’ the Scillies appeared out of the mist like green puddles in a blue desert.


Losing altitude, there beneath us was the passenger ship Scillonian—the only other route to the Scillies for all but the very wealthy who helicopter into Tresco. Correcting and re-correcting to align for landing, the co-pilot counting down height, the view changed to a rising hill (aren’t runways supposed to be flat?). A thud, screech of tyres and swerve to keep us on the tarmac that Dele Alli would have been proud of, and we were down.

Flying to the Scillies is FLYING as it used to be: shakey, noisy, unnerving and expensive (£328 for the two of us). The flat bottomed Scillonian (flat so it can navigate into the shallow island waters) is cheaper but famous for it’s gut-wrenching rolling ride and the sea shanty (sung to the filling of sick bags) ‘I don’t care how much the flights cost, I’ll never do this again.'


I have been one of those unhappy souls—that’s why I choose to fly. The only other alternative is not visiting the Scillies. A notion not worth considering. All the islands are a walking gem. You don't need a guide, just follow the ocean. St, Mary's is the easiest for accommodation but you still need to book early. From there, boats are available each morning to take you to the other islands. Each has its own personality (and pub).









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martin@martindinham.co.uk

Location: Exeter, Devon.

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