There’s something special about travelling to an island; it feels like the ultimate escape from the modern world, somewhere to reconnect with nature and slow down the pace of life. Hundreds of islands dot the coastline of Britain; they’re perfect for those who love the outdoors, and you don’t need to leave the trappings of comfort behind with plenty of luxurious accommodation to choose from. Here’s a selection of some of the best of the British Isles where you can discover ancient history, forgotten cultures, fantastic wildlife and incredible views.
Isle of Wight
Off England’s south coast
One of the most accessible islands off the coast of Britain with the enviable title of the sunniest place in the country. Half the island is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there are miles of stunning coastline and beaches. Discover hidden coves, secluded beaches and pretty villages like Bembridge, a very popular destination for sailing, with panoramic views out to sea. The Isle of Wight has long been a favourite for traditional seaside family holidays, but a variety of music festivals, trendy new places to eat and cool places to stay mean it’s developed into a hip place for a break.
Recommended: Walking the glorious golden beaches – Ryde and Appley have wide expanses of sand and stunning views • Taking the chairlift to see the iconic Needles Rocks and lighthouse • Visiting the country retreat of Queen Victoria at Osborne House • Visiting during Lendy Cowes Week. The sailing regatta was first established in 1826 and is held this year from 4–11 August. visitisleofwight.co.uk
Lewis and Harris
Off the north-west coast of Scotland
Lewis and Harris are situated in the Outer Hebrides, a chain of islands 40 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland. They actually make up one island with the north known as Lewis and the south as Harris. It’s a remote, windswept location steeped in history and culture, and a place where you get a sense of traditional island life – Sundays are still observed as special days with no ferry crossings and many shops close. The landscape of Lewis is flat moorland and peat bogs, while Harris is mainly rocky with incredible Caribbean-like beaches such as Luskentyre.
Recommended: Buying the world famous Harris Tweed • Exploring the beaches along the west coast of Harris • Visiting the Callanish standing stones • Going in June or July to see the spectacular machair – vast expanses of wildflowers stretching down to the beaches. • Joining in the fun of The Hebridean Celtic Festival, held from 18–21 July. visitouterhebrides.co.uk
Off the south coast of Devon
Burgh Island is a small tidal island off the south coast of Devon. Attached to the mainland by a sandy beach at low tide you can travel to the island at high tide in the magnificent sea tractor – the only one of its kind in the world. The big draw to the island is the art deco hotel – The Burgh Island Hotel, which offers the only accommodation on the island. Step back in time at the Grade II listed building which has been restored to its 1930s glamour when the likes of Noel Coward and Winston Churchill visited. It was also a haunt of Agatha Christie, inspiring several of her crime novels.
Recommended: Bathing in the Mermaid Pool, the natural sea water swimming pool • Taking a trip on the sea tractor • Clambering over the rock pools. burghisland.com
St Michael’s Mount
Off the west coast of Cornwall
St Michael’s Mount, a granite pile with a castle perched on top, rises out of the glistening water of Mount’s Bay off the west Cornwall coast. Based on the island abbey of Mont St Michel in Brittany, the buildings date from the 12th century with some later 17th century additions. It’s been the home to the St Aubyn family since the English Civil War and only 30 people live on the island permanently. For visitors it’s a short walk across the cobbled causeway when the tide is low; if the tide is in jump on board one of the ferries from Marazion.
Recommended: Visit the castle • Wander around the gardens filled with exotic plants, surely one of the most dramatic places to garden in the country • Explore the village and harbour. stmichaelsmount.co.uk
The largest of the Channel Islands
Jersey is accessible by ferry from Poole or Portsmouth in around 4½ hours or you can fly from many UK departure points in just less than an hour. Lying in sheltered seclusion, much closer to the Normandy coast than the English, Jersey has, despite WWII deprivations and the relentless pressure of modern capitalism, magnificently survived, and thrived, rewarding its multitude of annual visitors with an unexpected kaleidoscope of pleasure.
Recommended: Explore rock pools on a guided walk into Europe’s largest rocky inter-tidal zone to Seymour Tower • Enjoy St Helier, the vibrant capital and only ‘town’ in Jersey. • Visit the remodelled and enhanced Fortress Island exhibit at the Jersey War Tunnels. jersey.com
Isles of Scilly – off the south coast of Cornwall
Tresco is the second largest of the Isles of Scilly, a cluster of islands lying 30 miles off the south west tip of Cornwall. Bathed by the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, these islands have a Caribbean feel to them, with the turquoise sea lapping the white sandy beaches, and exotic plants thrive in the mild climate. Tresco oozes luxury and sophistication and the car-free nature of the island means tranquillity is easy to find.
Recommended: Visiting the Abbey Gardens • Catching a boat to the other islands of St Mary’s, St Martin’s, Bryher and St Agnes • Beachcombing on the beaches at Pentle and Appletree.• Learning to sail. Joining in the fun of Taste of Scilly throughout September. tresco.co.uk
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