Looking down from higher than the crow flies, Cornwall stretched out like a treasure map to my left, as the vast Atlantic disappeared to the opposite horizon.
The steel blue and frothy white waves of the ocean contrasted the patchwork greens and browns of the land – fields, forests, villages, towns – while craggy granite cliffs edged into occasional slithers of golden beach or the azure wash of the incoming tide.
Away in the distance, St Michael's Mount stood proud of the English Channel, every inch the fairytale giant's castle, while Hayle and its shimmering miles of sand felt close enough to pick up in my hand.
I'd been told the half-hour flight to Tresco would be part of the magic, but I had no idea I might witness such an absorbing aerial vista of Cornwall en route to my new personal paradise.
There were just a handful of us on this 17-seater Twin Otter plane out of Newquay, welcomed on board by the co-pilot, after climbing a tiny flight of drop-down steps to our seats. "Mind your heads," he warned.
Take-off was smooth, ascending through puffs of marshmallow cloud. My seat was next to the propeller and it whizzed round so fast that I could only trace a ghostly impression of its circuit. My bird's-eye view showed us clearing the mainland, past Longships lighthouse, and heading West with just grey waves and wispy clouds for company.
Then a lone red fishing boat appeared below as we began our calm descent towards the archipelago, skimming in tight over the low rocky coastline and touching down on the tarmac at St Mary's; my first trip to the Scillies was under way.
A waiting minibus trundled me through town to the harbour. Our driver knew everyone on the way, it seemed, beeping his horn or raising his hand umpteen times and pointing out little gems of local knowledge.
"There's the new secondary school – it cost £17 million"; "See that lady there, she's 100, you know".
I recognised its narrow streets as the cousin of every traditional granite town on the mainland, but here all roads lead to the sea and I had a high-speed ferry to catch across the bay.
Everyone said I would love it, but nothing prepared me for the enchantment of Tresco; not the stunning photographs that had beckoned me there, nor the glorious praise heaped on the place by friends, nor the glowing recommendations of guide books.
Door to door from home in Saltash it had taken me just four hours (including the hour's airport check-in time) yet, walking up the slipway at the deserted Carn Near Quay, it felt like I'd arrived on beautiful shores a million miles away.
I was lucky to land on a gloriously warm and sunny Indian summer day and everything seemed to slow down the minute I set foot on the island – my pace, my thoughts, my breath.
This is a privileged hideaway, shared with us by owner Robert Dorrien-Smith and his wife, Lucy, who live with their family in their ancestral home – Tresco Abbey.
There's only one hostelry, a couple of restaurants and a mix of lovely old traditional and stylish contemporary cottages to rent, so although it's no more than a hop, skip and jump away, it can never be crowded here.
The boatload of 50 day-trippers I watched disembark at New Grimsby quay on my first morning had vanished into the ether – or the art haven of Gallery Tresco – within seconds.
There are no cars here, just a couple of tractors and trailers to ferry visitors to their accommodation, little electric vans to carry supplies around, a handful of golf buggies, an army of bicycles, and boats to reach the other islands, of course – but mostly people use their feet.
The sandy bays naturally draw your eye, and the sea, dotted with boats of all shapes and sizes and views of some of the other 140, mostly uninhabited, Isles of Scilly – particularly closest neighbour, Bryher.
But Tresco is no one-trick pony; traversing the island's square mile at a leisurely pace, I found unexpected visual delights in every direction, like repeatedly stepping through the wardrobe into a picturesque version of Narnia.
Purple and white spikes of agapanthus grow wild here amid swaying savannah grasses and palm trees. Seaweeds of a myriad hues drape rocks on the bleached white beaches, big blocks of hewn granite stand tall amid curly ferns, a bird observation hut sits alongside the still pool of a freshwater lake, and cattle and horses graze contentedly in the dappled shade of woodland fields.
If I'd conjured up my dream environment I couldn't have done a better job, and the piece de resistance was still waiting around the corner – the astonishing Abbey Gardens. There are plants from right across the globe here; rare, extraordinary and exquisite examples that don't grow anywhere else on the British Isles. The view down to the coastline from its highest point is every bit as exotic as Eden's rainforest biome.
It was originally created by Robert Dorrien Smith's forebear, the visionary Augustus Smith, who recognised the Scillies' wonderfully mild climate and leased all the islands from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1834. Using a bare hillside and the old ruins of an ancient Benedictine priory as his framework, he installed paths and stairways and borders, creating a unique outdoor space. It is still continually developing, with striking sculptures complementing the greenery, a cafe serving scrumptious home-made cakes, and a gift shop where you can buy plants and seeds to take home. There's even an outdoor exhibition of intriguing ships' figureheads, rescued from wrecks through the ages. Today the gardens are cared for by the passionate and knowledgeable curator Mike Nelhams, who fell in love with the place (and a local girl, Isobel) when he came there as a garden student and has made it both his family home and his life's work. After 30 years he says he still can't get bored, and he loves nothing better than passing on what he has learnt.
The gardens' serious horticultural standing attracts experts and students from all over the world, and the gardening packages Mike hosts for visitors are a treat for green-fingered enthusiasts and novices alike.
Art, nature, landscape and architecture all go hand in hand on Tresco – hardly surprising with Lucy Dorrien-Smith being such an accomplished artist herself. Her stunning gazebo with shell and tile flower-design mosaics in the gardens is quite exquisite, and I adore her Peace, Love and Happiness trio that decorate the wall outside the Tresco Stores.
This shop is stuffed to the gunwales with everything you could possibly want – from its farm-fresh island-grown vegetables, freshly caught fish and seafood, island beef to its well-stocked deli, wine shelves, not forgetting the Western Morning News and elegant Tresco Times magazine, of course. It's next door to the classy, wood-clad Flying Boat Club with its spa, gym, and an indoor pool that boasts a fabulous painted beach mural featuring members of the Dorrien Smith family through the ages. Yoga teacher Lucy Aldridge also runs special yoga and spa breaks here too. There's also a very stylish cocktail bar and eaterie here that brings to mind a place I know near Auckland on New Zealand's North Island.
My home from home for my two-night stay was an en-suite room next to the outdoor pool at the New Inn. This traditional pub is the easy-going social hub of the island where there's a warm welcome, proper ales and tasty food – including hearty or healthy breakfasts. The bar was buzzing the evening I arrived, with local covers band Noxious cracking out some indie rock after dinner and everyone in party mood.
For foodie heaven – and there is so much to be harvested and relished on Tresco – my choice has to be the Ruin Beach Cafe at Old Grimsby. The walk there took me inland past St Nicholas' Church and the primary school; you briefly lose sight of the sea altogether before emerging into this gorgeous bay overlooking the Blockhouse and embellished by a pair of bronze dancing dolphins.
I'm still dreaming about my smashed pea salad, the Mediterranean fish stew, juicy glass of Sauvignon and the baby blues and pinks of a reflected sunset.
It was pitch dark on the walk back in this land without street lights and I found myself humming Don Maclean's Vincent as the starry starry night revealed itself.
It's hard to believe now that I'd never been to Tresco – or, indeed, Scilly – before. I'd imagined it couldn't be so very different from the Cornwall I know and love. Silly girl... or should I now say, Scilly girl!