Who needs the Caribbean? Dive into the best islands in the UK

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Deborah Cicurel

Conventional wisdom says that in order to get to white sandy beaches and see exotic wildlife, we must save up for aeons, take a long-haul flight and be incredibly broke when we get home.

But there’s no need to spend all that hard-earned money on a trip to the Caribbean or the Maldives: we’ve got plenty of gorgeous islands here in Blighty, just waiting to be explored.

Take a look through our gallery and let the wanderlust begin...

  • Eilean Shona, Scotland

    Once the inspiration for J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, Eilean Shona relaunched in 2016.

    The island was rented out by the Peter Pan writer in the 1920s and nearly a century later is as magical as ever, with wild hills, a white sandy beach and seemingly enchanted woods. 

    Secluded and peaceful, with no cars or flight path, the island is a haven for wildlife, plants and rare trees, calling itself homes to deer, seals, otters, eagles, squirrels and more.

    In the waters around the island, visitors can spot dolphin, seals, minke whales and basking sharks.

    It’s the perfect place for a true digital detox.

  • The Isle of Eriska, Scotland

    Located on a 350-acre private island off the West Coast of Scotland, the Isle of Eriska is a dreamy choice for an island retreat.

    While it’s a haven for wildlife and has an abundance of natural beauty, it’s pretty swanky too, with a Michelin star restaurant and cosy spa that offers incredible views over Loch Linnhe.

    Plus, for true style points, you can choose to arrive by seaplane or helicopter. 

  • Isle of Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

    The Isle of Tiree has no street lights, is sparsely populated, has barely any cars and no other man made light sources: in other words, it’s the perfect place to lie back and gaze up at the stars. 

    But while stargazing may be the perfect evening activity, there’s plenty to do during the day too, from building sandcastles on the picturesque beaches to trying your luck at windsurfing. 

    Plus, if the beach isn’t your thing, the quaint arts and crafts shops will keep shoppers busy for hours.


  • Tresco, Isles of Scilly

    Located less than 30 miles off the Cornish coast, Tresco is a postcard-pretty, family-owned island.

    With sandy beaches, turquoise waters and lush gardens, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the views for the Caribbean or the Seychelles. 

    One of the highlights of the Tresco social calendar is the low tide event (the only one of its kind in the UK). 

    For more than 350 days a year this super-temporary venue is under five metres of water but on select summer days, you can walk between the two islands of Tresco and Bryher without getting too wet.

    There’s even 'seafood feast & fizz’ event in the channel between the two inhabited islands during those special days.

  • Anglesey, North Wales

    As the largest Welsh island, Anglesey offers 125 miles of beautiful coastline to explore. 

    As well as its natural aesthetic charm, it provides a tranquil and calm escape from city life. 

    A combination of smart boutiques, culinary treats and outdoorsy activities means there’s always something to do, with kite-surfing, surfing, sea kayaking, coasteering, power boat touring, climbing, walking, cycling and horse riding (phew) among the local favourites.

    Anglesey’s also home to the longest place name in Europe… the Welsh village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobw-                         llllantysiliogogogoch. 

  • Lundy Island, Devon

    Having been inhabited for at least 3,000 years, Lundy Island is steeped in history, with archaeological investigations uncovering considerable traces of Bronze and Iron Age settlements.

    Lundy Island is also famous for its wildlife. With 140 different species of birds, it’s also home to a breeding colony of adorable Grey Seals. 

    It’s a great spot to visit if you’re after a quirky property to stay in: you can choose between an adapted 13th century castle, a late Georgian gentleman's villa, a lighthouse, the isolated coastguard watchhouse of Tibbetts, a simple fisherman's chalet and more.

  • Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour

    Only accessible by boat, even travelling to Brownsea Island feels like an adventure.

    Set against the backdrop of the Purbeck Hills and Old Harry Rocks, it’s certainly a picturesque destination, with freshwater lakes, a lagoon, ponds, beaches and wet meadows.

    There’s plenty of wildlife to discover too, from kingfishers to red squirrels and Sika deer. 

  • Isle of Islay, Inner Southern Hebrides, Scotland

    Whisky fans, this is the island for you. With eight working whisky distilleries, Islay is known as Scotland’s whisky isle.

    Home to the world’s oldest Scotch whisky maturation warehouse, Bowmore’s No.1 Vaults, the island is steeped in history, and apart from opportunities to taste the whisky, you can also take tours around the local distilleries. 

    Inhabited by just over 3,000 people, Islay makes for a tranquil trip away, with plenty to do (even if you don’t like whisky): scenic walks, lazing on beautiful beaches and even pony trekking. 

  • Bryher, Isles of Scilly

    Thought England couldn’t be tropical? Think again: the Isles of Scilly are as tropical as it gets in this part of the world, with clear warm waters and swaying palm trees.  

    Bryher is the smallest of the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly at just 1.5 miles long.

    With a rugged coastline and beautiful beaches, it makes the perfect Instagram backdrop – or, if you’re ditching the smartphone and hoping for relaxation, it’s a joyous place to close your eyes and feel the wind in your hair.

    A highlight of Bryher is to take a sea safari to spot Atlantic seals, seabirds and even basking sharks and dolphins.

  • Hayling Island, Hampshire

    With more than three miles of beaches and a great selection of pubs, there’s a lot packed into the small Hayling Island, on the south coast of Hampshire.

    Sheltered by the Isle of Wight, the Solent offers the perfect conditions for sailing, windsurfing (apparently invented there), power boating, jet skiing, kitesurfing and more.

    It’s also fairly easy to get to: while it might seem remote, Hayling Island is just off the A27, the coastal road that links Portsmouth with the A3 from London.

  • Mersea Island, Essex

    The easternmost inhabited island in the UK, and at only seven square miles, Mersea Island is a small, pretty island that you could walk the entire way around in a day. 

    A great choice for families, the island’s attractive sand and shingle beaches are ideal for building sandcastles, paddling and swimming.

    Plus, there’s crazy golf, fishing and sailing, and – a calendar highlight - the town regatta.

    For foodies, enjoy snacking on fresh oysters while taking in the seaside views.  

  • The Isle of Wight, England

    Measuring just 23 by 13 miles the Isle of Wight may be small, but it packs a punch, with long stretches of coastline, soft sandy beaches and plenty of fun to be had, from summer festivals and international sailing regattas to major music concerts and carnivals.

    It’s a great place to be active, with plenty to do: walking, cycling, horse-riding, windsurfing, watersports and golf.  

    With great beachfront pubs, beautiful botanical gardens, foodie adventures and scenic walks, after a few days here, you’ll feel like you’ve been away for weeks: it’s a real escape. 

  • St Kilda, Scotland

    The remotest part of the British Isles, St Kilda is an eerie archipelago that was abandoned in 1930 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    With not one single permanent inhabitant, the island has no mobile phone reception, Wi-Fi or other internet access, so it’s the ideal place to switch off from the rest of the world and enjoy feeling well and truly deserted.

    Because of its crystal clear water and submerged caves, tunnels and arches, the island makes the perfect dive spot for scuba fans.

  • Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

    Rathlin Island, Ireland’s most northern point, lies off Antrim's Causeway Coast, and is a picture-perfect spot, with an untamed beauty.

    Before you even step ashore, the beautiful spot is rife with wildlife, with the ferry crossing alone presenting opportunities to spot auks, gannets, gulls, porpoises and dolphins.

    Visitors can learn about the island’s maritime history at the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre in the lighthouse on the cliff – and wildlife lovers can also get up close and personal with Northern Ireland's biggest seabird colony at the centre, where you can spot puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes. 

  • The Isle of Eigg, Scottish Inner Hebrides

    The Isle of Eigg, located to the south of the Isle of Skye, will in 2017 mark 20 years as a fully sustainable island, generating virtually 100% of its electricity using renewable energy.

    As well as being a great eco-friendly destination, the island is also renowned for its wildlife, recording an average of 130 species of bird annually, including the golden eagle, buzzard, peregrine falcon, kestrel, hen harrier and short and long-eared owl.

    With beautiful scenic routes, the island is the perfect place to get lost on a long walk. 

  • Skomer Island, Wales

    Located less than a mile off the scenic Pembrokeshire coast, Skomer Island makes for an idyllic island escape. 

    With mysterious inlets, rocks and coves, this is the place to pretend you’re one of the Famous Five off on an exploratory island adventure.

    Home to birds, seals, porpoise, rabbits and more, it’s heaven for wildlife enthusiasts, walkers and photographers alike. 

  • Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

    Together making up the largest island in Scotland, the Isles of Lewis and Harris are frequently referred to as if they were separate islands, but are in fact one island. 

    The Isle of Harris, officially the home of tweed, boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, Luskentyre Sands.

    It’s also home to the Hebrides' first gin distillery, proving that Scotland’s not all about whisky.

    The Isle of Lewis has the prehistoric Callanish Standing Stones, as well as numerous other sites of historical interest, including Ui Church – one of the oldest churches on Lewis – and the beautiful 19th century Lews Castle.


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Deborah Cicurel

Deborah Cicurel is a freelance journalist who writes about everything from lifestyle and travel to fashion and entertainment. She loves spicy maki rolls, cosy socks and visiting far-flung destinations, and is unable to walk past a dog on the street without stopping to befriend it.

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