The most divine British Isles! Magnificent coastal havens from Lundy to Newquay and St Kilda


Whether it’s the setting of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, a puffin paradise or the former home of a crazed king, Britain is littered with tiny isles on which you can stay in seclusion.

Scroll down to discover our pick of the very best…  

PIRATES AND PRETENDERS

Lundy, pictured, is an outcrop in the Bristol Channel. It has a colourful history full of Barbary pirates and self-proclaimed kings

Romantic: Tibbetts cottage in Lundy, which is a four-person granite cottage with varnished matchboarding

Romantic: Tibbetts cottage in Lundy, which is a four-person granite cottage with varnished matchboarding

A map showing the locations of our divine island getaways

A map showing the locations of our divine island getaways

The temperate Bristol Channel outcrop Lundy has a colourful history full of Barbary pirates and self-proclaimed kings. 

Rock-climbers and ramblers tackle its sheer cliffs and grassy slopes, while wildlife lovers head there to see puffins and seals. Many gather in the atmospheric Marisco Tavern after dark.

Best for: Rebels or rock-climbers.

Where to stay: The 23 self-catering properties include parts of an old castle. The most remote and romantic is electricity-free Tibbetts, a four-person granite cottage with varnished matchboarding. Four nights cost from £290 (landmarktrust.org.uk).

PRIVATE HIDEAWAY

A tiny tidal islet off the Isle of Skye in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, Eilean Sionnach is roughly 200 yards wide. And this dramatic, rocky space will be yours entirely. 

You can arrange boat (or pub) trips with the skipper, and read, walk or watch for whales in the Sound of Sleat.

Best for: Whale-watchers.

Where to stay: In the unexpectedly slick and stylish four-bedroom keeper’s cottage by the now-automated lighthouse. There is a roll-top bath, superfast wifi, underfloor heating and Smeg kitchen appliances. From £295 a night (coolstays.com).

BEACH BLISS

The coastline on St Martin's, part of the Isles of Scilly. The islands have white sands, green waters and a Gulf Stream-warmed climate

The coastline on St Martin’s, part of the Isles of Scilly. The islands have white sands, green waters and a Gulf Stream-warmed climate

Thanks to white sands, green waters and a Gulf Stream-warmed climate, the Isles of Scilly, south-west of mainland Cornwall, often earn comparisons to the Caribbean.

Especially desirable is the mostly empty coastline of St Martin’s. Visitors can go on snorkelling trips to see seals, and head to the island’s vineyard.

Best for: Sun-seekers.

Where to stay: Karma St Martin’s, a beachside resort aping a hamlet of stone cottages. Try the local crab in its restaurant. Three nights’ B&B costs from £563 pp, including transfers from Land’s End (ukprestigeholidays.co.uk).

HOLY ISLAND

Lindisfarne is known for its rocky beaches and orchid-dotted mudflats. It is also home to the mystical ruins of its medieval priory

Lindisfarne is known for its rocky beaches and orchid-dotted mudflats. It is also home to the mystical ruins of its medieval priory

There is much to see around the rocky beaches and orchid-dotted mudflats of Lindisfarne, including a tiny walled garden created by horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll, a mock Tudor castle and a pyramid-shaped beacon. 

The Holy Island is also home to the mystical ruins of its medieval priory, chiefly associated with the miracle-worker St Cuthbert.

Best for: Budding pilgrims.

Where to stay: While most visitors to the tidal isle are day-trippers, the village has accommodation for six at the rather homely Britannia House, an 18th-century cottage that’s close to its kipper-selling Post Office. Seven nights cost from £540 (cottagesinnorthumberland.co.uk).

WALK IN THE WILD

South Ronaldsay, pictured, which is the most southerly of Scotland’s Orkney Islands

South Ronaldsay, pictured, which is the most southerly of Scotland’s Orkney Islands

Linked to the main isle via the Churchill Barriers — four causeways built by Italian prisoners of war — South Ronaldsay is the most southerly of Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

Here, otters roam the beaches and lochs, and sheep farms are scattered across the heathland, making walks a pleasure.

It also has the haunting, 5,000-year-old Tomb of the Eagles where thousands of human and bird bones were found together.

Best for: Hikers.

Where to stay: Wheems Organic Farm, which is powered by wind energy. Its fleece-insulated, sea-facing pods negate the brisk clifftop winds. From £40 per night (coolcamping.co.uk).

FIT FOR A KING

Sweet living: A shepherd’s hut in the grounds of the luxury hotel by the Thames on Monkey Island

Sweet living: A shepherd’s hut in the grounds of the luxury hotel by the Thames on Monkey Island 

On the Thames, across a footbridge from Bray (and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck), is Monkey Island. It has more anecdotes than acreage. 

Tales of Elgar compositions, wild nights in the Swinging Sixties, and banished mad King George III supposedly making it his home illustrate its brilliantly bonkers past.

It’s the perfect spot for riverside picnics, or starting jaunts to Windsor Castle.

Best for: Those who enjoy the finer things.

Where to stay: In the mighty plush hotel, formed from two Palladian pavilions with ornate Wedgwood plasterwork and 17th-century frescoes. Guests get access to the floating spa barge, and shepherd’s huts are found in the herb-scented grounds. From £200 B&B per night (monkeyislandestate.co.uk).

LIFE OF LEISURE

The former mill carthouse, which is now a self catering cottage on Filly - a sleepy river island in the Cotswolds

The former mill carthouse, which is now a self catering cottage on Filly – a sleepy river island in the Cotswolds 

Accessed by a humpback bridge, Filly is a sleepy river island separating the thin, leafy Churn from an old mill stream.

Here, days out typically involve National Trust visits, peaceful Cotswolds hikes, afternoons in genteel tea shops or, ideally, all three.

Best for: Romantic breaks.

Where to stay: The couples’ cottage is a former mill carthouse, which was turned into an apple store when the mill became an orchard. It is now the island’s only building.

Its bright, vintage interiors artily incorporate fire-bucket light shades and green cupboard-doors made from reclaimed wood.

You also get a roll-top bath and a waterside garden. Seven nights’ self-catering costs from £795 (uniquehomestays.com).

SURF’S UP

Idyll: The Island, above Towan Beach in central Newquay. To reach the island you must use a discreet green door and a footbridge

Idyll: The Island, above Towan Beach in central Newquay. To reach the island you must use a discreet green door and a footbridge

A super-sized sea stack, The Island towers 80 feet above sandy Towan Beach in central Newquay. Getting there involves a discreet green door and a footbridge. 

You’re near an aquarium, and you can take a clifftop walk when you’re not enjoying the famous surf for which the area’s known.

Best for: A family getaway.

Where to stay: In its sole building — an upmarket, two-floor home championing New England-style whites and greys. There’s also a billiards table, and a pergola decorated with fairy lights in the gardens surrounding the property. The best of the three bedrooms has a four-poster bed. Four nights cost from £1,306 (boutiqueretreats.co.uk).

AWAY FROM IT ALL

The island of Hirta on the isolated archipelago of St Kilda. The last permanent residents were evacuated from here in 1930

The island of Hirta on the isolated archipelago of St Kilda. The last permanent residents were evacuated from here in 1930

The isolated archipelago of St Kilda is among Scotland’s most remote set of islands, at 100 miles from the mainland. 

Visitors are only permitted on Hirta, which is inhabited by the employees of a small Ministry of Defence base. The last permanent residents were evacuated in 1930.

Here you can explore ghostly abandoned homes and learn about a time when seabird feathers were collected as payment for rent.

Best for: History enthusiasts

Where to stay: The campsite costs £20 per night per pitch. A boat sails from Skye daily, weather-dependent, for £470 pp return (gotostkilda.co.uk).

AIR OF MYSTERY

The Burgh Island Hotel, where Agatha Christie was inspired to write the whodunnits And Then There Were None and, later, Evil Under The Sun

The Burgh Island Hotel, where Agatha Christie was inspired to write the whodunnits And Then There Were None and, later, Evil Under The Sun

Follow a sandbar from the South Devon village of Bigbury-on-Sea and you’ll soon arrive at bumpy Burgh Island.

During her stay in the spectacular hotel here, restored in the 1930s, Agatha Christie was inspired to write the whodunnits And Then There Were None and, later, Evil Under The Sun.

Visitors can also head to the Pilchard Inn pub and, atop a steep hill, the ruins of a chapel.

Best for: Amateur detectives.

Where to stay: Burgh Island Hotel oozes sophistication; think afternoon teas and a snooker room. Nearby is a cove with turquoise waters. From £290 per night (sawdays.co.uk).

TAKE FLIGHT

The island of Skomer in Pembrokeshire, which is a breeding ground for puffins, porpoises and squabbling seals

The island of Skomer in Pembrokeshire, which is a breeding ground for puffins, porpoises and squabbling seals 

Half of the world’s Manx shearwaters nest on Skomer and Skokholm in Pembrokeshire during the summer.

Each evening they noisily return to their burrows. Comical puffins, porpoises, an endemic vole subspecies and squabbling seals are there to spot, too.

Meanwhile, an Iron Age hut circle and menhir will leave keen historians weak-kneed.

Best for: Birdwatchers.

Where to stay: In a 16-bed bunkhouse on Skomer (from £30 pp per night) and, on further-out Skokholm — where day visitors aren’t permitted — in renovated cowsheds (£110 pp for minimum three nights), both April-September only (welshwildlife.org). Return boat transfers from £27.50.

COOL CUSTOMER

Divine dish: The Blonde Hedgehog hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant

Divine dish: The Blonde Hedgehog hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant

Though not the smallest inhabited Channel Island, Alderney does have the coolest residents across this archipelago. 

Lots of rare, leucistic (blonde) hedgehogs.

There are also white-gold beaches, cliff paths, puffins, palm-like cabbage trees, crumbling Victorian forts and views of mainland France.

Best for: Hedgehog lovers.

Where to stay: In the capital St Anne’s new boutique hotel called, yes, The Blonde Hedgehog. 

Its nine rooms have nice touches, with tubs and teal-painted walls, and there’s a farm-to-table restaurant. Doubles from £230 B&B (blondehedgehog.com).

STAR-STUDDED

Osea, pictured, a tidal isle in Essex’s River Blackwater. The private island’s village has clapboard cottages, with bikes and fishing rods to hire

Osea, pictured, a tidal isle in Essex’s River Blackwater. The private island’s village has clapboard cottages, with bikes and fishing rods to hire

Torpedo boat base, festival host and celebrity hideaway — life on Osea, a tidal isle in Essex’s River Blackwater, is rarely dull.

But its idyllic feel, with strips of sandy beach, meadows and willow-lined lanes suggests otherwise. Canoe, cycle, sail, or just relax.

Best for: Celeb-spotters.

Where to stay: The private island’s village has clapboard cottages, with bikes and fishing rods to hire, plus a shared heated pool (from £245 a night, hostunusual.com).

There are also bigger beach houses, including the main Manor, sleeping 20 (from £2,214, stayonedegree.com).

HIGHLAND INSPIRATION

Car-free Eilean Shona on Loch Moidart. J.M. Barrie lived here in the 1920s while writing the film adaptation of his book Peter Pan

Car-free Eilean Shona on Loch Moidart. J.M. Barrie lived here in the 1920s while writing the film adaptation of his book Peter Pan

With moorland, mists, mossy pine woodland and sandy beaches, car-free Eilean Shona on Loch Moidart is the Scottish Highlands in miniature.

It certainly seduced J. M. Barrie, who summered here in the 1920s while writing the film adaptation of his book Peter Pan. Otters, red squirrels and dolphins are frequently sighted, too.

Best for: Boys who never grew up.

Where to stay: Eight comfy self-catering stone cottages dot the craggy shore (seven nights from £750, eileanshona.com). Or there’s the fully-catered, 16-person ex-hunting lodge, now containing bold Grayson Perry art (three nights from £1,200). 



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