#OnTheRoad On Instagram: Isles Of Scilly

For the next few days on Instagram, Gadling is off to the Isles of Scilly.

The Isles of Scilly sit about 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall, which occupies the far southwest of England. The islands, just five of which are inhabited, are known for their mild Gulf Stream-enabled climate, white sand beaches, palm trees, turquoise waters and historic gardens. Tourism is the local economy’s chief motor; the islands are also known for their flower industry.

The smallest of England’s 326 districts with around 2200 inhabitants, the Isles of Scilly are an understated place popular with families and a smattering of British celebrities. Both seem to like the islands for their carefree, relaxed atmosphere. But while the islands are dotted with a few high-end properties and restaurants, they are largely devoid of the glitz and flash associated with many celebrity haunts.

I’m not headed down Scilly way for celebrities, by the way. I’ll be there for quiet walks, bicycle rides, fresh seafood and, weather willing, some spring warmth.

Do you have any photos you’d like to share with a larger audience? Mention @GadlingTravel in your own photo AND use the hashtag #gadling and your photo will be considered for a future Photo Of The Day.

[Image: Flickr | rodtuk]

Five lesser-known European islands

Last June, we published a list of four European islands that float under the radar: Porquerolles, France; Fasta Åland, Finland; San Domino, Italy; and Vlieland, Netherlands.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s not too early to start making summer travel plans to get away from the crowds. Here are five more beautiful yet lesser-known European islands that don’t get a ton of press. They’re scattered across the continent, from England to the Azores and from Greece to the Baltic Sea.

1. St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly, England. St. Agnes, one of the Isles of Scilly, is the southernmost inhabited bit of England. Temperatures are moderate and pleasant year-round. The beaches and shoreline are more reminiscent of the Caribbean than of the popular imagination of England. You can spend your time walking around the island, visiting the lighthouse, and relaxing over a pint at the Turk’s Head, England’s southernmost pub. St. Agnes can be reached by ferry from the main island of St. Mary’s.

2. Corvo, Azores, Portugal. The smallest and northernmost of the remote Azores, Corvo is an isolated place. The island boasts a stunning verdant caldera with two crater lakes. It is also well-known as a birdwatching spot. Food lovers should enjoy Corvo’s local handmade cheese, distinctive corn bread, and larded tarts made with rock grass. Corvo can be reached by air on SATA Air Açores.

3. Kasos, Greece. Situated between Crete and Karpathos, Kasos is a sparsely populated dot on the map at the southern end of the Dodecanese Islands. Greece being Greece, the island has several remarkable beaches on offer, though these are not the whole story. Its five villages are home to scores of delightful churches. The island also maintains a busy festival schedule throughout the year. The festival of St. Marina, held on July 17, is the most important summer season festival event. Ferries connect visitors to Kasos from Crete and Piraeus, and Olympic Air links the island to the outside world by air.

4. Bornholm, Denmark. The Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm lies far east of the rest of Denmark. The bucolic island is packed with attractions. Among these is Hammershus, the largest castle ruin in Northern Europe, which dates back to the 12th Century. Bornholm is also a hub for arts and crafts, and hosts an annual Culture Week festival in September. Bornholm can be reached by ferry from Køge (Denmark), Ystad (Sweden), Kolobrzeg (Poland), and Sassnitz (Germany). There are also air links from Copenhagen on Cimber Sterling as well as sesonal connections to Billund (Cimber Sterling) and Oslo (Widerøe).

5. Hiiumaa, Estonia. This quiet western Estonian island is full of picturesque rural corners: old churches, lighthouses, little forested islets, and beaches for swimming and sunning. Hiking is a big draw here, and there are also opportunities for horseback riding and kayaking. Prices are very reasonable here, as Estonia remains an affordable destination. For budget-friendly accommodation on Hiiumaa, consider booking a room at the delightful Allike, where double rooms begin at €50. Hiiumaa can be reached by air from Tallinn with Avies and by ferry from the mainland and the neighboring island of Saaremaa.

[Image of St. Agnes: Flickr | Carlton Browne]

Weekend travel media top five: July 17-18, 2010

This weekend’s most interesting travel stories include a take on apartment rental listings services, an overview of the delightfully uncrowded White Mountains of Crete, an exploration of boutique caravan rentals in Cornwall, a search for pies in southern Alberta, and a list of NYC hotel rooftop bars.

1. In the New York Times, Benji Lanyado explores new developments in the orbit of inexpensive apartment rentals. Lanyado’s article got a lot of attention this past weekend, all of it deserved. His is essential ammunition for the budget-friendly fight against gratuitously expensive hotels.

2. In the Financial Times, Henry Shukman walks all over Crete’s White Mountains. The article ends with a quick guide to four additional European island hideaways.

3. In the Guardian, Gemma Bowes explores the new wave of boutique caravans (or trailers, as we know them stateside.)

4. In the Globe and Mail, Cinda Chavich embarks on a road trip across southern Alberta’s Cowboy Trail, sampling pie in towns with names like Black Diamond, Twin Butte, and Okotoks.

5. In the Los Angeles Times, Sherri Eisenberg provides a primer to Manhattan’s hotel rooftop bars.

(Image of Crete’s White Mountains: Flickr/bazylek100).

The ultimate vacation home: a lighthouse

Thinking of curing those recession blues by investing in a vacation home? Why go for the traditional beach-side bungalow or alpine chalet when you could get something a little more original?

Perhaps 76 acres of undeveloped beach and a famous lighthouse in the southwest of England would be just the thing?

Upton Towans beach in Gwithian, Cornwall, is up for sale. It was here that a young Virginia Woolf used to vacation with her family, and the broad beach and beautiful view of the offshore lighthouse are said to have inspired her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse.

The 86-foot tall Godrevy Lighthouse, pictured here, was built in 1858 after the SS Nile crashed into the nearby rocks and sank with all hands. It’s one of the most attractive lighthouses on the English coast and draws in thousands of tourists a year, who also stroll along the beach and surf in the rough waters.

Bidding for the land, which will benefit Hall for Cornwall theater, is expected to start at £50,000 ($81,000). The sale comes with a couple of conditions: the land must remain open for public use and it cannot be “developed” (i.e. ruined). That means visitors will still be able to enjoy this rugged stretch of Cornish coast and its literary associations.

So if you are looking for some real estate and you don’t want to wreck it, this may be the thing for you. You’ll have to get used to sleeping in a lighthouse, though.


Woolworth’s, the famous shopping icon, is closing its doors in the U.K.

“My cousin said that all the Woolworth’s in Britain are closing starting tomorrow,” my mother-in-law said today as she was driving me to run an errand outside of Cleveland where we’re visiting for a few days. “He’s very upset.”

Her cousin, who we visited a few years ago, lives in Cornwall. The economic downturn has meant curtains to this bargain shopping icon that was still making a go of it in Great Britain after the U.S. stores closed.

I remember going to the Woolworth’s in State College, Pennsylvania with my best friend when we were in the 5th grade. Those were in the days when it was considered safe for kids to ride their bicycles all over town. Our mission, mostly, was to get a Coke at the lunch counter and take our pictures in the automatic photo booth, the kind that spits out a long vertical strip of four.

When F. W. Woolworth, the company that was created in the U.S. in 1879, closed its doors in the U.S., I must have been living overseas because I only have a vague recollection of the news.

Now, that the 807 stores are closing across Great Britain starting tomorrow, including the one in the photo taken by Redvers in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, I feel a whiff of nostalgic sadness. Folks in Great Britain, according to this article posted at TwinCities.com, feel the same.

Woolworths are friendlier than mega stores like Wal-mart and Target. The lunch counters say stay awhile. The goods always seemed like just the right amount of choices. Sure, it’s great to load up a cart at a big store, but the choices can be too many, and the cart can easily be overloaded with things we really don’t need by the time we reach the checkout counter.

Woolworth’s stores seem to evoke literary themes found in novels like To Kill a Mockingbird–the small town “How de dos.” Walmart greeters sure have a lot of pressure to make us feel welcome in the rush to find a bargain. Although Grant recently wrote about London not being as expensive as a place to buy gifts as he thought it would be, the options are decreasing. Too bad.

Thanks for the memories Woolworth’s.