7 beautiful British Isles to explore

When I lived in the UK several years ago, I couldn’t get enough of the long weekends in the many islands surrounding the main one. Each has different attractions, culture and landscapes, a great surprise to encounter just a few hours from a metropolis like London. From the fat cows and glorious dairy products of Guernsey to the breathtaking landscapes of the Isle of Skye including the Old Man of Storr, to the tropical foliage of the Isles of Scilly with their 20,000 exotic species in the garden of the Tresco Abbey. Getting there, whether by boat, ferry or, if you dare, by helicopter, is an added pleasure. It almost feels like every island is a different country without any change of language or rules of conduct. No need for a passport either.

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1. Guernsey

The Bailiwick of Guernsey, its official name, is the second largest of the Channel Islands, located in the English Channel, just 30 miles north of Saint-Malo, in Normandy. The largest city is Saint-Pierre-Port. You can reach Guernsey from the UK by ferry. One goes from Poole to Saint Peter Port, the other from Portsmouth. The journey takes 3 or 7 hours respectively and, calculating that you also have to come back, plan to spend two or three days on the island. Everything is close together, so you can easily drive from place to place in no time. Bring your car on the ferry, rent one, or for the more environmentally conscious, ride a bike.

Museum of the German Occupation, Channel Islands of Guernsey.
Guernsey Island Occupation Museum (Photo credit: Aurora GSY / Shutterstock.com)

Saint-Pierre-Port is a pretty town with many steep hills, yellow houses, narrow streets, lots of banners and pretty shops, all in front of Chateau Cornet as a backdrop. In fact, due to the history of Guernsey, there are many fortifications and remains of the Nazi occupation during WWII, such as the Museum of the Occupation of the Island of Guernsey. On a nicer note, Guernsey is full of beaches, coves and, yes, cows. Visit Ladies Beach or Cobo Bay among others. As for cows, they are famous for their rich milk which turns into butter of a distinct yellow color. A must is an afternoon tea anywhere on the island with huge sandwiches, cakes and scones with clotted cream and jam. The Guernsey ice cream is just as delicious.

Hauteville House in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands.  The famous French poet Victor Hugo lived here in the 19th century.
Haunteville House (Photo credit: Allard One / Shutterstock.com)

Guernsey was also drawn to artists. The French painter Renoir came here in 1883 and painted no less than 15 scenes from the bay and beach of Moulin Huet on the south coast. The writer Victor Hugo spent 25 years there in exile from France. Most of the time he lived in Hauteville House in Saint Peter Port, but the house and garden are currently closed. And here is a little gem: La Petite Chapelle, a work of love built by Brother Déodat in 1904, entirely decorated with pieces of pottery, glass and porcelain.

Depending on the length of your planned stay, you may want to take a ferry to the other islands of Sark and Herm.

Purple wildflowers and greenery line the path to Great Bay on St Martin's Island.  Part of the Isles of Scilly.
Great Bay in Saint-Martin (Photo credit: James LePage / Shutterstock.com)

2. Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of five inhabited islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. Saint Agnes is in fact the southernmost point of Great Britain. Other popular islands are St. Mary’s and Tresco. The location of the islands and the influence of the Gulf Stream account for a mild and favorable climate – it is the warmest place in the UK. On the other hand, the northern slope is exposed to winter storms which also makes it an interesting “burst” vegetation. Spring comes early and allows flowers to bloom and be exported mainly daffodils.

The Scillonian III passenger ferry leaves St Mary's on the Isles of Scilly on a clear late autumn morning.
Scillonian III passenger ferry (Photo credit: Sensorman / Shutterstock.com)

There are three ways to travel to the Isles of Scilly: Skybus, a fixed-wing aircraft from Newquay or Land’s End, the Scillonian ferry, or by helicopter from Penzance. Each ride is an adventure in its own right in the colorful and tranquil world of Scilly. He is.

St. Mary’s is the island where you arrive. Enjoy 30 miles of hiking trails, beaches, beach horseback riding if you wish, and a small museum on the island that explains the history from Roman times to the present day. You’ll want to switch to the other islands as well, which is easy. Simply get off at the dock, look at the tables, and choose your mode of transportation.

Neptune's Steps, leading to a bust of Neptune, god of the sea, at Tresco Abbey Gardens, Isles of Scilly, England
James LePage / Shutterstock.com

Tresco is home to the fabulous Abbey Garden, a 19th century garden with over 20,000 subtropical plants. It is the most sophisticated of the islands with trendy cafes, galleries and boutiques, but also a peaceful beach in Pentle Bay.

If these are the beaches you are looking for, Saint-Martin is the island for you. You will find coves and beaches all around the island, gently sloping into the sea. In addition, there is a winery and a flower farm where they cultivate the aforementioned daffodils.

Isle of Skye, Scotland
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3. Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. It is accessible either by the Skye Bridge or by the Mallaig-Armadale ferry. The capital is Portree. This island is famous for its spectacular landscape, a paradise for enthusiastic hikers and walkers who do not shy away from challenges, wildlife watchers and medieval castles. The Macdonald and MacLeod clans have their castles here. For hiking and climbing there is the Cuillin Range and the Old Man of Storr, a peak visible from afar. In the Cuillin Mountains, you will also find the Fairies Basins, a succession of rocky basins with crystal clear (and very cold) waters. Stroll through the streets, shops and pubs of Portree. If you are lucky and visit at the right time, this is also a place to see the Northern Lights.

Isle of Wight, Scotland
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4. Isle of Wight

It is the largest of the British Isles, located 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire and separated from the mainland by the Solent Strait. A popular tourist destination since Victorian times, it is also the location of Queen Victoria’s summer residence and last home, Osborne House in East Cowes. The island is accessible by hovercraft between Ryde and Southsea and by car ferries to Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth. The island has nine major towns, with Ryde being the largest. This is where the hovercraft and ferry terminals are located. Others are Ventor and the well-known seaside resorts of Shanklin and Sundown on the south coast, famous for their many sandy beaches. Newport sits in the middle of the island and is home to a fun attraction: Monkey Haven. As the name suggests, this is actually a primate rescue center and a great opportunity for children and adults to learn all about these primates.

Near Newport you’ll find another impressive castle: Carisbrooke Castle. Another must-see is The Needles, a lighthouse that stands boldly on a high cliff overlooking Alum Bay. Each seaside town has a lovely promenade and pier, and you will find arts and crafts shops to purchase souvenirs such as carved glass and woodcarvings.

Allow two days for your visit to the Isle of Wight to see it all. Wouldn’t you like to spend the night in a luxury hotel called Seabiscuit? It’s here in Newport.

Isle of Man, United Kingdom
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5. Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is a self-governing dependency of the British Crown located in the middle of the Irish Sea, midway between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The northern and southern hills are divided by a valley in the middle. The Isle of Man is another Dark Star site, which means stargazing is a major tourist attraction. There are two ferry routes between the UK and the island, the quickest being Liverpool to Douglas in around 3 hours. There are also flights from several UK cities.

The pretty capital city of Douglas sits around a bay and has a 2 mile promenade. If you don’t feel like walking, there are horse-drawn trams. Much of the landscape is made up of moors and moors with several walking trails across the island. Douglas Head is the start of a walk along the seafront.

History buffs will want to visit Peel Castle, as well as for its scenic location. A day is enough to explore the island, so maybe catch a flight to the UK in the evening.

Isle of Anglesey, United Kingdom
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6. Island of Anglesey

This island is located off the northwest coast of Wales and connected to the mainland by the Menai Suspension Bridge. The capital is Holyhead, an important port for ferries from Ireland. Nature and history lovers will be in their element on Anglesey. Take a look at the impressive Chateau de Beaumaris, surrounded by a moat and following the wall-in-a-wall design.

Children of all ages will enjoy Anglesey Sea Zoo, Wales’ largest marine aquarium. British marine life, seahorses and other creatures await you as well as lectures from marine biologists throughout the day.

Holyhead Mountain is worth exploring with a walk to the top to see an ancient Roman watchtower, then a descent to the South Stack Lighthouse.

Finally, take a walk through the Dingle Nature Reserve where you can observe wildlife and forests. In spring, the ground is carpeted with a sea of ​​bluebells.

Isle of Mull, Scotland
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7. Isle of Mull

The tiny Isle of Mull and the neighboring Isle of Iona lie off the west coast of Scotland. The island has been given the nickname ‘Eagle Island of Scotland’ because that’s what you’ll experience there. White-tailed eagles and other species of eagles inhabit the island and the verdant slopes of Mull Mountain. Several ferries serve the islands. Another thing to enjoy is the colorful houses of Tobermory. The island makes a lovely day trip from Glasgow if you are staying on the Scottish mainland.

There are many places in the UK to take a long weekend:

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