This article is the fifth in a series featuring
destinations and activities perfect for a quick getaway. From cuisine to
culture to the great outdoors, discover ideas that will help you make the most
of your weekend.
and lush forest preserves make for a refreshing trip away from the mainland. Discover
sites of Arthurian legend and Christian pilgrimage or gaze at rare wildlife and
Anchored in the Blackwater Estuary off the coast of Essex, Osea is just an hour
from London. Previously home to a Victorian temperance society and top-secret
naval base, it opened to the public for the first time in nearly 100 years in
2011. The private island’s 350 acres are dotted with old houses, pillbox war
bunkers and even a World War II V2 rocket – plus its woodland, hedgerows and
beaches are host to rare wildlife (including, uniquely in England, all five
species of British owl). It’s ideal for some Enid Blyton-esque exploration on
foot, bike or even boat.
Shop is a cottage with a four-poster bed (three nights from £234).
Saints and sorcery abound in the history of Bardsey, off the Llŷn Peninsula in
North Wales. It’s known as the Isle of 20,000 Saints, and pilgrims flocked here
in the early days of Christianity after the Vatican decreed that three visits
equalled one to Rome. Theory also has it that it may be the site of Avalon, the
mystical island of Arthurian lore. The biggest draw for modern pilgrims,
though, is probably the wildlife. A nature reserve, Bardsey teems with rare
plants, birds and lively sea life – look out for dolphins, porpoises and
Atlantic grey seals in its rocky bays.
self-catering cottages on the island (from £140 for three nights).
Isle of Man
Though it’s regularly voted one of Britain’s best walking spots, the Isle of
Man is emerging as an equally rewarding place to just stand and stare. Seven
sites on the Irish Sea island were recently granted Dark Sky status – an
accolade awarded to areas with the clearest views of the night sky. All are
rated Milky Way class, meaning you may be able to spy the galaxy with the naked
eye. From Niarbyl’s wild coastline to the Smeale Nature Reserve, there are many
pleasurable places to while away the daytime hours too.
The Sefton Hotel in Douglas has elegant rooms with sea views (from £72).
This tiny island off the coast of Northumberland was a major player in the
Middle Ages, when the Irish monk St Aidan set about converting the heathens of
northern England from his base here. Viking raids put paid to its prominence.
It now has a desolate, ethereal air and a scattering of ruins, including a
medieval priory and a rock-hewn castle. Glimpse the glory days at the heritage
centre (£3), which has a facsimile of the illuminated
Lindisfarne Gospels, before sampling some mead at St Aidan’s Winery.
House Hotel has rooms with harbour views (from £95).
You could spend years exploring the varied and majestic landscapes of Scotland,
but for shorter timeframes, Colonsay makes an excellent taster. This island in
the Inner Hebrides combines Highland landscapes – rugged hills, moorland, birch
woods, and lochs – with all the advantages of an island: cliffs teeming with
rare birds and some of the best beaches in the country. There are plenty of
sandy stretches to choose from on this uncommonly sunny isle, but the mile-long
crescent of Kiloran is hard to beat. Come evening, sit back at Colonsay’s
boutique hotel with a plate of local oysters and a pint of local beer, created
at the island’s brewery (beer from £2.80 a pint).
Colonsay Hotel is set in a 250-year-old inn and has views across to
neighbouring Jura (from £85).
The article 'Five British island weekends' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.