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  • Writer's pictureAnna Browne

Nornour - the perfect destination for a kayaking adventure on the Isles of Scilly


The island of Nornour is a fabulous place to visit. It is one of the Eastern Isles. These are a group of uninhabited islands lying to the east of St Martin’s. They are all protected to preserve their unique habitats, but Nornour is one of the islands that people can visit. 


From Par Beach, it takes about 25 minutes of gentle paddling to kayak there. So, it is just far enough away from St Martin’s to be worth kayaking to, but not so far away that it’s too daunting a challenge. You will need at least a two-hour kayak hire to give yourself time to paddle there and then stop and explore the island.


In this blog, we’ve chosen five of our favourite reasons to head to Nornour on your kayaking adventure.


The island of Nornour with kayakers heading towards it on a flat calm sea

A great place for a picnic

When you head to Nornour on your sea kayaking adventure, you land on a beautiful sandy beach on the south side of the island. This beach is the perfect location for a picnic. It has stunning views across to St Martin’s and out to the other Eastern Isles. The shallow clear water close to the shore is a myriad of blues. While you enjoy your picnic, listen to the sea-birds calling and the waves gently lapping on the shore. 


beautiful sandy beach, the perfect picnic spot on Nornour

If you’re hiring your kayak for the day, you can get a 15% discount at the fabulous Island Bakery by signing up to our (free) Day Hire Deal. 


Visit ancient ruins

There are the remains of a prehistoric and Romano-British settlement on Nornour. In the early 1960s, violent winter storms led to these remains being uncovered. Excavations at the site unearthed many artefacts, among them were hundreds of Roman era brooches. There was a shrine to a Roman goddess of the sea. The sheer number of brooches found has led to a theory that brooches were being made on Nornour. You can see many of these brooches at the Isles of Scilly Museum on St Mary’s.


An ancient settlement on Nornour, Isles of Scilly

When wandering around the ruins, imagine how different the view would have been at the time the site was inhabited. Scilly would have been one land mass so there would have been field systems and livestock grazing where there is now sea. Nornour was then a hill on the coastline.artin’s at 16:30. Again this could be from a different quay to where you landed.


Take in fabulous views of the mainland

Nornour is known in Cornish as Ar Nor, which means facing the mainland. Leading from the ancient ruins there is a short steep grassy track that leads you to the top of the island. Here, there are dramatic granite rocky outcrops encrusted with lichens. On a clear day, there will be fabulous views over to the mainland. You will also see St Martin’s from a different perspective.


A rocky outcrop on Nornour with a stunning view out to sea behind it


In the Spring, it’s the perfect location to sit and watch house martins and swallows feeding on the grassy slope below you.


Find the remains of a shipwreck

In 1872, a paddle steamer called the Earl of Arran struck a rocky ledge behind Nornour. She was travelling to St Mary’s carrying passengers, mail and some cargo. The captain had allowed a local man to take the helm to enable them to save time by taking a shortcut! Having struck Irishman’s Ledge, she eventually ran ashore on Nornour. All the passengers were safely rescued. Two days later the ship broke in two.


A large piece of metal among the rocks on Nornour, Isles of Scilly

The boiler from the ship used to be visible on the rocky outcrop that is exposed at low tide, but has now completely broken up. If you look carefully among the rocks, it is still possible to find pieces of metal, the last remnants of the Earl of Arran.


See seals on your kayaking adventure

There is plenty of interesting marine life to see in the shallow waters off Nornour. It can sometimes feel, when looking down into the water, that you’re paddling across the canopy of an underwater forest of seaweed. There’s also a good chance that you will see seals on the approaches to the island. There is a resident population of Atlantic grey seals on the Isles of Scilly. Of which you can find a large proportion on the Eastern Isles.


A kayaker has a seal behind them in the water

Seals are a protected species, so if you see one, don’t change your course or start paddling directly towards it. Just stay quiet and keep paddling. They are naturally curious creatures so may follow your kayak. The water is so clear off Nornour, that you can sometimes catch glimpses of them swimming under your kayak, if you’re very lucky!


Nornour is a great island to head to for a kayaking adventure. The island has stunning views, a beautiful sandy beach, interesting historical ruins and fabulous wildlife. It’s a wonderful spot for a picnic and you may see seals in the surrounding waters. It's best to allow at least a two-hour hire to give yourself time to explore the island. A longer hire will mean you can spend even more time on this beautiful island.


St Martin’s Watersports hires kayaks and paddleboards from Par Beach on St Martin’s. We’re always happy to advise on where to kayak to. Please contact us if you have any questions about hiring. For more inspiration, read our blogs on the top five beaches to kayak to and our four one hour kayak hire routes.











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