Your guide to the UK’s many staycation-worthy islands

Jun 28, 2020

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Summer is now in full swing.

Whilst in previous years, that might have meant packing your suitcase and heading to the airport for a well-earned summer holiday somewhere abroad, this year, closer-to-home options are looking more of an obvious choice, thanks to the overseas travel restrictions.

Related: Summer staycation gets a boost: England tourism to reopen from 4 July

But if you still want to get a beach or foreign feeling to your U.K. holiday, the nation’s various islands are a perfect destination. Whilst the list of British islands is extensive — in Scotland, there are more than 900 alone — we take a look at the top picks.

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Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark — Channel Islands

If you’re after good weather, pretty beaches as well as good restaurants and a bit of foreign flair, the Channels Islands should be top of your list. Located geographically closer to France than the U.K. given their position in the English Channel, they benefit from sunshine and mild climates all year round.

Jersey and Guernsey are the bigger of the Channel Islands and can be reached via ferry as well as on flights from a number of departure airports in the U.K.

Read more: 7 traditional ‘bucket and spade’ British seaside resorts

Beauport Beach, St Aubin, Jersey, Channel Islands. Photo by VFKA / Getty Images
Beauport Beach, St Aubin, Jersey. (Photo by VFKA/Getty Images)

For those wanting something even more remote, Alderney and Sark are the smaller two of the Channel Islands. Sark covers just over two square miles and has a population of just 500. It’s one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned.

Isthmus on Sark, Channel Islands, UK. Photo by Allard Schager / Getty Images
Isthmus on Sark, Channel Islands. (Photo by Allard Schager/Getty Images

The Channel Islands, particularly Jersey and Guernsey, should be top of the list for those wishing to replicate a Mediterranean holiday involving sun, sea and food.

For more information on Jersey check out our detailed look at the biggest of the Channel Islands here.

Isle of Man

Further up north in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man isn’t quite as sunny but makes up for it with natural, sweeping beauty. Covering a much larger landmass than its southern neighbours, it offers mountainous terrain, cliffs as well as an array of outdoor activities — the most famous being motorbiking given its annual Tourist Trophy (TT) event, which draws as many visitors to the island as there are residents.

Read more: 6 castles in the UK you can book for your next royal holiday

Photo taken in Port Erin, Isle of Man. Photo by Roelf Odendaal / EyeEm / Getty Images
Port Erin, Isle of Man. (Photo by Roelf Odendaal/EyeEm/Getty Images)

The Isle of Man is the natural choice for those wishing to explore nature and rugged countryside. Whilst travel to Ireland may well soon be possible, the Isle of Man is the obvious alternative. A more detailed look at what the island has on offer can be found here.

Isle of Wight

For those looking to holiday on a British Isle without needing to fly (or take a longer ferry ride), the Isle of Wight is a great choice. Situated in the English Channel but only two miles away from the mainland, it can be reached in just 10 minutes on a hovercraft, 22 minutes in a high-speed foot passenger catamaran from Portsmouth or between 40 and 60 minutes on car ferries from Southampton, Portsmouth or Lymington.

At 150 square miles, the Isle of Wight is bigger than Jersey though smaller than the Isle of Man, and has a population of around 140,000. It has been a domestic holiday destination for over a hundred years (attracting two million visitors a year) and is known — similar to the south coast of the mainland — for its coastal scenery and dramatic cliffs.

The annual Isle of Wight festival attracts large crowds of music and the island also boasts both the oldest pier as well as the oldest phone box in the United Kingdom. Another festival the island is famous for is the garlic festival — garlic lovers will find no shortage of the pungent bulb in restaurants or on The Garlic Farm in Newchurch.

Stand up paddle boarders shot from the cliffs above Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight with wild flowers in bloom.
Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight with wildflowers in bloom. (Photo by soulsurfing – Jason Swain/Getty Images)

Shetland Islands

Though Scotland has more than 900 islands off its coast, not all are easily accessible or suitable as holiday destinations. The Shetland Islands are a subarctic archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland situated 110 miles from the Scottish mainland, 190 miles west of Norway and 50 miles from Orkney.

At 373 square miles, the largest of the islands, called Mainland, is the fifth-largest in the British Isles and one of 15 inhabited islands. There are direct flights to Shetland from Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow as well as Manchester, Bergen and Orkney, which is home to the world’s shortest commercial flight. Though ferries take around 12 hours, the overnight crossing can make for a leisurely journey there.

Given how far north the islands are, the weather, even in summer, is showery and cool. But in the summer, there can be up to 19 hours of sunlight per day — though only six in winter.

Those not deterred by such a harsh climate can expect scenery, flora and of course, Shetland ponies. The remote location means you are unlikely to find many others who will have holidayed in the same spot!

Weisdale, Mainland, Shetland Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe
Weisdale in Mainland, Shetland Islands. (Photo by Holger Leue/Getty Images)

Bottom line

Staycations in the U.K. may not have been top of anyone’s holiday list until 2020 — but the British Isles have no shortage of great islands to visit. Whether it’s beach and foodie locations or remoteness and nature, there’s something for everyone.

Featured photo by Andrea Comi/Getty Images

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