Bryher, Isles of Scilly

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Cromwell's Castle, Tresco overlooking Bryher - - 885110.jpg
Bryher seen from Tresco
 Bryher shown within Isles of Scilly
Population 84 (2011)
OS grid reference SV876361
Civil parish Bryher
Unitary authority Isles of Scilly
Ceremonial county Cornwall
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district TR23
Dialling code 01720
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Isles of Scilly
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament St Ives
List of places

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Bryher (Cornish: Breyer, place of hills) is one of the smaller of the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly.


The island has a length of 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), a maximum width of 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) and an area of 134 hectares (330 acres), including Shipman Head, which rises to 42 metres (138 ft) at the northern end of the island.[1] Bryher lies to the west of Tresco, and is separated from that island by the Tresco Channel, once the main anchorage for the islands and now an area where sandflats are exposed at low tide. Off the southern end of Bryher is the uninhabited island of Samson. It is possible to walk between the three islands at the lowest spring tides.

The settlement at the Pool / Hell Bay Hotel is the westernmost in England. Without the tidal island of Gugh included, St Agnes is marginally smaller than Bryher in either population or area; however if Gugh is included with St Agnes, which is the common interpretation, then Bryher is (again, marginally) the smallest of the populated isles of Scilly in area and population.

The centre of Bryher is mainly low-lying with arable fields, pasture and housing and is where most of the population of 84 lives. On the west side is the brackish Great Pool overlooked by the Hell Bay Hotel and in the south are sandy beaches, a common feature on the island, Rushy Bay being an example. The island lies within the Isles of Scilly Heritage Coast, is part of the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and untennanted land is leased by the Duchy of Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust which is using ponies and red ruby cattle[2] to graze the overgrown areas as part of the Waves of Heath project.


The name of the island is recorded as Brayer in 1336 and Brear in 1500.

Hell Bay

Hell Bay, Bryher.

The infamous Hell Bay can be found on Bryher. This Atlantic-facing cove became a notorious place for shipwrecks over the 18th and 19th century though there is little evidence to support this, most ships having been wrecked before they even reached here.

Bar Quay

In the centre of the island is Bar Quay, which was built in 1990 by volunteers for the television programme Challenge Anneka. It is known to many islanders as 'Anna-Quay'. In 2007 it was replaced by a new concrete quay, as part of a Scilly-wide programme of quay rebuilding.

Natural history

There are three Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on Bryher. The Shipman Head and Shipman Down SSSI was first designated in 1971 and covers over 40 ha of the northern part of the island. Waved maritime heath grows over shallow podzolic soils which are underlain by Hercynian granite. Rare plants include the Red Data Book (RDB) Orange Bird’s-foot (Ornithopus pinnatus) and the nationally scarce Hairy Bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus subbiflorus). Lichens include (Lobaria pulmonaria) and (Teleoschistes flavicans).[3]

On the west side of the island is Great Pool which is part of the Pool of Bryher and Popplestone Bank SSSI. It is separated from the sea by a storm beach and small dune system, and is the only natural brackish lagoon on Scilly with plants such as Saltmarsh Rush (Juncus gerardii) and Beaked Tasselweed (Ruppia maritima).[4]

Covering 12 hectares (30 acres) of the southern part of the island is the Rushy Bay and Heathy Hill SSSI which has a number of nationally rare plants. An Isles of Scilly speciality is the Dwarf Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana) which grows nowhere else in Great Britain. It is locally abundant on Bryher and thousands can be found in May in short turf and bare sand.[1] Unfortunately a storm in 2008 reduced the numbers of plants seen; there are also small colonies on Tresco and Teän. Orange Bird’s-foot, Small Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum azoricum) and Autumn’s Lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) grow on Heathy Hill.[5]

Breeding birds

Shipman head has seven species of breeding seabirds:

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) breed on Shipman Down.[3]

Civil parish and ward

The isles of Scilly comprising the civil parish and ward of Bryher shown in red.

Bryher is one of the five civil parishes of the Isles of Scilly, which are also wards. The civil parish and ward include several uninhabited islands and rocks, including the Norrard Rocks, Gweal, Zantman's Rock and the Crim Rocks (the westernmost place of England).[6] Bryher returns 2 councillors to the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the same as the other "off-island" wards. The civil parish is not functional however, and there is no council or meeting.

Visiting the island

Varied accommodation is available on the island. The Hell Bay Hotel is located close to the coast on the west side. There are guesthouses, self-catering cottages and a campsite. Two quays are used (depending on tides) by boats which take tourists between Bryher and other islands, including St Mary's and Tresco. On some low tides it is possible to walk between Bryher and Tresco and even Samson, the uninhabited island to the south. There is also safe anchorage for small yachts in the channel and Green Bay. In the north of the island are the Fraggle Rock Bar, Vine Cafe and the new (2011) Bryher shop.

The Golden Eagle Gig shed on the west coast is the studio of the artist Richard Pearce.

All Saints' Church, Bryher is located on the island.

Local activities include boating, walking and watching wildlife.

Other uses of "Bryher"

In recent years Bryher has been become a popular girl's name. Annie Winifred Ellerman, daughter of the UK's wealthiest man Sir John Ellerman, took the name Bryher as her nom de plume in the early 20th century.

Use in film and television

In 1989, the island was used for some of the scenes in the BBC's television adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

When the Whales Came was made on location in 1989 and starred Helen Mirren, Helen Pearce, Paul Scofield and David Suchet.

In fiction

Great Par, Bryher

Bryher features in various books: The Wreck of the Zanzibar, The Sleeping Sword and Why the Whales Came, all by Michael Morpurgo and Hell Bay by Sam Llewellyn.


  • 1841: 121
  • 1851: 34 Families
  • 1861: 115
  • 1871: 104
  • 1881: 103
  • 1891: 91
  • 1901: 97
  • 1911: 113
  • 1921: 101
  • 1931: 64
  • 1951: 117
  • 1961: 66
  • 1971: 57
  • 1981: 66
  • 1991: 80
  • 2001: 92
  • 2009: 83
  • 2011: 84

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Parslow, Rosemary (2007). The Isles of Scilly. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-220150-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. A little grazing goes a long way, Western Morning News 1 April 2009, retrieved 15 February 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Shipman Head and Shipman Down" (PDF). Natural England. Retrieved 8 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Pool of Bryher and Popplestone Bank" (PDF). Natural England. Retrieved 8 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Rushy Bay and Heathy Hill" (PDF). Natural England. Retrieved 8 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map

External links