10 of the UK’s greatest small islands | Travel

Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

By Madeleine Bunting

I have been visiting the Isle of Harris (pictured above) for 20 years and love its dramatic contrasts. The east coast panorama is rock and water, with small hamlets clustered in inlets that appear to be miniature fjords; the west coast is all dramatic sweeps of good white sand and glassy turquoise water.

The good inexperienced machair teems with wild flowers. Dramatic mountains rear out of the ocean to the north, bordering the Isle of Lewis. No two moments are the identical.

Few locations can match the temple of Chaipaval close to Northton. Go previous the gate (with the quaint small store and honesty field) and observe the close-cropped path to the crumbling ruins perched on the sting of the ocean. High overhead, eagles circle from their hillside nesting spots. Out to sea lies the island of Pabbay within the Sound of Harris, and past the horizon lie St Kilda and hundreds of miles of Atlantic Ocean stretching to Newfoundland.

The inlet at Northton and its meadows of candy grasses are a haven for birds: terns, plovers, curlews – and the wistful cry of oystercatchers. After hours of strolling alongside seashores or climbing the hills, sit in Temple Café, with its log range, stone flooring and large home windows filled with breathtaking views, having fun with espresso and scrumptious home made muffins, and watching the birds.

Built to have a good time the pioneering ornithologist William MacGillivray, it’s now an impressed cafe, with fowl books and data on the astonishing MacGillivray (from the age of 15 within the early 19th century, he would recurrently stroll from his home in Harris to review at Aberdeen University). For luxurious, keep at Scarista House (doubles from £225, together with breakfast and afternoon tea), whereas the Am Bothan Bunkhouse in Leverburgh is a convivial finances possibility (dorm beds £25).
Madeleine Bunting is the writer of Love of Country, A Hebridean Journey

Bardsey, Gwynedd

By Patrick Barkham

Photograph: Getty Images

A charismatic boatman, a stripey lighthouse, sparsely stunning land and seascapes, singing seals, sunsets – Bardsey (in Welsh, Ynys Enlli, off the tip of north Wales’s Llyn peninsula) has each fascinating function of a small island. But one other high quality elevates it above different locations surrounded by saltwater: it’s a deeply non secular place.

Asserted by me, this sounds pretty meaningless. But in 1120, Bishop Urban of Llandaff attracted guests to Enlli (“isle of the currents”) by hailing it because the resting place of “20,000” saints. In medieval instances, many individuals selected to be buried right here, supposedly to acquire a neater passage to the following life.

Pilgrims nonetheless travel to Enlli, and maybe their peaceable presence reverberates for extra secular guests. Christine Evans, a Welsh poet who is a summer time resident on Enlli, believes its non secular qualities derive from its geography. Enlli’s again – its modest mountain – is turned on the mainland to the east, so islanders are completely oriented to the west. Sunsets hint a pathway to a way of a world past.

There’s nothing to devour on Enlli past what’s within the tearoom and reward store run by Jo, the island’s farmer, and that’s the purpose. Visitors dwell deeply within the second; they climb the mountain (in 15 minutes), encircle the island (in an hour) and make their very own leisure – swim, dream, watch birds, or bees buzzing on the fuchsia, imbibe the deep marvel of the world. Visit on a day journey (£30 grownup,, very weather-dependent), or keep longer to expertise the island’s magic – e book self-catering stays by way of the charitable belief that appears after the island (from £285 per week for 2,
Patrick Barkham is a Guardian journalist and writer of Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago

Rathlin, County Antrim

By Bernie McGill

Rathlin Island seen from Ballintoy on the Antrim coast.

Rathlin Island seen from Ballintoy on the Antrim coast. Photograph: Alamy

My first encounter with this island off County Antrim was as a participant in a writing pageant in 2002, and I am going again as typically as I can. One of my favorite walks is on its south-western facet at Roonivoolin: the street winds previous dry stone partitions and the lime-white stays of the previous kelp home to Craigmacagan Lough, the place water lilies float and the sheep obligingly transfer out of the best way of walkers.

Further on, the trail follows the define of Ushet Lough, the place islanders nonetheless race handcrafted mannequin yachts. From the cliff prime there are views over purple kelp beds, north to the higher island, south to the majority of Fair Head on the mainland, and east to the lighthouse at Altacorry, website of Marconi’s early wi-fi experiments. The lucky might hear the “crex crex” of the corncrake, lately returned to the island, or catch a glimpse of the island’s uncommon golden hare.

From the harbour, take the Puffin Bus to the RSPB West Light Seabird centre for a tour of the “upside down” lighthouse, watch fulmars and razorbills wheeling across the stacks, and puffins nesting within the cliffs from spring till early August.

There’s a spread of locations to remain, from the National Trust’s lately refurbished Manor House (doubles £110), cozy B&Bs, well-appointed hostels and model new glamping pods with beautiful views over the Sound. There’s pub grub at McCuaig’s Bar, snacks on the Water Shed Café, full eating on the Manor House (lobster have to be ordered early so the fishermen can haul it in from the holding pots within the bay). Ferries run from Ballycastle a number of instances day by day and, in the summertime, round-Rathlin cruises can be found. (The subsequent are on 6 August, 20 August and eight September)
Bernie McGill is the writer of The Watch House, set on Rathlin on the time of Marconi’s wi-fi experiments in 1898

Bryher, Scilly Isles

By Michael Morpurgo

Path to Rushy Bay beach on Bryher, Isles of Scilly.

Path to Rushy Bay seashore. Photograph: Stephen Rees/Getty Images

Step ashore on the island of Bryher in Scilly – an archipelago of dozens of islands, 5 of them inhabited, 20 or extra miles out into the Atlantic – and also you lose your coronary heart, without delay.

The 2¾-hour sea voyage might churn the abdomen, the structure could also be extraordinary, the climate untrustworthy, however the island and the persons are sheer pleasure. We have been coming to Bryher for some 40 years, with kids and grandchildren. It’s a couple of mile-and-a-half lengthy and, in locations, just a few hundred metres extensive. Walk throughout the ocean shore in two hours. But what a stroll! Hell Bay, with its wild winds and rearing cliffs on one facet, with nothing for two,000 miles till the coast of Canada; and on the extra sheltered facet, seashores of wonderful sand. Go to Rushy Bay and look out in direction of uninhabited Samson Island. Swim in clear, chilly sea, with a seal or two for company. People are uncommon. Oystercatchers will not be, they pipe at you, letting you understand that though they’re completely satisfied to see you, that is their place.

The crab and lobster caught by the Jenkins household are the most effective I have tasted: attempt them at Fraggle Rock Bar, the place the fish and chips are additionally to die for. The fudge offered exterior Veronica Farm is wickedly fantastic.

For a storymaker like me, Bryher is a treasure trove. High on the moors, historical chieftains lie buried. A sword belonging to considered one of them was found just a few years in the past. King Arthur himself is assumed to lie in a cave below the Eastern Isles. Many of my books have been impressed by Bryher.

I wrote two books impressed by that sword, that place, one referred to as The Sleeping Sword, and one other Arthur High King of Britain. I wrote additionally a couple of whale being washed up on Bryher on the time of WW1, Why the Whales Came, and one other about one of many a whole bunch of wrecks mendacity below the ocean round Scilly. That one I referred to as The Wreck on the Zanzibar. Then there was Listen to the Moon, set on Bryher, once more, and on St Helens one of many uninhabited islands, with an deserted Pest House. As I mentioned, a treasure trove of tales and myths.

We keep close to Green Bay in rented cottages, however there’s additionally the often-windy campsite and the snug Hell Bay Hotel (doubles from £95 B&B). There’s a fantastic store and even a tiny museum – in a phone kiosk.

They name Scilly the lucky isles. They are: none greater than Bryher. Go, however tread softly.
Michael Morpurgo’s 2014 kids’s e book, Listen to the Moon, is about on Bryher

Northey, Essex

By Dixe Wills

Northey seen from Heybridge, across the River Blackwater.

Northey seen from Heybridge, throughout the River Blackwater. Photograph: Alamy

It was Northey, on the River Blackwater close to Maldon, that cemented my love of Britain’s tiny islands and moved me to write down a e book to have a good time them. The low-lying isle had been made deliciously mysterious by a cloak of mist. I waited impatiently for the tide to fall away from what I might make out of the (most likely) Roman-built causeway, earlier than selecting my approach throughout. Thick Essex mud shone silver within the retreating water on both facet.

In 991, it was native Saxon chief Byrhtnoth’s determination to permit a celebration of Norse invaders throughout this causeway that led to his loss of life, to the fee of Danegeld to the Viking raiders and, arguably, to Harold’s defeat at Hastings 75 years later.

Northey is a plaything of the Blackwater: the National Trust-owned island expands to 300 acres when the river is at its lowest, however shrinks to a mere 80 at spring excessive tides. The tidal creeks that feed the liminal salt marshes are wonderful habitats for overwintering birds: the isle is internationally necessary for Brent geese, shelduck and widgeon, all of which might all be considered from Northey’s cover.

The picturesque city of Maldon is simply over a mile (however seemingly one other world) away by way of a pleasant riverside path, and is home to Intimo-Fresco, a family-owned Italian restaurant and a becoming place to conclude a go to after crossing that (most likely) Roman causeway.

Visiting the island requires a (free) allow (name 01621 853142). The solely place to remain on Northey is Northey House (sleeps 10, weekend £900, week £1,500,, the previous home of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Sir Norman Angell. But it’s additionally attainable to camp throughout the National Trust’s annual Castaway tenting weekend on the finish of August (offered out this yr).
Dixe Wills is the writer of Tiny Islands

The Calf of Man, Isle of Man

By Robert Penn

The Calf of Man seen from Bradda Head on the Isle of Man.

The Calf of Man seen from Bradda Head on the Isle of Man. Photograph: Alamy

More of an islet than an island, the Calf of Man is a sq. mile of heather, gorse, cliffs, sea spray and hovering birds within the Irish Sea, an enormous’s leap throughout a quick tidal race from the south-west nook of the Isle of Man. It is feasible to remain in a single day, however most guests come for the day – to see the basking sharks and sunbathing seals, and to lock binoculars on the 30-plus fowl species that breed right here.

There are razorbills, kittiwakes, acrobatic choughs and, most notably, manx shearwaters. The breeding colony of those birds was worn out by rats from a sinking Russian service provider ship within the early 19th century, however has been revived in latest many years. Though the Calf was farmed till the center of the 20th century, it’s now a fowl sanctuary, and the one summer time inhabitants are the 2 wardens.

Scant buildings embrace two disused lighthouse towers, constructed by the famed Robert Stevenson, and a contemporary, automated lighthouse. Those who want to expertise the ascetic lifetime of a Victorian lighthouse keeper can keep within the stone farmhouse-cum-observatory, the place there are eight beds (open mid-April to early September, minimal two nights, £40 for 2 self-catering, Bring a sleeping bag, towels, and meals to prepare dinner on the wood-burning range.

Boats, run by personal operators, make the half-hour crossing all summer time, climate allowing, from Port Erin and Port St Mary on the Isle of Man.

There is nowhere to purchase meals or drink on the Calf, so carry provides. Back on the mainland, eat Manx queenies (queen scallops) on the Fish House in Port St Mary or attempt the Albert Hotel for a night pint.
Robert Penn is the writer of The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees

Portland, Dorset

By Adrian Cooper

People play lawn bowls by the sea, Victoria Park, Isle Of Portland Seasonal weather, Dorset

Photograph: Stuart Fretwell/Rex

The Isle of Portland, 4½ miles lengthy and 1¾ miles extensive, is a defiant block of the Jurassic Coast, weathered by 100 million years of stressed sea, anchored to the Dorset mainland by the thread of Chesil Beach. Its limestone constructed London – St Paul’s, the Blackwall Tunnel, the Royal Exchange – and the railway line that when carried folks and stone can now be walked. Historically, inhabitants considered themselves as not-quite English: mainlanders weren’t trusted and have been referred to as Kimberlins (strangers). Thomas Hardy described Portland because the Isle of Slingers, repeating tales of Portlanders throwing stones to maintain Kimberlins away.

Nonetheless, over the previous decade we have visited yearly with our youngsters, to swim off Ferrybridge, kayak on the Fleet and have a good time birthdays on the Crab House (it specialises in seafood and has its personal oyster beds). We’ve explored Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and Broadcroft Quarries butterfly reserve. We’ve searched the cliffs for peregrines, visited Portland Bird Observatory, and found the Chiswell Earthworks land sculpture, a part of Common Ground’s New Milestones venture).

We’ve stayed in self-catering locations resembling Stonehall, as soon as a schoolhouse (from £100 an evening – however take a look at the Old Higher Lighthouse and tenting at Sea Barn Farm).

There is an odd attract to Portland. It’s harsh in locations, treeless, a problem to our desires of islands and visions of British seaside. Every age has left its mark. The Romans had a reputation for it: Vincelis. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the Vikings’ first raid on English soil was right here, in 789 AD. Inigo Jones specified Portland stone for Henry VIII’s banqueting corridor in Whitehall. The wealthy layers of historical past, geology and wildlife mingle and, after every go to, my affection for Portland is slightly deeper minimize and I need to return.
• Portland’s b-side arts pageant runs from Eight-16 September
Adrian Cooper is publisher-editor at Little Toller Books

Muck, Inner Hebrides

By Dan Boothby

Port Mor on the Island of Muck, Highland, Scotland, UK.

Photograph: Alamy

The most spectacular man I ever met was a person I met on Muck, the smallest of the Small Isles, within the Inner Hebrides south of Skye, one mile by two, low-lying, fertile (cattle, sheep, Highland ponies), inhabitants about 40. The man had fingers like homes and barely spoke and, although type, he didn’t give a flying Lutrogale perspicillata (smooth-coated otter, to put readers) what anybody considered him. Everything he did – and he might flip these outsize fingers of his to something – he did nicely. He was the archetypal Hebridean islander.

I’d wished to go to Muck (and Canna and Eigg and Rum) for years, obsessed as I used to be with the Highlands and Islands – a romantic preferrred I’d in-built my head from books. A good friend and I had taken kayaks with us on the ferry from Mallaig. We stayed with the spectacular man and his household in tiny Port Mòr. They ran a B&B again then.

By day, eyed by otters, laughing puffins and glossy gray seals, we circumnavigated Muck. We additionally climbed Beinn Airean for the spin-around view – lumpy Rum, the wedge of Eigg, the Sea of the Hebrides. We tramped to the white-sand seashores of the north, swam, beachcombed, and tramped again for tea and quiche on the craft store. And within the evenings, after supper, to the peeping of going-to-bed oystercatchers and the shushing of the ocean, we lit a driftwood hearth, regarded up on the stars and have been at peace.

A Calmac ferry service to Muck and the Small Isles runs from Mallaig year-round, and MV Sheerwater presents day journeys from Arisaig, from April to September. There’s lodging for all budgets for these who need to linger (see bunkhouse, B&B, self-catering cottages, a yurt, and wild tenting (with permission).
Dan Boothby is the writer of Island of Dreams

Scolt Head, Norfolk

By Patrick Barkham

scolt head island, burnham overy staithe, north norfolk, england

Photograph: Alamy

The north Norfolk coast has been gentrified, for higher and for worse, since I used to be a boy. But there may be one terra incognita in most guests’ psychological maps: Scolt Head.

It’s a tidal island, a four-mile-long rectangular of tawny sand dunes that from the air resembles an embryo. And Scolt remains to be rising with the vigour of a kid, sand accumulating at its western finish, the place hundreds of chalk-winged terns nest.

It is a spot of wind, house and peace, dominated by the very best dunes in Norfolk, which ship wonderful views stretching from Lincolnshire within the north all the way down to Sheringham. Its nice capillaries of salt marsh flip purple with sea lavender in July.

Salt marsh is the final wilderness in southern Britain and few (sensibly) threat strolling throughout them to Scolt Head at low tide, preferring the tide-dependent native boat. The island is an more and more necessary sanctuary for shorebirds, so undoubtedly don’t carry a canine and, ideally, go to exterior nesting season (April to July).

Back on the mainland, there are two seafood shacks in Brancaster Staithe, in addition to the wonderful White Horse pub.

The solely apparent human imprint on Scolt is its fairytale wood hut, in-built 1924 for Scolt’s first “watcher”, or warden, Emma Turner.

She captured Scolt’s magic – “not an indolent peace, but rather that of rest in motion” as she put it. “That first day of solitude has bitten deep into my memory; it filled me with wild joy to think that for months I should possess the island with all its mystery and loveliness.”
• Boat excursions of Scolt £30 grownup (; ferry from Burnham Overy Staithe (

Holy Island, Northumberland

By Carol Donaldson

Scenic View Of Holy Island and Mountains Against Sky During

Photograph: Stephen Bristow/Getty Images

The seals sing to guests on Holy Island. Their voices rise and fall throughout the glassy water of Coves Haven. The lament of mermaids, half unhappy, half stunning, spiralling in direction of me. This morning, I watched a whole bunch of day trippers cross the causeway to descend on the island, however now they’re elsewhere, off visiting the ruins of Lindisfarne Abbey or shopping for mead, and there may be no person to witness the music besides me.

I’m stunned with pleasure on the seals and cartwheel down the white-sand seashore, regardless that, at my age, I ought to most likely surrender acrobatics.

Holy Island is the place I run to when life will get robust: it’s minimize off at excessive tide when the water covers the causeway. My cellular exhibits no sign and I couldn’t care much less. I can spend hours wandering the five-mile coast, holing up within the dunes with a flask and a e book, whereas the breakers roll in and the oystercatchers make their approach in direction of me. Or I observe one of many Holy Wander leaflets: strolling guides with a distinction, they’re filled with contemplative questions that can assist you take into consideration the larger issues in life.

The guides can be found from the bookshop of The Open Gate (doubles from £85 B&B), which additionally presents organised retreats. For a extra secular keep, head to the Manor House Hotel (doubles from £125 B&B) and luxuriate in native seafood and views of the abbey ruins.
Carol Donaldson is writer of On the Marshes, an exploration of the wetlands of north Kent

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