OS grid reference :- SV 901108
The hamlet of Holy Vale is situated on the island of St. Mary's, largest of the Scilly Isles. It is set in a secluded wooded valley which is about half an hours walk from the island's capital of Hugh Town.
The hamlet's name was recorded as La Val in 1301, it derives from the Norman French meaning low lying, at the foot. Legend states that Holy Vale was once the site of a convent or monk's cell.
The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust nature trail at Holy Vale is the largest wooded area on the island of St Mary's, which runs from the centre of the island, through Higher Moors and on to finish at Porth Hellick. The route also passes the Carreg Dhu Gardens an impressive sub-tropical community garden which is well worth a visit.
Mainly consisting of Elm and Willow, the Holy Vale Nature Trail follows the course of a stream, a habitat scarce on the Scilly Isles. The trail leads along a wooded bank raised high above the surrounding damp ground and weaves in and out of the trees. The ravages of Dutch elm disease never reached Scilly, meaning the majority of the native trees on the island are elms.
The conditions are ideal for ferns and a light scattering of bluebells in the spring. Flycatchers, Tits, Goldcrests and Firecrests are sometimes sighted The stream is damp and shady, providing ideal conditions for Lady Fern, named for its delicate texture and graceful appearance and Lesser Spearwort, a member of the Buttercup family, within the stream there are dense growths of Hemlock Water Dropwort and Watercress. Eels can sometimes be sighted. The path can be uneven and slippery in places.
The Winery at Holy Vale has taken its owner Robert Francis six years to bring to fruition. With the help and guidance of the one of the world's foremost wine producers, Willi Opitz, seven acres at Holy Vale were planted.
The all-weather visitor attraction is set in a vineyard that, it is hoped, will produce St Mary's Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the future. This most southerly of Briitish wineries has been converted from an old barn which also plays host to an interesting exhibition, the Story of Wine, which relates the story of a year in the vineyard and the winemaking process in easy to follow language, there are boards explaining how wine is made and the history of the Holy Vale vineyard.
The visitor centre and tasting room were officially opened by world-renowned wine expert Michael Broadbent, who described it as "one of the most beautiful vineyard sites in the world".