Did you know that there are over 6,000 British Islands? The British Isles is actually the archipelago that contains the main islands of Britain and Ireland. Even though Ireland is a republic and totally separate from the UK/Britain, politically, it occupies one of the British Isles. The Islands of Britain run entirely around the coast of the two main islands, some a mere outcrop of uninhabited rock in the ocean, others groups where communities have enjoyed island life for millennia. Here are some of the British Islands you might like to consider in your future travel plans.
Located off the coast, this pretty island was once a favorite of Queen Victoria, and she had a holiday home here – Osborne House – where she, Prince Albert and their brood could relax and bathe in peace on their own private beach. One of the larger British Islands, it has lovely seaside towns and beaches and picturesque countryside, including the gorgeous Blackgang Chine (although they’ve added a theme park since I used to run about the hills as a kid). The most famous site is probably The Needles (pictured above) and the biggest attraction, Cowes Week, one of the UK’s premier sailing events.
The most rugged landscapes in Britain are the highlands and islands of Scotland, and some of the most gorgeous islands in Britain lie off the Scottish coast, including Mull. Mull is the 2nd largest of the Inner Hebrides and presents visitors with gorgeous glens, wild beaches, and pretty villages. The island’s capital Tobemory is known for its colorful houses and its hostelries, which offer a warm welcome and excellent meals of local produce. Visitors who love the outdoors will find their spiritual home on Mull, as will wildlife fans and bird watchers.
Lindisfarne is one of the tidal islands of Britain. It is possible to stay on Lindisfarne, although accommodations options are very limited. There are two types of visitors here. Lindisfarne has long been known as a holy island and people will make a modern day pilgrimage to see the Lindisfarne Gospels. Others are generally those who love the isolated feeling when the tide cuts off the island from the Northumbrian mainland, as they are able to enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings and the bird watching opportunities.
If you want a group of British islands where you might at least get some summer sunshine, head to the Scilly Isles. Off the South West corner of England, the Scillies are the mildest place in Britain. Of the 145 islands, 140 are insignificant little dots but 5 are inhabited and offer lovely holidays. Bryher is the smallest inhabited one, being home to just 80 people. The beaches on the side facing the Cornish coast are sheltered and calm, while the Atlantic beaches are rugged and gorgeous, and breezy. Walking tracks criss-cross the island, taking you up to rocky outcrops for magnificent views across the island group.
Many people think the only one of the British islands in Wales is Anglesey, but this is so far from the truth. Skomer may be uninhabited by humans but it is a nature reserve of some significance. Lying off the Pembrokeshire coast in South Wales, Skomer is home to one-third of the world’s population of Manx Sheerwater, as well as holding a large puffin colony. Although no one calls it home, an ancient civilization did and there is a stone circle on Skomer as well as the remains of prehistoric houses. Skomer is a designated National Nature Reserve, Site of Scientific Interest and a listed Ancient Monument.
A peculiar group of British islands are the Channel Islands – peculiar because they are in some parts as much French as they are British. They were in fact the only part of Britain occupied by Hitler in World War II. The Channel Isles are a crown dependency and Alderney is the most northerly island in the group, lying only 10 miles off the French coast. The capital is St. Anne and it is a pretty place with cobbled streets and a large parish church. Alderney describes itself as a slice of England with a heap of French style and is perfect for beach bums, history lovers and outdoorsy types.
The most northerly of the islands of Britain are the Shetland Isles. Of these, the most northerly island that is inhabited is Unst. Wild, craggy and outrageously and ruggedly beautiful, Unst is home to around 700 hardy folk. With some amazing history and attractions packed into a small area, the island’s airport and port are very busy in tourist season: castles, tales of pirates, a brewery, herring fishing, and a boat museum vie for attention with rocky cliffs, sweeping windblown beaches, and tons of wildlife for attention.
The islands of Britain have something for every visitor. They are very pretty places of unspoiled habitats and lots of wildlife. If you can cope with the extended travel methods of getting there, the beaches are often better than the mainland too. Which of the British islands would be your choice?
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