The desert island is a very powerful image: a romantic motif regularly returned to in fiction, movies, and now under the leadership of Bear Grylls, in reality TV shows, too.
I have no illusions that being trapped on a real-life desert island for an indefinite period of time would be hell on earth; however, being trapped on one for a day––and a nice, bright sunny day at that––was pretty much blissful.
Samson, in the Isles of Scilly, ranks as a desert island for me, even if, theoretically, it is possible to wade across to neighbouring Tresco at low tide. The island is distinctive in silhouette, hills at either end narrowing to a central ‘cut’, giving it an hourglass shape. There is no landing point for boats. The daily launch from Hugh Town anchors as close as it can get, before a smaller tender completes the final transfer. Nevertheless, wet feet are guaranteed.
I first heard about Samson from a crime novel. Actually, no, that is not true. I first heard about Samson from a friend, but it was he who recommended the book: The Riddle of Samson by Andrew Garve. From my reading of the book, I had imagined a smaller island. In the book, there is a vivid night-time chase scene, where the confines of the island space suggest few places to hide; accentuates the sensation of being trapped and enclosed. My first experiences of Samson are quite different. It seems big––don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking London-big, but desert-island-big. I’m worried that I might not be able to explore every square inch of it before the arrival of my return-boat. Panicked, I set off almost at a run. But which way?
Hill to the left of me; hill to the right of me. True to form, I aim for the furthermost extremity first. From the landing beach, I cross the ‘waist’––densely vegetated; ruins of long-deserted stone-built cottages peeking out, here and there, above the verdant tangle. I reach a high-point; higher than seems possible; the solitude of a Neolithic tomb; and a wide view across the archipelago. It calms me.
What am I rushing for? From my vantage point, I can see where a broad, white sand beach gradually merges with an un-British turquoise sea, and I know that that is where my desert island daydreams find a home.
Quick! Race you to the beach. Last one in’s a loser!
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer, E. C. “Easy” Glendenny, loves the idea of being a castaway.