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United Kingdom > General information > Britain’s Islands

Visiting Britain's Islands.

Around the coast of England, Scotland and Wales lie more than 6,000 islands - 140 or so inhabited. Each unique in its own way, Britain’s quirky assortment of islands are truly destinations to treasure.  As for the Scottish Islands, click here 

ENGLAND’S SOUTH COAST  

Isle of Wight  

Dinosaurs, festivals, regattas… there’s more to the Isle of Wight than its glorious beaches and bays. Anyone with a passing interest in palaeontology will be thrilled with the ‘dinosaur capital of Britain’, so named because the island is one of the richest areas of dinosaur fossil discovery in Europe. This prehistoric wonder is documented in museums such as the Dinosaur Isle, while there are also fossil hunts and footprint tours.

Visit Brook Beach, where one unmissable feature is the fossilised forest of trees that appear from beneath the waves at low tide, as well as a sandstone ledge containing fossilised dinosaur footprints. Britain’s oldest theme park, Blackgang Chine, has further marked the island’s rich dinosaur heritage with its dinosaur attraction Restricted Area 5 (blackgangchine.com).
   

The Isle of Wight has also gained a favourable reputation as a festival island. June sees thousands of people stream over by ferry to attend the Isle of Wight Festival – it’s always an impressive line-up of bands and 2016 alone has confirmed Queen with Adam Lambert, the Stereophonics and Faithless. Come September, it’s Bestival time! This festival has more of a boutique flavour, and fancy dress is heartily encouraged.

Foodies might be interested in the island’s Garlic Festival – cookery demonstrations, children’s entertainment, live music and, of course, huge garlic marquees, all take place at the bulb-inspired festival every August (isleofwightfestival.com, bestival.net, garlic-festival.co.uk)
    

The summer months also make it a popular time to visit the island during Cowes Week – a sailing regatta that, since 1826, has played a major part in Britain’s sporting summer calendar, staging up to 40 daily races for around 1,000 boats. It’s certainly one way to experience the island’s stunning heritage coast, but if you don’t have sea legs, why not explore this island – half of which has been recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – during May’s two-week Walking Festival? Featuring more than 250 walks for all ages and abilities, there are more than 500 miles of footpaths on which you can amble and ramble (visitisleofwight.co.uk).   

How to get there: ferry services leave from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington, with up to 350 crossings per day. Travel time from London to the ports is just under two hours.
 
See pictures from Isle of Wight.
 

Isles of Scilly   

Would you be surprised to hear that Britain has its very own tropical islands? It’s true. Nestled in a Gulf Stream, 28 miles south of Cornwall, the five inhabited islands and countless uninhabited islands in the archipelago of the Isles of Scilly experience a sultry climate. The warmer climate has resulted in a stunning array of flora and fauna on the islands. Tresco – the second largest isle, which boasts white sandy beaches – is home to the exotic, outdoor Abbey Garden. Walk among palm trees, flame trees and tropical flowers in the brightest colours.   

As well as the sheer diversity of the tropical vegetation, the largest island – St Mary’s – is peppered with ancient monuments, ranging from Neolithic chamber tombs to Civil War fortifications. And why not hop on board a boat for a day trip to the third-largest island, St Martin’s, where, after a day on the stunning beaches, you can fortify yourself with a glass of white wine from the island’s vineyard (visitislesofscilly.com).   

How to get there: passenger ferries leave from Penzance in Cornwall on a regular basis or you can experience a bird’s eye view of the island by taking the Skybus to the islands from Land’s End, Newquay and Exeter airports.     

Lundy Island  

If you’re holidaying in north Devon, take a day trip to the unspoilt wilderness of Lundy Island, 11 miles off the coast. Immerse yourself in its wilderness on snorkelling safaris or rock pool rambles, wildlife and seabird walks. Spot grey seals, the Lundy ponies and the island’s Sika deer, as well as the diverse flora and fauna and the ‘Lundy cabbage’, endemic to the island.  

And if you’re in search of refreshment after all the exploring, you’ll be pleased to know you can order a pint at The Marisco Tavern, one of England’s most isolated pubs. You can also spend the night right by the island’s castle, built in 1244 by Henry III; the ruinous keep was renovated into cottages by The Landmark Trust. Or you can stay in the disused lighthouse – built by Bristol-based merchants in the 18th century to stop the many shipwrecks on the island, the keepers quarters have been transformed into flats with spectacular views (lundyisland.co.uk, landmarktrust.org.uk).   

Getting there: Either on board the island’s own boat the MS Oldenbury, which departs from Bideford in north Devon, or by helicopter during good weather. Bideford is just over an hour’s drive from Exeter International Airport or two hours from Bristol International Airport.  

ENGLAND’S NORTH-EAST COAST  

Holy Island and Farne Islands  

For thousands of years Holy Island in the North Sea, a tidal island off the coast of Northumberland, has been a beacon for visitors, once attracting pilgrims to the Benedictine Priory, which was later destroyed by Henry VIII in the 16th century to build Lindisfarne Castle with the monastery stone. This romantic fortress is now looked after by the National Trust and underwent renovation by the architect Edwin Lutyens in the early 1900s, although some of the Tudor fort can still be seen.   

Keen ornithologists should take a boat out to the nearby Farne islands; witness 37,000 pairs of puffins that call the islands their home as well as more than 20 varieties of birds including guillemots and razorbills. Also keep your eyes peeled for the large grey seal colony and enjoy fantastic views back to Bamburgh Castle, which looms over the Northumberland coast, and the Cheviot Hills. nationaltrust.org.uk/lindisfarne-castle (visitnorthumberland.com/coast/farne-islands).  

Getting there: The nearest rail station is Berwick-upon-Tweed, around 45 minutes from Edinburgh or Newcastle. From there, take a bus, with times depending on the prevailing tide. Holy Island is linked to the mainland by a long causeway. 


 

ENGLAND’S NORTH-WEST COAST  

Isle of Man   

There are some outstanding beauty spots on the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea, just west of the Lake District in north-west England. More than 40 per cent of the land is unpopulated and there are 18 coastal or mountainous glens to discover. In addition to wild natural beauty, there are beautifully maintained gardens on the island; the Tynwald National Park and Arboretum consists of 25 acres of picturesque countryside, while the Milntown Estate – parts of which date back to the 16th century – boasts wonderful blooms in its 15 acres of gardens and woodlands.    

History buffs should head to the island’s capital, Castletown. Visit the imposing Castle Rushen, one of the most impressive medieval castles in Britain, or you can join a Story of Mann trail, which will take you to Peel Castle – believed to be the first place Christianity was brought to the Isle by St Patrick in the early 13th century. Take a ride on the Douglas Horse Trams – on the island since 1876, even Royal visitors to the island such as the Queen and the late Queen Mother have been carried on the tramway

Getting there: Flights to the Isle of Ma n operate from Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London Gatwick, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton international airports. Alternatively, there are ferry services from Liverpool and Belfast.

Get more information about Isle of Man.
   

WALES’ NORTH COAST  

Anglesey   

‘Majestic’ sums up the island of Anglesey, lying off the north coast of Wales. With its mountains – such as the stark beauty of Parys Mountain – and vistas as far as the eye can see, beautiful coastal walks, romantic gems, the village with the longest name in Britain (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – give pronouncing it a go!) and royal connections thrown in for good measure.  

Once the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before their son Prince George was born in July 2013, Anglesey has long had a strong royal heritage. Back in 1295 Edward I ordered work to begin the last of the ‘iron ring’ of castles in north Wales, designed to be a perfectly shaped fortress on the 'beautiful marsh' ( beau marais in Norman French) – Beaumaris Castle. Although it wasn’t completed, the medieval fortress is one of the island’s most magnificent sights.   

Explore the burial chambers at Barcloddiad Yr Gawres, while Llys Rhosyr, the site of what was once the royal court of the most powerful and charismatic Welsh medieval princes, Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Gwynedd, has been discovered near the village of Newborough. Learn about the many shipwrecks that occurred off Anglesey’s coast at the maritime museum in Holyhead, the island’s largest town.  

Even the island’s romantic appeal is deep-rooted in history. The beautiful Llanddwyn Island, off the tip of Anglesey, is the home of St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of love, who lived in the 5th century. The ruins of St Dwynwen’s chapel, built in the 16th century, can still be seen today (visitanglesey.com)  

Getting there: London to Holyhead by train takes around four hours, while Liverpool and Manchester in England’s north-west are around a two-hour drive.

Read more about Anglesey.
   

WALES’ WEST COAST  

Caldey Island  

Buy perfume, chocolate and shortbread made by… monks! This picturesque island off the coast of Pembrokeshire has been home to various orders of monks since Celtic times. It is now owned by the Cistercian Order and the monks make these goods to sell.

Wander through the Old Priory and attend one of the chanted services in the Abbey church, plus explore the medieval churches of St David and St Illtud. Why not finish up your trip with a walk up the island’s lighthouse, where you’ll get fantastic views of the Pembrokeshire Coast, the Gower Peninsula and Lundy Island? (caldey-island.co.uk).

Getting there: Take the boat from Tenby harbour. Tenby is just under two hours by road or rail from Cardiff.
 

Skomer Island  

Skomer is puffin paradise. Thousands of puffins make their home on this small scenic island – which, in May, is blanketed in bluebells and pink campion – as do many other bird species. Along with its sister island, Skokholm, the waters around Skomer are rich in marine wildlife that shelter in the bays and inlets, all which can be spotted on special safaris (visitpembrokeshire.com)   

Getting there: Take a ferry from Martin’s Haven on the Pembrokeshire coast, around a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cardiff. 
 
See also pictures of Anglesey and other attractions of Wales.

CHANNEL ISLANDS  

As for Jersey and Guernsey, click here.

Source: Visit Britain  2016.


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United Kingdom > General information > Britain's Lakes
United Kingdom > General information > Visiting the Scottish islands

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Isle of Wight , Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man, Anglesey. Around the coast of England, Scotland and Wales lie more than 6,000 islands - 140 or so inhabited. Each unique in its own way, Britain’s assortment of islands are truly destinations to treasure.