Travelling to the Isles of Scilly

Travelling to the Isles of Scilly is an adventure in itself and you have two modes of transport. Either venture by sea via the Scillonian III ferry from Penzance or by air by taking a flight on the Scillies’ own airline Skybus from Land’s End, Newquay or Exeter.

Our travel guide has been updated for 2019 to give you all the info you need for a perfect trip to England’s secret Isles.

How long does it take to get to the enchanted isles?

Travel options & durations are varied including many train routes, huge changes in traffic if you drive, whether travelling day or night-time and taking the ferry or flights.

It can be confusing but don’t despair as we provide all the detailed info you need no matter which route you prefer.

Getting to the Isles of Scilly by Sea

Locally famous, the Scillonian III ferry is the lifeline connecting the Scilly Isles to mainland Cornwall and England.  The ferry serves foot passengers as well as bringing goods such as food and other supplies to local businesses like B&Bs, pubs and restaurants.

The ferry is a popular method to get to the isles and can be booked in advance. The schedule is very regular, departing Penzance at 9:15 or midday (12:00) depending on the day and the crossing takes 3:15 hours. For detailed info on all aspects of the ferry journey see our guide here.

To get to the ferry port at Penzance you are most likely to either take the train or drive; the train being a fantastic experience covering a scenic route through Cornwall.

Getting to Penzance by Train

You can reach Penzance directly from many key cities in southern England – in this travel guide we’ll explain all options in detail to help you plan your holiday.

Great Western Railway runs a direct high-speed train service running frequently from London Paddington, Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Mead stations.

Typical journey durations to Penzance during the daytime are:

·         London Paddington to Penzance: 5-6 hours

·         Bath Spa to Penzance: 4-4.5 hours

·         Bristol Temple Mead to  Penzance: 4 hours

A popular and comfortable approach is to arrive in Penzance in the evening, stay at one of the numerous good value B&Bs in town and then take the ferry to the Isles of Scilly the following morning.  Most hotels and B&Bs are an easy walk to the ferry port.

The Riviera Sleeper Train

One of the popular attractions that makes the journey a bit of an adventure in itself is to take the sleeper train; one of only two sleeper services in England (the other being the Caledonian to Scotland).  

For the Scillies and Cornwall the sleeper is called the Night Riviera Sleeper Service and the train departs on weekdays from London Paddington at 23:45 (on Sunday it’s 23:50) arriving in Penzance at 8am except Sunday when it’s 9am.  Remember the service runs 6 nights a week but does not run Saturday night.

It is designed to give plenty of time for passengers to then switch to the ferry, itself a short walk from the train station to the ferry port.  When booking the sleeper train remember you are likely to want a proper flat ‘bed’. This can be booked in advance as a combined ticket for as little as £49 one way.  Or you add the sleeper berth supplement to your normal train ticket. Berths for two people sharing work out much cheaper than the single berths.

The service is very comfortable with staff available for help throughout the trip.  Once you arrive onboard you should feel free to ask for assistance with getting settled into the berth, request room service where meals will be brought to you or arrange an early wake up call.

As you’d expect on an all night train journey, there is a lounge carriage serving meals, snacks and hot & cold drinks; whilst in the morning a choice of breakfasts is available.

Getting to the Isles of Scilly by Air

Skybus is the Isles of Scilly’s own airline and flies to St Mary’s direct from Land’s End Airport (LEQ) taking 20 mins, from St Mawgan Airport (NQY) its 30 mins, and from Exeter Airport (EXT) its an hour.

Flying to Cornwall. Main airports in the area are Newquay St Mawgan Airport (NQY) and Exeter Airport (EXT). There are a few international flights that fly there however most airlines fly into Birmingham Intl Airport (BHX), London Southend Municipal Airport (SEN), and London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Direct Flights to Exeter Airport (In the UK)

Belfast City Airport (BHD)
Dublin Airport (DUB)
Edinburgh Airport (EDI)
Glasgow Intl Airport (GLA)
Guernsey Airport (GCI)
Jersey States Airport (JER)
London City Airport (LCY)
Manchester Intl Airport (MAN)
Newcastle Airport (NCL)
Norwich Airport (NWI)

…and Arriving International

Alicante Airport (ALC)
Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport (AMS)
France, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
Ibiza Airport (IBZ)
Palma Mallorca Airport (PMI)

Direct Flights to Newquay St Mawgan Airport (In the UK)

Birmingham Intl Airport (BHX)
Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Leeds-Bradford Airport (LBA)
London Southend Municipal Airport (SEN)

…and Arriving International

Dublin Airport (DUB)

As you can see, once you are in the UK then you need to make your way deep into Cornwall or Devon (Exeter) to then hop on the flight to the Isles of Scilly.

Land’s End Airport – Bus Transfer

For Land’s End Airport (LEQ) by train there is a regular bus transfer service from Penzance station.  Taxis are also available or, if driving, there is plenty of parking at the airport.

The bus transfer is quick (typically 20 mins) and easy and at £6 each way, not bad value.  Don’t worry about missing your flight as the transfers are synchronised to flight times. That goes the same when returning from St. Mary’s to Land’s End as the shuttle bus will meet you within 15 minutes of you arriving at the terminal (providing you pre-booked the transfer).

Bus bookings can be made along with your flight or call the airport travel centre on 01736 334220.

Below are the latest times for the current and next seasons for departing from Penzance station.

Summer Bus Transfer Schedule

18th March 2019 – 26th October 2019

Flight Departure Times Bus pick-up time
08.00 – 08.59 07:00
09.00 – 09.59 08.00
10.00 – 10.59 09.00
11.00 – 11.59 10.00
12.00 – 12.59 11.00
13.00 – 13.59 12.00
14.00 – 14.59 13.00
15.00 – 15.59 14.00
16.00 – 16.59 15.00
17.00 – 17.59 16.00

Winter Bus Transfer Schedule

28th October 2019 – 14th March 2020

Flight Departure Times Bus pick-up time
08.15 – 08.44 07.15
08.45 – 09.29 08.00
09.30 – 10.29 08.30
10.30 – 11.29 09.45
11.30 – 12.14 10.45
12.15 – 13.14 11.30
13.15 – 13.59 12.15
14.00 – 14.44 13.15
14.45 – 15.29 13.45
15.30 – 16.14 14.45
16.15 – 17.14 15.20

St Mary’s Airport

Life on the islands is meant to be relaxed and you’ll notice the change as soon as you land.  At St. Mary’s airport you’ll be met with local transport who charge around £8 return per adult and half price for children.

The price doesn’t change with your destination as distances don’t vary much on the island.

A travel adventure

Getting to the magic isles is part of the holiday and certainly helps you build the sense of escape.  Next you’ll want to explore your surroundings, see the range of wildlife, sample local seafood, maybe hire a boat / kayak, enjoy beaches each with different characters and get you know the various islands.  You can find out more through our in depth travel guides to the Isles of Scilly.