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Bucket-list builder: British Island destinations

PUBLISHED: 10:30 13 June 2020

The rugged beauty of Skye makes it a magical destination   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The rugged beauty of Skye makes it a magical destination Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Here’s our pic of our Island Nation’s offshore offerings - add one to your bucket list for your post-Covid lockdown trip of a lifetime.

The picturesque town of Portree on the Isle of Skye    Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoThe picturesque town of Portree on the Isle of Skye Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We do love to be beside the seaside – and no doubt when lockdown is lifted the sunny days will see many of us flocking to favourite beaches. But as good as a bucket-and-spade day might be, that’s not enough to make it onto a bucket list. For that, a trip needs to be somewhere a little more special.

Fortunately, the British Isles are full of fabulous destinations and nowhere gets more seaside-ish than an island, surrounded by water. So here’s our pick of six great British off-shore destinations

Skye

The isle of Skye is swathed in myth and legend, famed for being steeped in magic and mystery. It’s the biggest of the Inner Hebrides and the fourth largest of the British Isles (behind Britain, Ireland, and the island of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides) - at 639sq miles it’s roughly the same size as Lincolnshire, but much hillier. The Cullin Hills are a magnet for walkers and climbers, with 12 “munros” (hills over 3000ft high) - including the “Inaccessible Pinacle”. The scenery is wildly beautiful, with open moorland, crags like the Old Man of Storr, and miles of beaches. There are quaint towns, ancient castles, distilleries and seal-watching boat trips for visitors. Since the Skye Bridge opened in 1995, you don’t even have to take a ferry to get there (though there are two).

Douglas Lighthouse on the Isle of Man. A restful destination (whern there's no motorcycle racing)   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoDouglas Lighthouse on the Isle of Man. A restful destination (whern there's no motorcycle racing) Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For information click here.

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has been a magnet for motorsport fans for more than 100 years, as they flock for the TT races and, in more manageable numbers, the Classic TT and Southern Hundred races. When the racing isn’t on, though, the Island is a beautiful place – like a little corner of Snowdonia adrift in a bright blue sea. It’s big enough to have its own mountain, castles, towns with seafront promenades. There’s a timelessness to Douglas, Peel and the smaller settlements – and a distinctive local character. Whether you go to witness the astonishing spectacle of the motorcycle racing or to bask in the peace and quiet of the rest of the year, visiting the Isle of Man can become addictive so your first visit is unlikely to be your last.

For information click here.

For a near tropical experience, head to St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoFor a near tropical experience, head to St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Alderney

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Smaller than Jersey and Guernsey (and closer to England), Aldernay might just be the most charming of the Channel Islands. Technically, they’re not really part of the British Isles, but they’re crown dependencies so we’re counting them – and a weekend or longer on the quiet, sandy beaches of Aldernay would be a treat worth waiting for. As it’s only three miles long and a mile-and-a-half wide, the few cars on the island don’t get much use: it’s so easy to walk everywhere. For such a small place, it has a surprising number of fortresses - mostly built in the 19th Century, but some reinforced by the occupying Germans in World War II. Despite these traces of military history, the island’s sublimely tranquil and, on a sunny day, there are few finer places to get away from the rat race.

For information click here.

Corblets Bay on Alderney, third-largest of the British Channel Islands. Perfect for a relaxed get-away-from-it-all break   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoCorblets Bay on Alderney, third-largest of the British Channel Islands. Perfect for a relaxed get-away-from-it-all break Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

St Mary’s, the Isles of Scilly

About 30 miles to the south-west of Land’s End, bathed by the warm waters of the gulf stream, are the Scilly Isles. An archipelago of more than 140 small islands fringed with beautiful sandy beaches, they’re as close as you’ll get to the classic desert island without going to the Caribbean. In high summer, the sub-tropical climate could almost fool you into thinking you had... There are only five inhabited islands, with the ferry and air service going to St Mary’s, the largest. From there you can get to Tresco, St Agnes, St Martins and Bryher - and take daytrips exploring the unihabited islands. The Scilly’s are a truly magical getaway.

For information click here.

Take the causeway to St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall (a boat is available when the tide is in)  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoTake the causeway to St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall (a boat is available when the tide is in) Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

St Michael’s Mount

If you want a romantic daytrip destination, they don’t get much better than Cornwall’s St Michael’s Mount. Linked to the mainland at the village of Marazion by a man-made causeway, it’s a gentle and atmospheric walk to get there at low tide - though there is also a boat service for when the tide’s in. Owned by the National Trust, the island itself is free to visit but you have to buy a ticket to go into the castle (and you can’t really visit and not go in!). Take a pair of proper walking shoes if you’re planning to climb all the way to the summit of the island – it’s worth it as the views are stunning, plus you’ll really have earnt a celebratory Cornish cream tea with that walk.

For information, click here.

Skellig Michael or Great Skellig, home to the ruined remains of a Christian monastery (and Liuke Skywalker) Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoSkellig Michael or Great Skellig, home to the ruined remains of a Christian monastery (and Liuke Skywalker) Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Skellig Michael

When is an island not an island? When it’s a film star, obviously... While the rugged Skellig islands off the west coast of Ireland have been daytrip destinations for years, their popularity and renown has taken off since the largest – Skellig Michael – appeared in the Star Wars series as Luke Skywalker’s mysterious refuge. It’s a fair climb to the monastery with its distinctive beehive monks’ cells, but the views – on a clear day – are spectacular, down to the deep blue sea and the twin island of Little Skellig. You won’t encounter any alien lifeforms, but the island is home to a huge array of seabirds including gannets, gulls, guillemots and ground-nesting puffins.

For information, click here.


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