Island-hoppers need not venture to Greece or Thailand for their fix of beaches, ferries and the castaway lifestyle. In fact, Great Britain is made up of more than six thousand islands.
While many of these are
simply rocky outcrops, hundreds are large enough to make it onto maps, and many
are well worth visiting. We have chosen five British islands that do not
usually make it into our holiday plans.
Name a Scottish island in
a spectacular location that is home to an Abbey and sandy beaches. If you said
Iona, think again. Much more accessible and much less crowded is Inchcolm,
located almost in the shadow of the Forth Bridge. The abbey remains Scotland’s
best-preserved group of monastic buildings and a boat journey here is one of
Edinburgh’s most underrated attractions. If you opt to go ashore rather than
viewing from the boat tours, allow around 90 minutes to explore.
The whole Cumbrian coast
is almost criminally under-visited and sits both literally and metaphorically
in the shadow of the big hills and big lakes to the east, which make up some of
Great Britain’s most cherished natural spaces. This means that if you decide to
head to the coast you will have it mostly to yourself. Offshore, close to
Barrow-in-Furness is Piel Island, home to the remains of Piel Castle and a
freshly-refurbished pub, the Ship Inn. Piel is linked to the mainland by small
ferryboats which run regularly during the summer months.
There is nothing between
Lundy Island and North America. The island sits where the Bristol Channel meets
the Atlantic Ocean and is a mere three-and-a-half miles long and half-a-mile
wide. Most visitors come to walk and view wildlife, though many return simply
to experience the peaceful and laid-back pace of life. The island issues its own
stamps with value expressed in puffins rather than pounds. The Landmark Trust
maintains a campsite, a variety of holiday homes and a lighthouse on the
island, all of which allow overnight visits.
Britain gets no more
remote than St Kilda, located 41 miles west of Benbecula in Scotland’s Western
Isles. The island’s hardy population finally lost their centuries-old struggle
against the elements in 1930 and were evacuated to the mainland. St Kilda’s
astonishingly wild weather and dramatic landscape survives, as do remnants of
their tough existence and enormous seabird colonies. Many come by cruise ship,
though daytrips from the Isle of Harris – only for those with strong sea-legs –
make for an unforgettable outing.
This Essex island is the
most easterly inhabited island in Britain. Just under 70 miles from London –
though the tides may delay your visit – it makes for an easy and engaging
getaway. Here you will find bucketloads of much-celebrated Essex oysters, a
vineyard following in a tradition of grape cultivation begun by the Romans and
a palpable feeling of stepping back in time.
The article 'Five great British islands' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.