We Are an Island Nation
There are over 6000 islands that make up the British Isles (depending on where you draw the line between an island and a rock), yet Great Britain and Ireland form such an overwhelmingly large proportion of the area that it's easy to forget the others.
Of all the smaller islands, two stand out for their larger populations and their almost-mainland character. First is the Isle of Wight, probably the most accessible of islands being no more than 2 hours journey time from half of England. The small towns, coastline and countryside all reflect the same nature as the adjoining part of the mainland. Cowes, facing the Solent, is the world centre of sailing, and just a short distance away is Osborne House, Queen Victoria's favourite residence.
The second island also stands in isolation, this time in the middle of the Irish Sea. Famed for the TT motorcycle races, there's much more to the Isle of Man than just motorsport though. Away from TT week there are plenty of more sedate ways to get around the island: horse-drawn trams will take you along the Douglas promenade, while a narrow-gauge steam railway chugs it's way through rolling farmland from Douglas to Port Erin, and oddest of all is the Manx Electric Railway which climbs to the summit of Snaefell from where you can look out and see every country in the British Isles. For those who eschew any external means of propulsion, the Isle of Man is a great place for walking and cycling too. You could follow the coast (as spectacular and beautiful as any other in Britain), or the Millenium Way as it picks it's way along a series of ancient hill tracks along the centre of the island.
Anyone following the coast paths should watch out carefully on the water. Each year, there are hundreds of sightings of basking sharks (the second largest fish in the world). Other frequent visitors are minke, killer and humpback whales, as well as bottlenosed dolphins, while colonies of grey seals breed on the inshore rocks.
On the west coast of Scotland, the Hebrides are both pounded by the Atlantic Ocean and bathed in the relatively warm waters of the Gulf Stream. There are hundreds of islands to choose from but two favourites are Skye and Mull. They are remote enough to make a holiday into an adventure yet acessible enough to ensure that you won't spend most of your holidays just getting there. Skye is conveniently linked to the mainland by a road bridge so no ferries are needed. Everywhere is a stunning location and there are castles, boat trips a whisky distillery and unusual rock formations to enjoy.
The wild landscape of Mull has a magnetic attraction for anyone with a taste for nature. To make the most of walking in the area we recommend one of the guided walks accompanied by expert wildlife rangers who will help you get the most from your visit. As well as the wildlife and farm animals you can see Dun Ara medieval fort, the 4000 year-old standing stones and the lost village of Balliacrach. For visitors less enthused by walking, the Land Rover Safaris will take you past highland cattle and black-face sheep, passing the historic landmarks and opening up the possibility of spotting a white-tailed sea eagle, a golden eagle, one of the elusive sea otters or maybe a majestic red deer stag.
Beyond the south-western tip of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly are a rocky sub-tropical paradise. Although you can fly from the mainland, a trip on the Scillonian is the best way to arrive. Watching Land's End and the Longships Lighthouse pass astern gives a true sense of adventure. St Mary's is the main island of the group and the location for our only Little Hotel there. However all the islands are linked by a network of inter-island launches that criss-cross the shallow, sheltered waters, conveying visitors to the lush gardens of Tresco Abbey, and onto other islands like Bryher, St Martin's and St Agnes. At certain states of tide it's even possible to cross between some island on foot, but we were advocate extreme care, reference to tide tables and the taking of local advice.
28 Dec 2022, 16:22