Almost 400,000 holidaymakers are expected to visit Cornwall this semester. For anyone heading southwest to join them, far from leaving the angry crowd behind, a host of other visitors will be there to greet you. There is nothing wrong with being popular, of course. Many of us will welcome any sort of escape from the mundane reality of the UK pandemic. But still, it will not be a unique experience. This summer may be your chance to experience another slice of Britain – and one with a little more of a bragging factor. And where will you find this elusive and exclusive escape? On one of our great British Isles.
Off the British coast, itself the ninth largest island in the world, there are literally thousands of islands, all with their own unique geography, geology and fauna shaped by the sea and weather conditions around them. More than 200 are inhabited, often with a fiercely independent culture, history and local traditions.
For the visitor, perhaps the only characteristic that unites them is the feeling that you have escaped in time into a different, slower, calmer way of life, where nature and the outdoors still seem to be linked to the fabric of daily life. They range from tropical Tresco in the Isles of Scilly off the (crowded) coast of Cornwall, bathed by warming Gulf Stream waters, to the remote island of Unst in the northwest corner of the Shetland Islands, famous for its abundance. seabird colonies.
This year, as travel uncertainty from the pandemic still casts a looming cloud over the return of hard-won freedoms, research suggests that most of us are planning a vacation at home in Britain. But rather than hitting the hot spots, a British island getaway might be the answer for many of us. They offer the opportunity to relax, explore new landscapes, and experience activities that we so often look for on foreign coasts, but which are also ready and waiting in our own backyard.
Fans of white sand beaches and turquoise seas quickly learn that the coasts of many Hebridean islands offer such idyll, with barely a soul in sight. More accessible for most of us, the larger islands off the coast of England and Wales (Anglesey and the Isle of Man for example) make for the perfect family getaway. And then there’s the Isle of Wight, of course, one of those escapes that offers it all: culture, food and a buzz of excitement.
As the Channel Islands and Ireland have various restrictions in place for who can visit, the following suggestions for a spectacular island vacation only include those off mainland Britain. All had availability at the time of going to press, but reservations are advised to avoid disappointment.
Set off for the châteaux, the coast and a drop of Chardonnay
Isles of Scilly
St Mary’s is the largest of the Isles of Scilly and offers plenty to do, from small e-bike roads to adventurous RIB rides and gin tasting. Star Castle is a historic 16th-century hotel built in the shape of an eight-pointed star, with a moat and a dungeon. Famous for its historic setting, swimming pool (a rarity on the islands) and breathtaking views of Hugh Town, the castle is the perfect base to unwind after a day of exploring. Owner Robert Francis also runs the island’s lovely Holy Vale vineyard. In collaboration with Austrian wine producer Willi Opitz, the site has just produced a Chardonnay. The lobsters that are served in the hotel restaurant each day are also transported directly from the sea by Robert, which means you’ll be hard pressed to find fresher dishes.
A room with garden costs from £ 327pn including breakfast in July (01720 422317; star-castle.co.uk).