White Island, Isles of Scilly

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White Island

Isles of Scilly

White Island viewed from Top Rock, St Martins, Isles of Scilly - geograph.org.uk - 357359.jpg
White Island from St Martin's
Grid reference: SV924176
Area: 37½ acres
Population: uninhabited

White Island is one of the larger unpopulated islands of the Isles of Scilly, part of Cornwall. It lies off the coast of the northernmost populated island of the group, St Martin's, to which it is joined by a tidal causeway. The island is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Geological Conservation Review site and is managed by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall.[1]

It should not be confused with a much smaller island also called White Island, off the coast of Samson.


The uninhabited island lies off the north coast of St Martin's. It is about 37½ acres and until comparatively recently was part of St Martin's.[2] In common with the larger island the place names are mostly English with the exception of Camper on the south-east coast (meaning tide race or roost) and Porthmoren. Moren is a girl or maiden and Porth is a landing place on the west of the shingle and boulder bar that separates the two islands. The north-west of the island rises to 69 feet (21 m) and is topped by a ruined entrance grave. To the south, and sheltered by the hill, are six small mounds or cairns. An examination of one in 1975 showed that it was about 10 feet (3 m) across, possibly double walled on the north side and probably too small to be a hut circle. Two walls indicating a bank and ditch field system are also present.[2] Only part is scheduled as an Ancient Monument and a recommendation has been made that the whole island should be scheduled.[3]

Natural history

White Island is designated as a SSSI because of the waved maritime heath, maritime grassland, breeding seabirds and for the sequence of Late Pleistocene deposits in the cleft of Chad Girt which almost cuts the island in two.[4] The sequence of Quaternary deposits are as follows:[1]

  • a raised beach
  • granitic head known as Porthloo Breccia; named after the site on St Mary's
  • soliflucted gravel known as Hell Bay Gravel (Bryher) which consists of clasts and loess from glacial material in the Irish Sea
  • head with glacial erratics named after the nearby site on St Martin's (Bread and Cheese Breccia).

The island has an exposed location on the north side of the Scillies, subject to exposure to high wind and salt spray. Consequently the thin skeletal soil is covered in wind pruned maritime heath made up principally of western gorse (Ulex gallii), bell heather (Erica cinerea) and heather (Calluna vulgaris). English stonecrop (Sedum anglicum), bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and heath bedstraw (Galium saxatile) can be found growing amongst the heath and gorse and on the deeper soils bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) dominates with bramble (Rubus fruticosus) and honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum). Along the western coast is a small area of maritime grassland with the usual Scilly species of red fescue (Festuca rubra), thrift (Armeria maritime), common scurvygrass (Cochlearia officinalis), buck's-horn plantain (Plantago coronopus) and sea beet (Beta maritime).[1] In April 2001 the first confirmed Scillonian record (since 1967) of the RDB gilt-edged lichen (Pseudocyphellaria aurata) was found on White Island. A widespread and frequent species in the tropics, frequent in Macronesia but rare on mainland Europe it is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species and is protected under schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.[4]

Breeding birds

Four species of gull and one species of petrel breed on White Island. They are Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus), Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis).

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "White Island". Natural England. 1989. http://www.sssi.naturalengland.org.uk/citation/citation_photo/1002105.pdf. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Thomas, Charles (1975). Recent Fieldwork in the Isles of Scilly. 14. 87–94. 
  3. Ratcliffe, Jeanette (1989). The Achaeology of Scilly. Truro: Cornwall Archaeological Unit. ISBN 1 871162 40 8. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Parslow, Rosemary (2007). The Isles of Scilly. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 13 978-0-00-220151-3. 
Isles of Scilly

St Mary's  • St Agnes  • Tresco  • Bryher  • St Martin's  • Gugh
Annet  •
Bishop Rock  • Crim Rocks  • Eastern Isles  • English Island  • Great Ganilly  • Gweal  • Norrard Rocks  • Rosevear  • Round Island  • Samson  • St Helens  • Teän  • Western Rocks  • White Island  • Zantman's Rock