Bryher is first mentioned as Braer, meaning ‘place of hills’ in Cornish, in 1319. It is the smallest of the off-islands of Scilly, only a mile and a half long and half a mile wide. It consists of a series of small rounded granite hills above three valley pastures which run east–west across the island.
To the east Bryher faces Tresco, and the shallow waters of the sheltered channel between the two islands. On the west side it faces the wild depths of the Atlantic; just beyond its coast the sea floor shelves off sharply into deeper water, and the blue shallows of the admiralty charts turn white.
Bryher is a land of holidays past. In an era when leisure is often filled with shopping, theme parks and noise, Bryher offers peace, the rhythms of the planet and the glow of perfect sunsets. Here, life revolves around the roll of the seas and the pull of the tide, and there is time to stop and think, to look and absorb. You may see seals, turtles, dolphins, sunfish, basking sharks, sunfish, puffins and rare birds. You can follow the coastal paths to visit empty beaches, wade out to catch shrimp or beachcomb for sea glass and glowing yellow shells. You can watch people messing about in boats, or climb Samson Hill to look out to Bishops Rock (where once, island criminals were marooned with nothing but a jug or water and a loaf of bread). The weather can change in the blink of an eye, but there is a tropical feel to the air, and you will walk amongst lush green fields, with hedgerows thick with agapanthus and ferns.
There is always something new to see. Recently a peregrine falcon nesting on Round Islands taught himself to fish, swooping at the sea surface with his claws out, and a dolphin took a liking to St Mary’s harbour, alarming arriving children who thought he was a shark. It’s perhaps not surprising that most of our visitors are regulars, who come back at the same time every year.
Bryher is a friendly island with a small working community where locals fish and farm to make a living. There is a local shop with a bakery producing fresh bread daily, a post-office, an art gallery selling local artwork, a cafe for cream teas and home-cooked evening meals and a bar selling local seafood. Down winding lanes local produce stalls sell fresh eggs, home grown vegetables, jams, fudge and chutneys.
Bryher operates at a leisurely pace where you can follow the coastal path around the island looking for seals and visiting the gorgeous white sandy beaches of Rushy Bay, Popplestones and Great Par or take a hike up one of the small heather covered hills to enjoy amazing panoramic views across to Samson and out to Bishop Rock Lighthouse. However if you prefer a more active day boats and kayaks are available for hire from the local boatyard and boats leave the quay every morning to visit other islands.