Cornwall LivingIssue #126

A taste of Scilly

Celebrating the makers, bakers, growers and producers that are placing this enchanting archipelago on Cornwall’s food and drink map.

My first experience of Scilly was a holiday on St Mary’s as a young girl some 40 years ago. The nearest we got to a foodie feast back then was a bag of chips and an ice-cream sat overlooking Pelistry Bay. Subsequent years saw us spend two idyllic weeks every year on St Martin’s. This was a time of simple pleasures, where the absence of mains electricity meant that the hum of the generators played the soundtrack to our evenings. Each morning we collected our milk in churns from Carron Farm and a stroll to the pub for a rum and shrub at the Seven Stones was much loved. 

Flowers rather than food were one of the main industries on the islands during that time, but the growth of overseas production resulted in a decline in the industry. Testament to their resilience, the islanders were undeterred and turned to production of a different kind – namely food and drink. Such is the plethora of producers and growers on the islands now, they even boast their own festival, The Taste of Scilly which takes place in September each year. We take a tasting tour of just a few who are leading way.

Scilly Chilli

The heat is on at Hillside Farm on Bryher. Rearing their own Red Devon beef cattle, alongside chickens and bees, as well as growing fruit and vegetables, the farm offers a diverse habitat that is managed specifically to sustain wildlife. Lockdown, as with many companies, saw them hit rock bottom as income from their holiday lets and honesty stall disappeared overnight. A glut of chillies saw owners Ruth and Graham buy a dehydrator in a bid to find a product that would save the farm. Light to post, the resulting scarlet gems caused a stir on both the mainland and the farm stall and so Scilly Chilli ( was born. 

Veronica Farm Fudge

As with many of the producers on Scilly, small-scale production often begins with kitchen table R&D. This was the case for the Taylor family, whose Bryher-based fudge making ( began over 20 years ago on their AGA, using traditional methods and local milk from Troytown Farm on St Agnes. Moving to Bryher from the mainland in the 70s, owners Kris and Geoff were in the business of flowers rather than fudge, but when the narcissus market dwindled due to European competition they needed to diversify. Their entrepreneurial daughter Issy had been making fudge to fund dance lessons, and when she left for university, they took over the production of these sweet treats, scaling the business and rescuing the farm’s future.

Troytown Farm

With its campsite that sits at the very edge of the island, Troytown Farm (, as with many businesses on Scilly, has more than one string to its bow. It’s the only dairy farm on the islands with just 11 milking Jersey and Ayrshire cows. A daily milk round on St Agnes has expanded with Troytown milk now being exported to the other islands. Another farm to have lost their flower crop, the Hicks family knew they had to turn their attentions to production of a different kind to supplement the milk sales. Clotted cream came first, followed by a luxurious small-batch ice cream that is now available in over 30 flavours. 

Westward Farm

Neighbouring St Agnes farm ( has been producing soap and toiletries for many years, growing plants on the farm which are then harvested and distilled to produce the quality essential oils that provide the enticing fragrance of their soap, shower gel and hand wash. Using their experience of extracting the very best qualities from different botanicals, thoughts turned to gin! Aiden Hicks, the seventh-generation custodian of Westward Farm, wanted to create an honest gin using as many seasonal botanicals from the farm as possible. Other ingredients don’t travel far, including honey from Tresco, used to create an exclusive Tresco Abbey
Garden gin. 

Tresco Honey

The bees who make the hives in the Abbey Garden ( their home have a very unique foraging landscape. As well as over 80 exotic sub-tropical species in the garden, the bees have access to botanicals from the length and breadth of the island. Tresco bee aficionado Jilly Halliday, who established The Scillonian Bee Project in 2021 to protect the 11 hives they have on the island and to save the island’s native dark honey bee, is the custodian of the island’s bee population. With hives on Bryher, St Martin’s and St Agnes, each jar of island honey has its own unique taste due to its local conditions and is used to flavour other island produce such as fudge, ice-cream, gin and rum.

The Island Bakery

Barney McLachlan is an early riser on St Martin’s as the island’s daily batch of organic breads and rolls is baked. Starting at 4am, the first task of the day is to decide how much to bake based on visitor predictions, which can be up to a staggering 600 a day If the weather is good and there’s a double landing of trip boats to the island. As well as daily bread favourites, including a reduced-sized camper’s loaf specially produced for St Martin’s campsite guests, Barney and his team also bake sweet pastries as well as a ubiquitous Cornish pasty (baked to a special island recipe of course!) that is always a sell-out.

SC Dogs

Growing sugar cane on what were once flower fields on St Martin’s, Andrew Walder of SC Dogs’ ( is hoping that his harvest will eventually result in the islands’ first true field-to-bottle spirits. Based at Carron farm, each of SC Dogs vodka and rum (named for a combination of the island’s fishing boat prefix SC as well as Andrew’s and Scilly’s seafaring past) is dedicated to a venerable island ‘sea dog’. Bottles are adorned with a portrait of said sea dogs drawn by local artists, printed on the inside of the label appearing ghost-like through the Scilly spirits. 

St Martin’s Vineyard

This unique coastal vineyard covers an area of just over a hectare of south-facing slopes with predominantly granite soils. Once a flower farm, whose bulbs still make a surprise appearance now and again with daffodils and lily of the valley flowering amongst the vines, its natural evergreen pittosporum windbreaks now protecting the vines rather than the bulbs. Grown just a few yards from where they are pressed, the vines have minimal input with a predominantly organic spray regime. This core principle of sustainable organic production encourages natural pest predators with flowers under every footstep.

Island Fish

No round up of island produce would be complete without a fishy tale! The Pender family ( has been fishing out of Bryher for hundreds of years. Mike launches daily to fish the waters around Scilly in his 43-year-old self-built vessel, The Emerald Dawn SC35. Ably supported by son Mark’s Dorothy Ethel and grandson Shamus’ Ma Vie, this little fleet of boats lands its catch of crab and lobster from up to 250 baited pots. This is truly a family business with Mark’s wife Amanda checking, cooking and picking the catch. What isn’t sold from their deli-counter is destined for the island’s restaurants and merchants on the mainland.