In an archipelago known for its subtropical climate, Tresco is the most subtropical island of them all, largely courtesy of the TrescoAbbey Garden, a riot of palms and other exotica set alongside a ruined 12th century priory, and including a collection of ship figureheads in the Valhalla Museum. The gardens were started by a Hertfordshire squire called Augustus Smith who leased the islands from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1834, and who built Tresco Abbey as his home beside the existing ruins.
Tresco is just two and a half miles long and a mile wide at its widest point and is one of just five inhabited islands out of the 200-odd islands which make up the archipelago. For such a small piece of land Tresco has seen a surprising amount of action in the past, with three English Heritage properties acting as reminders of the island’s history. The Old Blockhouse, also known as Dover Fort, was built in the mid-16th century by the government of Edward VI as protection against attack by the French. The fort was occupied by the Royalists following the English Civil War and was attacked by Parliamentary forces in 1651. King Charles’s Castle was another initiative of Edward VI, and was garrisoned by Royalists during the Civil War. Following the attack in 1651 a third fort was built called Cromwell’s Castle. This round tower overlooking the stretch of water between Tresco and Bryher is one of Britain’s few surviving Cromwellian fortifications.
Meanwhile, for nature lovers there are two fresh water pools near the Abbey Garden with several hides for watching birds such as dunlins and plovers. The pools are visited by migratory birds during spring and autumn. For those who can’t bear to leave this balmy paradise, there is accommodation on the island as well as a number of refreshment options. Tresco can be reached via a short boat crossing from the main island in the archipelago, St Mary’s.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Darren Smith, via Wikimedia Commons|