The Nine Most Beautiful Island Escapes In The UK

The Nine Most Beautiful Island Escapes In The UK

Windswept and sandy-toed, we’ve toured Britain to bring you our pick of the most beautiful islands in the archipelago. From Arran to Lindisfarne, these are the isles to escape to this summer.

we forget that the United Kingdom is an archipelago,
but this rambunctious puzzle of rocky isles adds up to a
mind-boggling 6,000 splinters of land scattered across our seas.
We’ve circumnavigated the country to explore the trove of
hard-to-reach fragments spread throughout brilliant Blighty. From
the white-sand shores of the Scilies to the rugged clifftops of the Hebrides, here’s our pick of the country’s most
beautiful islands.

Island living: the nine loveliest isles in the UK

Isle of Arran

Isle of Arran


Arran’s topographical beauty is its main draw: cast off from
Scotland’s west coast, this diminutive isle holds all the
geological interest of the mainland, but in miniature, complete
with moss-green lowlands, rocky rising crags, heather-blanketed
hills and heavily forested glens. Climb up to Coire Fhionn Lochan
for a waterside picnic beside looking-glass waters, then clamber
into a canoe to explore the deserted coves along the island’s
shoreline. Adventurous sightseeing done, head to the small town of
Corrie, on Arran’s north-east coast, for a dinner of island
langoustines in a Café de Paris butter from fancy takeaway spot
Mara Fish
Bar & Deli

Where to stay: Banlicken Arran

Alderney Guernsey Channel Islands


Bailiwick of Guernsey, Channel Islands

We know, we know – it’s not technically the UK, but we hope
you’ll forgive us for including Alderney in our list. The
northernmost of the inhabited Channel Islands sits 19km from the
Normandy coast, lending a distinctively French je ne sais quoi to
island life. The 2,000-odd inhabitants are known colloquially as
“lapins” (rabbits), and the main town of Saint Anne has the Gallic
nickname “La Ville”. Blustery and beautiful, Alderney remains an
under-the-radar destination – you’ll have to board a 10-seater
plane to reach its white-gold sandy curves and sweeping dunes.
Spend sunny afternoons kayaking around the island in Breton
stripes, then crowd around the barbie for a beach feast (barbecuing
is legal before 8pm). Keep your eyes peeled for the ghostly wobble
of the island’s famed hedgehogs: the entirely blonde species is
unique to Alderney. Wild and wacky wildlife is rife: alongside the
native blondes, you’ll find bioluminescent plankton dancing in the
sea and exotic seashells washing up on the shores, a joyful
consequence of the island sitting at the tail end of the Gulf
Stream, bringing balmy waters all the way from the Caribbean.

Where to stay: The Blonde

Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight


Don’t dismiss old IOW as being just for yachties – this chip of
Hampshire chalk might host the Cowes Regatta, but, on terra firma,
it offers much more than boat shoes and Bollinger. Catch a ferry
across the Solent for a weekend of gallivanting between gussied-up
Victorian seaside resorts, rustic fishing villages and rolling
hills. The best way to get around is by bike. Saddle up in Ryde and
peddle between the pastel-painted terraces of the seaside
settlement towards St Helens Duver Nature Reserve. Just 8km down
the coast, this is the best spot for rock-pooling. Check blennies
and gobies off your seaside safari list, then turn your wheels
inland to hit the Red Squirrel Trail. A leisurely afternoon ride
west encompasses the rolling pastoral interior – and its tufted-ear
inhabitants (the squirrels, not the locals). Set off at lunchtime
and you’ll arrive in time for a sunset seafood dinner at al fresco
Colwell Bay eatery The Hut.

Where to stay: The George

Isle of Eigg

Isle of Eigg

Inner Hebrides, Scotland

Adrift in the turbulent waters of the Minch Strait, which sweeps
past Scotland’s west coast, Eigg is an isle of majesty. Golden eagles breed on its
windswept hilltops, swooping beneath grumbling crowds (the weather…
well, just be sure to pack a rain mac) to glide over the
distinctive An Sgùrr ridge that scars the island horizon. Hillocked
plains fold into deep, dramatic lochs and a boulder-strewn
coastline. Bought out by island residents in 1997, this
forward-thinking isle – nicknamed “the People’s Republic of Eigg” –
offers a summer escape to a utopian ideal. The entire island is run
on renewables, and many of the business premises are owned by a
trust that rents the properties to residents (we love Eigg Organics
for groceries). This offbeat community even has its own music
label, Lost Map
. Spend an evening sipping hair-raisingly strong pints
from the Laig Bay Brewing Company and listening to Pictish
Trail’s lo-fi folk-pop, then head out into the darkness for a
celestial night show. The lack of streetlights makes stargazing
simple – and spectacular.

Where to stay: Sweeney’s

Mersea Island

Mersea Island


Situated across a narrow channel from Essex’s southern coast,
this sandy speck of land is only accessible by tidal causeway the
Strood, which becomes impassable at high tide. Just 18sq km in
size, this is a day-tripper’s destination, with mainlanders
flocking to picnic beside sherbert-coloured huts and clinking
fishing fleets. Stay the night, though, and you’ll be waving
goodbye to the crowds. The west of the island is the buzziest:
amble along beaches, passing huts, tiny creeks, and dunes, towards
The Company
, to enjoy a show-stopping seafood platter of crab, lobster
and fresh scallops. Most menus on the island will include native
oysters. Oenophiles should head east to sip Essex bins at the
Mersea Island Vineyard – the dry Mersea Mehalah is a
local favourite.

Where to stay: Monkey Beach Cottage

Lindisfarne Northumberland



Cut off from Northumberland for 10 hours a day by the tumultuous
tides of the North Sea, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne has drawn
pilgrims to its rocky, ragged shores for millenia. The graceful
arches of their lodestar – a priory founded in 635 AD – are all
that remains of the original religious site, but there’s plenty
elsewhere to explore, including a hilltop Tudor castle. Head to the
island’s fringes to explore deserted, toffee-toned beaches coddled
by grass-tufted dunes and spot a unique architectural innovation:
traditional fisherman’s sheds made from the hulls of overturned old
herring boats were once used across the east of England, but the
examples on Lindisfarne are some of the last remaining. The
Middle-earth-esque huts are clustered beneath the castle, and
maintained by the National Trust.

Where to stay: Manor
House Hotel

St Michael’s Mount Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount


One thing you should know about St Michael’s Mount is that
there’s no visiting on Sundays. At the end of the week, the 30
residents who call this small Cornish enclave home lock up shop.
Visit any other time, though, and you’ll be able to wander through
the Victorian terraces, medieval pathways and bosky slopes of this
diminutive isle. Inhabited as early as 4000 BCE, it’s home to a
small hamlet and a centuries-old castle that’s actually a melange
of monastic buildings, residential additions and castle
architecture. Beneath the stone walls, you’ll find blousy terraced
flowerbeds resplendent in summer with rosemary, lavender and
Lampranthus. Scoff homemade cakes at the island’s Sail Loft Café, then return to the mainland for
dinner at Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar in Newlyn, 15 minutes along
the coast.

Where to stay: There’s no accommodation on the
island. Try The Herringbone in Mousehole.

Anglesey Wales

Anglesey (Ynys Môn)


Anglesey, the largest Welsh island, is great for gourmands.
Accessible by two bridges across the Menai Strait, the island is
crisscrossed with mossy trails that take in smart seaside towns and
poetic, mystical landscapes, explorable in a weekend, but you’ll
need a week or more to sample the assembly of excellent island
eateries. Between meals, we’d recommend a paddle on LLanddwyn
Beach, a trip to the isolated South Stack Lighthouse and twitching sessions
on Puffin Island (Ynys Seiriol). But, let’s be honest, you’re here
for the food. Swing by the farmers’ market for Welsh Black beef
cuts, bara brith (tea bread) and freshly caught crab – or try your
luck at catching the critters off the pier in candy-coloured
Beaumaris. Rather eat out? Head to Dylan’s for seafood tacos, The
Oyster Catcher
for Menai Strait shellfish, and the on-site café
at sea salt producer Halen Môn for perfectly seasoned cawl. All eyes are on
Michelin-nodded Sosban & The Old Butchers this year, too.
At the intimate – and unshowy – restaurant, former plumber Stephen
Stevens mans the pass, sending out delicious plates from the
ever-changing tasting menu.

Where to stay: Blacksmith’s Cottage

Bryher Isles of Scilly


Isles of Scilly

This long, narrow isle – just across the water from the tropical
garden-covered Tresco – is the wildest of the inhabited Scillies,
with just 80 residents calling these sandy sweeps and gorse-trimmed
hills home. A lazy island circumnavigation on foot takes only a few
hours, giving you plenty of time to browse the studio of seascape
painter Richard Pearce en route, and picking up local produce
from roadside honesty stalls along the way. Don’t miss Veronica
, for its famous small-batch farmhouse fudge. The rich,
crumbly confectionery is legendary in these parts. Visiting during
crab season? Get yourself down to The Crab Shack. Housed in a converted cattle shed,
this low-key, high-jinks spot is open just three nights a week for
coral claw cracking (with starters of sweet local scallops and a
superb Eton mess dessert). Tie on your apron, prepare your shell
breakers and get messy.

Where to stay: Hell Bay Hotel

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