People get pretty excited when you start talking about island holidays. It’s generally accepted as the ultimate way to enjoy the beach, the weather and your fancy new swim suit. Greece, the Philippines, Indonesia; just some examples of beautiful island destinations. It’s easy to forget there are some great holiday islands right here in Britain. Here are ten of the best.
Separated from Wales by the Menai Strait, the island of Anglesey is just a short distance along the A5.
The castles, viewpoints and nature walks are all lovely, but as far as watersports go, Anglesey is right up there with the Mediterranean islands. Even though the conditions aren’t always tropical, the high winds are perfect for kite and windsurfing.
There’s a great mix of nature, history and convenience on Mull, with enough space to enjoy it all. From the rocky balcony of Ben More's summit (a world class hike), you get a fresh look at the island's ancient hills. The landscape is lush and open, inhabited by birds of prey, red deer, and if you’re lucky, you might see a seal! There are caves to explore, alongside Calgary bay, ancient ruins and Duart castle (which apparently has a delightful tea rooms!). Mull may not be your typical 'island' experience, but there’s so much to explore and learn.
The Isle of Man is a unique place, lying almost midway between Ireland and England. It handles a massive influx of tourists during the annual Tourist Trophy motorcycle race, but even with all the media hype that accompanies the event, there are still countless places to explore that make you feel like you’re the only person there. The island is blessed with a hilly interior, which makes for great hiking. Choose from heritage trails (marked by castles, abbeys, churches and Celtic crosses), mountain hikes or relaxing coastal trails that take you around some gorgeous viewpoints en route to its beautiful beaches. If you are lucky enough to head out on a day's sailing trip, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins cruising around.
“The Holy Island” is beautiful and strange in equal measure. The old priory ruins and the castle look strangely out of place with modern fishing boats in the foreground. Across the island, you'll find other interesting contrasts. Moody breezes whiplash the coastline, turning the ocean into an icy landscape that looks completely inhospitable. At the same time, swans bathe in the sunny marshes that are sheltered by the island's hilly interior.
Over weekends and during the summer, the tiny population swells into the thousands. You could go to Lindisfarne for a number of reasons: bird watching, quiet relaxation or trekking. Some people come specifically to photograph the ancient ruins and contemplate the passage of time that links the island to medieval society. Just don't forget to watch the tide - the road to the “Holy Island” also disappears - literally - as the tide rises.
Rathlin Island is an Irish dream, just a short ferry ride from the docks at Ballycastle. Bright green hills blanket this small, but marvellously picturesque, island. The cliffs show off a distinctly Irish flavour that make it great for walks. Below the cliffs you have a bird's eye perspective of the Atlantic ocean (quite literally, as the biggest sea-bird population call the cliffs home), as well as a view of the other wild residents.
The rugged shoreline is home to a large seal colony, making it a hit with nature lovers. For people wanting an actual 'getaway' in the truest sense of the word, you will be very pleased with the tranquil isolation surrounding you. The village is small and intimate, and most visitors leave with a few friends by the end of their stay.
The quaint Isle of Sark is the smallest of the four main British Channel Islands. There are no cars allowed, which isn't a huge problem because the island is so small. It’s only four by one and a half miles! To make up for the lack of transportation, the local authorities have built the most beautiful pedestrian and cycling roads around the island's 40-mile perimeter. Its purpose-built roads overlooking nooks, caves and headlands are perfect for walking, cycling and taking a tour in one of the local horse-drawn carts. Like the air, the water is crisp and clean, perfect for diving and cruises - you'll see everything from colourful Cuckoo Wrasse to pods of dolphins.
The clean air and remote location make Sark one of the best places to go stargazing. Without interference from streetlights and car exhausts, you can see a sky decorated by more stars than you ever imagined were visible.
The Isle of Tiree gets our vote as the best summer camping island in Britain. It gets plenty of sunshine, thanks to the moderating effect of the Gulf Stream, which makes the evenings warm enough to sleep under the stars. The island's flat terrain and postcard-worthy beaches also provide campers with a solid base to rest their heads at night. It's a smaller UK island and the most westerly of the inner Hebrides, so tourism is not a massive industry, but you'll generally find a comfortable crowd of families and surfers who are there to enjoy the perfect beaches, warm weather and the bird life.
Orkney is an archipelago off the Scottish coast, boasting stunning beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites and lively festivals. Kirkwall, the capital, gets its name from the Old Norse word for 'Church Bay', because of St Magnus Cathedral - a stunning church built by the vikings during the 13th century. Ideally, you should stay in or near Kirkwall - there you'll be able to speak to a host of tour operators who will help you plot your next move. With around seventy islands to explore, and more beaches and sites than we can list in an entire travel guide, it's always best to go exploring with the people who live there. Be sure to visit Skara Brae, the remarkably well-kept ruins of a Stone Age community.
A day trip to St Kilda is like visiting Jurassic Park. It's a mesmerising place that doesn't feel like part of the real world, and not just because of the enormous cliffs that tower over the jagged coastline, which happen to be the highest in the British Isles! Part of what makes this British island so wonderful is the the untameable ocean currents and the isolation of this archipelago; it lies some forty miles west of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. The islands are home to some of the oldest remaining Bronze and Iron Age ruins making this archipelago an unmissable UNESCO World Reserve. A walking tour of the islands is like stepping back into ancient times. Combined with the beautiful marine and bird life, it's unmissable if you are close enough to book a day trip - the islands are uninhabited except for a few National Trust workers and military staff.
Just off the coast of Cornwall, you'll find the Isles of Scilly - an archipelago of islands that looks like something out of Homer's Odyssey. St Mary's and St Martin's are both, by any standards, lovely British islands. However, the jewel in this crown is Tresco - a private island with a past that dates back to the bronze age.
As you fly, sail or ferry your way onto the island, one of the most striking features that you’ll notice is the water; it's blue like the Mediterranean. This makes it hard to believe that only 30 kilometers away is England's mainland. One of Tresco's most longstanding monuments to the past is the Tresco Abbey Gardens, built by Augustus Smith, the first Lord of Tresco, after he was leased the island in 1834. He built the Abbey alongside an old priory and set up shop there. Almost two hundred years later, the garden is still exquisite.
No matter where you plan to unwind, you can benefit from the best travel insurance policies that will cover any activities you take part in, as well as, cancellation of hotels and accommodation, pre-existing medical conditions and much more.