Our Top 5 Iconic Swims: No. 4 St Marys Sound, Isles of Scilly

This week we bring you the second of our Top 5 Iconic Swims in the South of England.


Fourth place in the top 5 Iconic Swims in the South of England is the swim across St Mary's Sound from the island of St Mary’s to St Agnes at the southern end of the Isles of Scilly (2.9km)

When our two children were about 6 and 8 years old we enjoyed a memorable family holiday at the Bryher Campsite on the Isles of Scilly. I remember during the crossing from Penzance, aboard the passenger ferry Scillonian, reading Michael Morpurgo stories to them about legends of the Islands to keep their minds off the sick-making roll of the ship.


At bedtime that first night I took the children up the hill to look at the full moon shining down through the clear night, glistening on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean below. We counted at least six lighthouses dotted about the islands – St Agnes, Round Island, Bishop Rock, Peninis, Wolf Rock and Longships – busily beaming around the sky in all directions. It was a magical sight.

The Scillies is an ideal place for a UK-based family swimming holiday

During our time on the Islands we enjoyed family swimming with the children in Rushy Bay, Bryher. There we were joined by another family.......of grey seals. The inquisitive animals kept popping up about fifty metres away from us in different places: now over by the rocks; now on the other side of us out to sea. It was only when I put on a mask and snorkel and dived down to see one of the seals shooting past that I realised they were spying on us from below.


The culmination of our Scilly swimming on that holiday was a whole day out swimming between all of the different islands. Annabel and I were lucky enough to be invited to take part in a charity swim around the archipelago organised by some friends. We took turns throughout the day to swim the various legs of this incredible inter-island tour. Annabel crossed the shallow waters between Tresco and St Martins and I swam the St Mary’s to St Agnes leg which, whilst not the longest of the inter-island routes, crosses St Mary’s Sound used by ships to approach the islands, so there was a genuine sense of swimming in deep, open ocean water.


Despite being August, the water was chilly and a full two degrees colder than over on the mainland; little above 14°C I’d say. The sea was crystal clear and about as dark a blue as anywhere I have ever swum before. I pulled long, lazy front crawl strokes whilst gazing down into the blackness far below, marvelling as a huge barrel jellyfish ghosted along a few metres down and thinking all the while about the abundance of sea life I was privileged to be sharing the water with. I can remember thinking that deep water sea swimming was a very special, exhilarating experience..


If you are lucky enough to get the chance to visit the Isles of Scilly make sure you take your swimming kit as you'll be sure to have some truly Iconic Swims when you're there.

St Mary's Sound: taking the plunge

Next week we're back on the mainland for No. 3 in our Top Five Iconic Swims in the South. To find out how to join us on Iconic Swims this summer browse our swims.

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