6 of the best British islands
By Laura Gelder – June 2020 – 3 minute read
What better way to ease out of lockdown than to escape to a remote island for a staycation in splendid isolation? We pick out six of the UK's most enticing isles.
Bryher, Scilly Isles
The smallest of this southwest archipelago’s inhabited isles, Bryher’s rugged west coast looks towards Newfoundland thousands of miles away but its east coast is blessed with white sand beaches and calm, clear waters. Bryher is the setting for Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel Why the Wales Came and the movie adaptation was filmed there too. Just one and half miles long by half a mile wide, the island is criss-crossed by rough tracks and dotted with stalls selling fresh produce like farm eggs, local vegetables, fresh seafood and home made fudge.Top spots include the rugged rocks of Shipman’s Head to watch the waves roll in and the beach at Rushy Bay. Visitors can stay at the boutique Hell Bay Hotel, which has ocean-view rooms, a spa treatment shed, yoga studio and heated outdoor pool, and dine out at Fraggle Rock, one of Britain's smallest bars.
Sitting in the middle of Pool Harbour, Brownsea island is famous for its resident and rare red squirrels and for being the place where the Scouts movement was born. The island’s multiple habitats - ranging from heathland and forest to maritime cliffs and a saline lagoon - make it an important site for wildlife. As well as the bushy tailed and ear-tufted squirrels, the island is home to sika deer, pink spider crabs and the nightjar bird. Visitors will also find peacocks and hens wandering near the 19th-century church and can explore the remains of the village of Maryland, which once housed workers and their families. As well as walking trails and beaches to entertain, the National Trust runs special activities like wildlife trails and craft making.
Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel, Lundy Island lies.The National Trust-owned isle has no roads or cars and it’s Norse name refers to its most famous resident - the puffin. The island has been home to the De Marisco family, smugglers and lighthouse keepers but its current population is just 28 and includes a warden, an island manager and a farmer. Visitors can explore the island’s many walking routes which pass ancient burial chambers, former prisoner caves, the highest lighthouse in Britain and a plethora of flora and fauna. Bird watchers can spot puffins, Manx shearwaters, guillemots, starlings, meadow pipits, skylarks and kestrels. Mammals which make their home on Lundy include rabbits, sika deer, highland cattle, sheep, pygmy shrews and pipistrelle bats. Kids can take part in a hunt for the 27 Lundy Letterboxes which form a treasure hunt across the island. Other activities include rock climbing, scuba diving and dining out at the Marisco Tavern.
This whale shaped island is two miles off North Wales’ Llŷn Peninsula. There are just 12 properties on the island, each Grade II listed. One is leased to the farm, one to the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory and one to the Evans family who have lived on Bardsey for three generations, but the other nine properties are let out by the Bardsey Island Trust as holiday lettings.They range from a five-bedroom farmhouse to a converted loft. Known as the island of 20,000 saints, Bardsey has been a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years and the remains of the thirteenth century Augustinian Abbey of St. Mary can still be seen. Bardsey is a National Nature Reserve and sits on a key migratory route for Europe's birds. It’s also home to rare flowering plants, lichens, liverworts and mosses, coastal grassland and heathland and sea cliffs, while marine wildlife like seals and dolphins swim offshore.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland
This wild Island is cut off twice-daily from the rest of the world by fast-moving tides and has a mystical history stretching back hundreds of years. Rising from the sheer rock face at the tip of the island is Lindisfarne Castle, built in 1550. Visitors can also explore the ruins of the 12th century Lindisfarne Priory, the epicentre of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times and the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the world’s most precious books. The island's landscape includes tidal mudflats, saltmarshes and dunes which together form the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. Here, rare plants and an abundance of food supplies attract visiting birds from thousands of miles - pink footed and greylag geese, wigeon, grey plovers and bar-tailed godwits. Grey and common seals also bob in the waters off-shore. Two major walks - both pilgrimages - pass through the island, St. Cuthbert’s Way and St. Oswald’s Way.
Part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, this is one of the country’s wildest islands. Jura is long and narrow and dominated by barren, soaring mountains. It’s famous for its whiskey as well as the world’s third largest whirlpool, the swirling Corryvreckan and the Paps of Jura, three mountains rising out of the bog with commanding views of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The population of just 200 people are outnumbered hugely by over 5,000 wild deer but other wildlife can be spotted including birds of prey like golden and sea eagles, hen harriers and buzzards, seabirds, otters and seals. The north of the island has natural wooded areas and sheltered bays whilst the west coast is rugged and remote, interspersed by sandy beaches. The walk to the Gulf of Corryvreckan passes Barnhill, the remote reteat where George Orwell wrote his classic book 1984.