This weekend I escaped the rat race of London and the bustling countryside of Surrey, and flew to the Isles of Scilly for their food festival (major food porn further down this post!). I can trace my direct ancestral lineage on the Isles of Scilly back to the my 7x great grandparents, the Woodcock's, in the 1600's. My Scillonian ancestors lived there until very recently, as my Grandad and his sister lived there with his grandparents and aunts and cousins during WW2. So to say I was excited about returning to the 'motherland' (or should I say fatherland, seeing as it's on the male line of the family) is an understatement.
Previously I've only ever stayed on the main island of St Mary's, but my family all come from Tresco, so to actually stay on the island this time and really explore it and sample the local food was really lovely. I stayed at the New Inn Pub and Guesthouse, which my great great grandfather used to run, and it's all been refurbished and 'freshened' up in the past year. It feels very boutique-y and luxurious (think soft bedlinen, home-made cookies and loose leaf tea in the room, and REN bath goodies), and I had a gorgeous sea-view room which overlooked the island of Bryher.
The Isles of Scilly is an archipelago, a group of islands with many uninhabitable. The only islands inhabited are St Mary's (the main one), St Martin's (the one with the best beaches), St Agnes (the smallest one), Tresco (the pretty, scenic one) and Bryher (the rugged one). There's also Samson which used to be inhabited (my 5x great grandfather William Woodcock was born there in 1746 - when only two households inhabited the island, but he later moved to Tresco where his children were born), however in 1855 the Lord Proprietor of Scilly, Augustus Smith, moved the remaining inhabitants as they were suffering from extreme deprivation.
Today the Isles of Scilly has a population of just over 2,000 people, with the majority living on St Mary's. The Tresco and Bryher food festival is a highlight of the Scilly summer calendar, with local farming and agriculture so important to the islands, it's the perfect opportunity to showcase what they can produce. Saturday was spent eating a lot of food. In the morning there was a market in the main square on Tresco, they had everything from Tresco Prosecco, Troytown Farm ice-cream, yoghurt and clotted cream, and Scilly Ales, to local crab, lobster, and duck.
As well as my ice-cream I also picked up a pot of Troytown Farm clotted cream (to eat by myself in my room with my shortbread biscuits - if you can't do it on holiday, when can you!?), and a large jar of Apple and Blackberry jam for my parents. After wandering around the market and sampling the delights and wares, I dropped my goodies off in my room at the New Inn and then wandered around the island. This deserves a post in itself, so for now, let me take you on a food feast at the Flying Boat Restaurant...after a lovely photo of the harbour in the evening dusk...
I ambled along to the Flying Boat Club, the restaurant amongst the newer timeshare properties on Tresco (don't get me started on the timeshare properties...I'll tell you more in my next post), which has views over the sound towards Bryher.
I started with a glass of Tresco prosecco in the bar, enjoying the peace and tranquility of having my thoughts to myself, and letting myself fully relax after a long day walking around the island. An elderly couple started chatting to me, before heading upstairs for dinner. I sat down at the table on my lonesome, when a lovely lady called Pauline and her husband Ashley came over and invited me to join them as 'no one should dine alone on a Saturday night!'. Me being me didn't say no and I happily pulled my chair to their table.
We made our introductions while tucking into our sublime tian of local crab, cucumber noodles fresh yoghurt and seaweed dressing. They, like me, were visiting for the food festival, and are from the county next door to mine; Kent! They were ever so nice, must have been late fifties, and regular visitors to Tresco. When we were part-way through our starter, the waiter approached and asked if I'd like a glass of the local wine, courtesy of the couple I'd been chatting to earlier. Everyone here is so nice!
Pauline, Ashley, and I spoke about all sorts while eating our delicious meal, and didn't stumble back to the New Inn where we were all staying until 4 hours later.
Anyway, the main course was the showstopping and insanely good Surf n Turf. Just look at that huge hunk of beef and freshly caught lobster!
Feeling very full, we then had a break with a gorgeous palate-cleanser before dessert made it's entrance. The sorbet was probably the best I've ever tasted (and I'm a bit of a sorbet connoisseur), it was Troytown Farm's Sipsmith (aka, Gin) Summer Cup Sorbet.
Then, dessert arrived. Homemade Turkish delight, warm chocolate brownie and Troytown rose geranium ice cream. It was very nice, and looked very moreish, however I did find the brownie a little dry for my liking, I much prefer gooey fudgey brownies.
The ending however, was like a posh version of a children's milkshake, and I loved it. The perfect end to a lovely day and evening (more on the day-part in another post!). A huge special thank you to Pauline and Ashley for being so kind and letting me crash their dinner, and another thank you to the couple who gave me the glass of wine!
Myself and both of the couples stumbled back to the New Inn in the pitch black (there are no street lights on Scilly), after a few too many glasses of prosecco and wine. We arrived back to find a party in full swing in the bar as the Tresco ladies had just won the Gig race in their boat, Czar. There was a band playing folk and jig music, so everyone was up dancing and slipping around on the wet floor having a whale of a time.
It was a surreal experience seeing this pub so full of life and laughter, knowing that a hundred years ago my great great grandfather would have been stood right there at the bar, or maybe he would have joined in - he looks like a man who would have joined in (see the pic below - he's the large elderly man on the side in the hat). I got a bit emotional with my rum and coke thinking about it all, so decided it was best I headed to bed to get a good night's sleep before the next days activities.