The many small islands around the UK coast offer a balm to the bustle of everyday life – packed with fascinating wildlife, secret paths, hidden coves and high adventures at sea
Words Jessie Johnson
1. Isle of Carna, West Scotland
Ever dream of staying on your own secluded island? The Isle of Carna is an historic 600-acre oasis, home to otters, eagles, orchids and just three houses. While there are no sandy beaches, family-run Carna House (sleeping 8) and Carna Cottage (sleeping 6) are idyllic bases from which to explore the teeming wildlife, hills, mountains and gaze at the vast, starry skies. New to the island’s ongoing conservation work this year, guests are invited to take part in the ‘Soil and Earthworm survey’ and, if the flora and fauna of the island really captures your imagination, there’s a chance to make a return visit as part of month-long conservation working holidays in winter. Prices for a three-night break start from £850 (isleofcarna.co.uk).
2. Lundy, Devon
Sparkling clear waters, kelp forests, shipwrecks and an abundance of marine life make Lundy’s Marine Protected Area one of the UK’s finest diving sites with up to 2,500 sea creatures to be found in every square metre of seabed. After an underwater exploration, decamp to Hanmers, a century-old, weather-boarded fisherman’s hut (sleeping 4) built on the path between the beach and the castle, boasting sea views to take your breath away. Prices for a four-night stay start from £391(landmarktrust.org.uk/lundyisland).
Read next 10 Best Paradise Island Beaches
3. Osea Island, Essex
If you want luxury and you’re willing to splash out, look no further than Osea Island. Surrounded by 550 acres of meadows and centuries-old salt marsh, the grand Captain’s House (sleeping 22) is one of several swanky houses and beach cottages available to rent out for a special occasion. Think roll-top baths, four-poster beds, open fires and antique furnishings married with the simple joy of a bike ride to the quay for fresh oysters, spying kestrels and cormorants, before catching an old film at the on-site cinema with a wood-fired pizza, surrounded by all your favourite people. A six-night stay at the Captain’s House starts from £17,940, approximately £136pp, per night (oseaisland.co.uk).
4. Isle of Man
Situated between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the Isle of Man has long danced to its own drum, packed with all kinds of family adventures featuring sweeping beaches, mountainous trails, coasteering, trips to the spooky dungeons of Peel Castle and Castle Rushen, once home to the King and Lords of Mann. Soak up an island escape from the lofty heights of the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage (sleeps 10) which has its own garden, a courtyard area for kids to play in safely and a jetty, just a short walk from the capital, Douglas. Fitted with all mod cons, a welcome pack includes artisan goodies including local meats, honey and cheeses. Prices start from £280 per night (thecottageagents.com).
Looking for the perfect holiday right at the water’s edge? Discover our collection of exclusive cruise trips around the British Isles here.
5. Jersey, Channel Islands
For adventure-seekers and foodies alike, The Ultimate Jersey BBQ Package from The Club Hotel & Spa combines a one-night stay with an al fresco dining experience like no other. The day starts with an accompanied kayaking trip that takes guests on a breathtaking exploration along Jersey’s east coast. From there, it’s a visit to the Écréhous, a cluster of tiny, picturesque islands off where, on a secluded islet beach, your own private chef from Michelin-starred restaurant, Bohemia, awaits with a three-course lunch and fine wines. Priced from £1,999 for two, including an overnight stay and breakfast (theclubjersey.com).
6. St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
From boat trips and beachcombing to kayaking and sandy picnics, the Enid Blyton-esque thrills of an island-hopping holiday don’t get better than a trip to the stunning Isles of Scilly. The award-winning Wheelhouse B&B is sited on the sands of Porthcressa Beach and offers a mix of single, twin and double rooms, most with breathtaking sea views. Potter about the lounge, terrace and garden, or cook up the day’s itinerary over a breakfast of eggs and kippers – every morning local boatman Paul Smith visits the B&B with news of the latest boat trips to nearby islands. Prices for a week’s stay start from £120 for a Sea View double room including breakfast (thewheelhousescilly.co.uk). Travel to St Mary’s from the mainland with Penzance Helicopters in just 15 minutes (book at penzancehelicopters.co.uk or call 01736 780828).
7. Lindisfarne, Northumberland
An island that can only be accessed by a causeway, cut off twice a day by the tides, already has us packing our bags, following in the footsteps of ancient monks who set up their priory here nearly 1,400 years ago. The Belvue Guest House offers a warm welcome for modern-day pilgrims to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Two king-size luxury studios come with a kitchenette and feature crisp white sheets and rainfall showers along with a budget ‘no frills’ room kitted out with two single beds. Prices for a luxury room start from £119 per night (holy-island.uk).
8. Bardsey Island, North Wales
Dream away the summer on small, but perfectly formed, Bardsey Island. Known as the ‘Island of 20,000 Saints’ and the final destination of the North Wales Pilgrims Way, the wildlife-rich island sits about two miles off the Llyn Peninsula, home to choughs, puffins, grey seals and Manx shearwaters. Semi-detached farmhouse, Nant (sleeping 6) is one of nine Grade II-listed boltholes available to hire through the Bardsey Island Trust. Families or larger groups can book the property with neighbouring house, Hendy (sleeping 7), and enjoy foraging for blackberries and raspberries in the sheltered garden. Prices for a week’s stay start from £365 (bardsey.org).
9. Clare Island, Co Mayo
The largest island in Clew Bay measuring five miles long by three miles wide, Clare Island is characterised by sandy beaches, dramatic sea cliffs and a rich archaeological past. Macalla Farm is a small, family-run yoga and meditation retreat centre and a working organic farm that offers visitors the chance to leave behind the stresses of modern life and, instead, tune into body, breath and mind. Retreats for summer include a Sati Yoga Weekend (30 July-2 August) and Mindfulness for Yoga Teachers (6-13 August) and costs include accommodation and all meals, made with organic, plant-based ingredients grown on the farm. For prices and to find out more information, visit macallafarm.ie.
10. Alderney, Channel Islands
Ditch the car and walk or pedal some of the 50 miles of winding lanes and country paths that make up the charming island of Alderney. The four-star Braye Beach Hotel is perched, yep, right on the sands, and offers old-school charm – from its bright, beachy bedrooms to the Beach Bar & Terraces and Brasserie. Newly refurbished, The Vaults serves up steaks, wine and cocktails alongside the more formal Seaview Restaurant, which features freshly landed fish. Prices for a three-night break this summer start from £405 based on two people sharing (brayebeach.com).