For a family adventure in the British Isles, including wildlife encounters, ancient history and thrilling watersports, escape to an offshore destination. Words: Alex Reece
1. FOR FREE RANGE KIDS
ST MARY’S, ISLES OF SCILLY
WHY GO? With little traffic or commercialisation, Scilly is a place where kids can enjoy greater freedom in the fresh air. The pace of life is slower, and family diversions are plentiful – go beachcombing on the sandy shores, swimming or cycling. Fly or sail to the main island, St Mary’s, then embark on mini adventures to the four other inhabited islands (Tresco, Bryher, St Martin’s and St Agnes). St Martin’s is the place to try snorkelling with seals (scillysealsnorkelling.com) but there are also RIB rides and taster sessions in windsurfing, sailing and more at the Sailing Centre on St Mary’s.
WHERE TO STAY? The Garrison Campsite has pre-erected, family-sized Readi-Tents, which sleep up to 4, from £220 for three nights (garrisonholidaysscilly.co.uk). visitislesofscilly.com
2. FOR VIKING SITES
WHY GO?If your charges are into Vikings, take them to Unst, the most northerly island, with the remains of 60 longhouses – the highest density of rural Viking sites in the world. Also on the archipelago are incredible beaches (don’t miss the tombolo at St Ninian’s Isle) and charismatic wildlife, including puffins and otters.
WHERE TO STAY? The child-friendly and modern Lerwick Hotel costs from £145 for a family room (shetlandhotels.com). visitscotland.com
3. FOR GETTING BACK TO NATURE
ISLE OF SKYE, INNER HEBRIDES
WHY GO? Reached by road bridge or ferry, mountainous Skye has a varied coastline offering thrilling wildlife to delight any budding naturalist. See cetaceans offshore on a whale boat trip (aquaxplore.co.uk), although at Rubha Hunish you might spot minke whales – or orcas – from land. There are seal boat trips too, and, for Jurassic fans, dinosaur footprints at Staffin Beach. Water babies will love the Fairy Pools, a legendary wild-swimming site.
WHERE TO STAY? Self-catering Broad Reach is a luxury option. Sleeps 4, from £975pw (broadreachskye.co.uk). visitscotland.com
4. FOR CBEEBIES & SEA EAGLES
MULL, INNER HEBRIDES
WHY GO? CBeebies aficionados will be familiar with Balamory – and the brightly coloured houses of Tobermory, the main village on Mull, where it was set – from re-runs of the show on TV. Amaze your little ones by basing yourself here, and you’ll be close to the Mull Aquarium, which operates a catch-and-release policy. Older kids on board? Take them on intrepid sea voyages: sail to Staffa for Fingal’s Cave and its fascinating geology; or join in a Sea Life Survey trip and look out for white-tailed sea eagles, whales and dolphins. If you like a bit of modern trasure-hunting, Mull is great for geocaching on foot or by bike (isle-of-mull.net).
WHERE TO STAY? The Bellachroy, the oldest inn on Mull, has family rooms from £140 per night B&B (thebellachroy.co.uk). visitscotland.com
5. FOR A TRIP BACK IN TIME
INIS MOR, ARAN ISLANDS
WHY GO? Quit the digital age and immerse yourself in an ancient Irish landscape instead. Kids keen on history will be fascinated by the cliff-top fort of Dún Aonghasa on the largest island, Inis Mór. Wild swimming at the Worm Hole – a natural rectangular-shaped sea pool – is popular, too, as is cycling to see the seals and sheltered beaches. Take a boat to explore the two smaller islands, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr.
WHERE TO STAY? Go glamping above Frenchman’s Beach. Sleeps 4, €150 per night (irelandglamping.ie). ireland.com
6. FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS
JERSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS
WHY GO? Voted third in the top 10 UK destinations to visit in 2017 by TripAdvisor, Jersey makes an ideal family getaway with its unspoilt beaches and mild climate. Go dolphin spotting on a Seafari RIB tour, enjoy a boat trip to France, or take kids from age eight coasteering around the island’s 45-mile shoreline. Walk through history by exploring the Jersey War Tunnels, dating from the island’s WWII Occupation. For adventure play, head to Tamba Park or the giant swing at Creepy Valley.
WHERE TO STAY? Barge Aground is a 1930s boat-shaped folly on St Ouen’s Bay, offering quirky self-catering accommodation. Sleeps 6, from £1,180pw (freedomholidays.com). jersey.com
7. FOR CRABBING AND COASTEERING
ANGLESEY, NORTH WALES
WHY GO? With sandy beaches, traffic-free cycle paths and family attractions such as Pili Palas Nature World and Amlwch Copper Kingdom, there is almost no chance children will get bored on Anglesey. Grown-ups will love the spectacular coastal countryside, dotted with castles, lighthouses and sacred sites. Spot red squirrels at Plas Newydd, go crabbing on Beaumaris Pier or sail to Puffin Island. Raft building and coasteering are available with Anglesey Adventures.
WHERE TO STAY? Wonderfully Wild glamping lodges near Beaumaris sleep 6, from £480 for a weekend (wonderfullywild.co.uk). visitanglesey.co.uk
8. FOR A CASTAWAY FEEL
NORTHEY ISLAND, ESSEX
WHY GO? Once a year, this National Trust-owned tidal island in the Blackwater Estuary plays host to the Castaway camping weekend, when families can stay on the island past high tide, while taking part in outdoor activities. The promises a raft race, longbow archery, myths and legends activities for kids, guided walks and trails. In the evenings, enjoy hot food and a real ale bar, plus live music on Saturday night. Book in now for next year.
WHERE TO STAY? Bring a tent – the cost of a ticket is £22pp (under 5s free) but booking is essential. nationaltrust.org.uk/northey-island
9. FOR SIMPLE PLEASURES
ISLE OF WIGHT
WHY GO? Just four miles from the south coast, the Isle of Wight has an abundance of activities for children – from animal attractions, such as Monkey Haven and the Isle of Wight Zoo, to adrenaline-fuelled watersports – try surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding with Tackt-Isle. Simple outdoor pastimes, such as crabbing and fossil-hunting, or an open-top bus ride to The Needles, lend a timeless feel to holidays on the island.
10. FOR TRADITIONAL SEASIDE FUN
ISLE OF MAN
WHY GO?The Isle of Man melds old-school seaside fun with an intriguing history and rugged coastal terrain. Classic rides – the Victorian steam railway and a horse-drawn tramway – are a must for young families, as is the tramcar up the island’s only mountain, 2,035ft above sea level. Cregneash Village is a traditional Manx crofting site where children can borrow ‘Busy-Bees’ explorer packs to search the outdoor area. Discover Diving runs beach ranger experiences and snorkel safaris tailored for kids. Download family-friendly walking trails from the website below.
WHERE TO STAY? Knockaloe Beg Farm has a range of accommodation, from £80 per night (knockaloebegfarm.com). visitisleofman.com