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10 of the best island adventures around Britain

Swim around Asparagus Island, Cornwall

Enjoy the last of the season’s warmer waters with a swim from the golden sands of Kynance Cove around the jumble of translucent green serpentine rocks at the base of this island. Start this wild 2km swim from the sandy tombolo between the mainland and island at the west end of Kynance Cove (note at high tide the beach and tombolo disappear, so check tide times for Lizard Point). Swim independently or guided by Sea Swim Cornwall (some experience of open-water swimming necessary, £40 a trip). Finish with a coffee and pasty in the Kynance Cove Beach Cafe nearby.

Getting there From Helston, drive south on the A3083 and follow signs for The Lizard, then Kynance Cove. From the Kynance Cove National Trust car park, descend the steep stairs to the beach.
Stay The Top House Inn is in the centre of Lizard village (doubles from £95 B&B); Kynance Cove Beach Cafe has a self-catering cottage (double and bunk bed, from £500 a week).

Paddleboard to Packing Shed Island, Essex

A site of seafood history… Packing Shed Island

A watery pilgrimage to a site of seafood history. A trip to Packing Shed Island, just offshore of the sailing hotspot of West Mersea, is a reminder of the sheer scale of the 19th-century oyster industry when Mersea Natives were exported throughout Europe. This 800-metre paddle (two-hour return trip) along the tidal Mersea Fleet to its oyster shell beach and restored Packing Shed whets the appetite for sampling local seafood back on dry land at the Company Shed. For a longer journey there are several other islands to explore. Start from the car park and beach in front of the West Mersea Yacht Club; go independently or hire boards from Mersea Island Watersports (half-day, £35).

Getting there Access Mersea Island on the B1025 and the Strood causeway (closes when high tides are greater than five metres; use the BBC tide table for Mersea Island).
Stay Little Lodge is only metres from the West Mersea beach (sleeps two from £495 for three nights) or the Victory (deluxe family suite for four from £130 a night).

Explore the Isle of Man’s beautiful glens

Tumbling waterfalls, deep rock pools and luxuriant vegetation form these natural Manx wonders. There are 18 mountain and coastal National Glens, all of which are accessible with varying levels of difficulty. Ballaglass Glen and Glen Maye are known for their stunning waterfalls and fern-filled woodlands; others are coastal glens that lead to secluded sandy beaches; Tholt-y-Will Glen descends the winding mountain stream near Snaefell, the island’s highest peak. For a real adrenaline rush go on a two-hour gorge “walking” trip in Ballaglass with the Venture Centre up to the end of November (£30pp, wetsuits and safety gear provided).

Getting there Take the ferry to Douglas from Heysham, Liverpool, Birkenhead, Belfast or Dublin.
Stay Campervannin offers freedom to sleep near the glens (sleeps four, from £450 for three nights); or stay in Saba’s Glen Yurt on the riverbank with a private hot tub (sleeps four, from £100 ).

Beat the tide in Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Crossing to Porth Island.
Crossing to Porth Island

Island-hop between Porth Island and Watergate Bay to see some of Cornwall’s finest beaches and visit sea caves, a blowhole and an iron age fort. There are three islands and you can visit them all in one 4.5-mile walk. Leave approximately three hours for the walk, but remember it should only be attempted two hours either side of low tide (check tide tables for Newquay). Start from the north end of Porth Beach, head west along the South West Coast Path, cross to Porth Island via the footbridge, and walk around the island. Return on the same route, head north on the pavement alongside the B3276 to the steps down to Whipsiderry Beach and Black Humphrey Rock, named after the smuggler who lived at the base of this sea stack. Continue north to the rock stacks of Zacry’s Islands between the gems of Whipsiderry Beach and Fruitful Cove. At the hotels and car park of Watergate Bay, rejoin the South West Coast Path to return along the clifftops.

Getting there From Newquay head north on the B3276 towards Padstow; park at Porth Beach. Full route at Islandeering.com.
Stay Porth Beach Hotel has great beach views (doubles from £140).

Walk the Dogs, London

The Isle of Dogs is technically still an island by virtue of the Impounding Station that connects the water of West Docks to the River Thames, and this 4.3-mile walk (approximately three hours) around its perimeter is one of London’s best. Canary Wharf’s landscape, dominated by towering buildings with colourful, reflective surfaces, creates a pleasing harmony with the natural tranquillity of the Thames Path. With historic sites like Millwall’s flour mills and old wharf buildings once the centre for chemicals, paints, drugs and oils, characterful East End boozers, plenty of green space and river views across the Thames to Greenwich, this is a fascinating city walk. Start from Canary Wharf Pier, head south along the river to join the Thames Path and cross the sluice at the west end of South Dock, continue around the island to the east end of South Dock, and return to the start via paths along South Dock.

Getting there Bus 135 and D7, Jubilee Line or DLR. C2C overground trains go to nearby Limehouse, where you can connect to the DLR.
Stay The Good Hotel overlooks Royal Victoria Dock, and all profits go to social causes (doubles from £109 room only).

Watch the tidal bore, Alney Island, Gloucester

A roar is the first sign that one of Britain’s most amazing natural phenomena is about to round the bend and rush below your feet at Lower Parting on Alney Island. This surge wave that originates in the River Severn estuary is spectacular to witness, especially when it is sprinkled with a colourful array of kayakers, surfers and paddleboarders who try to ride it as far as possible, some even in fancy dress. The bore can be seen on specific tides throughout the year (check the Severn Bore timetable). While on the island there is also a three-mile circular walk on well-marked paths. The historic Gloucester Docks shopping centre and cafes are less than a mile’s walk away.

Getting there Park in Castlemeads car park (GL1 2NH) on Alney Island. Follow footpath signs along the East Channel, under the A430, for a mile to reach Lower Parting.
Stay The Judges Lodgings Gloucester apartments are in a historic building close to Gloucester Docks (sleeps 6 from £345 for three nights).

Stargaze from St Martin’s Observatory, Scilly

The daymark at night on St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly.
Photograph: Ed Marshall/Alamy

The dark skies of Scilly make it the ideal spot for stargazing, particularly on St Martin’s with its new state-of-the-art Cosmos Observatory within a Dark Skies Discovery Zone. Catch the inaugural Scilly Dark Skies Week on St Martin’s, between 2 and 9 October, with talks by world-leading astronomers and plenty of staring into the cosmos in two observation domes (one for deep-night-sky viewing, the other for looking at the sun); or book one of the weekly sessions until the end of October. The island has world-class beaches, tasty treats at the Island Bakery and local colour at the characterful Seven Stones Inn.

Getting there Take the Scillonian ferry from Penzance then transfer to St Martin’s with St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association.
Stay In their own garden, Wentletrap and Periwinkle are known as the Menawethan Chalets. Each offers a double bedroom and bunk-bed room (sleeps 4 from £500 a week); further accommodation for the festival can be found on the St Martin’s website.

Walk to Anglesey’s highest point, Holy Island

The start of the path up Holyhead Mountain in Breakwater Country Park.
The start of the path up Holyhead Mountain in Breakwater Country Park

There is something primal about being on an island’s highest point, especially when you can see the whole of the island beneath your feet. A favourite is Holyhead Mountain (Mynydd Twr), the highest point on Holy Island, which juts out into the Irish Sea westward from Anglesey. This five-mile walk (allow four hours) starts from Breakwater Country Park, a hidden wildlife-filled gem set in a dramatic location. Head north-west along an exhilarating stretch of the Anglesey Coast Path to the dramatic North Stack, then follow the path south towards South Stack, ascending the mountain to the trig point for fantastic views over Holyhead harbour and across to the peaks of Snowdonia. Descend and continue on the coast path to the viewpoint for South Stack lighthouse and on to the RSPB centre. Head north to skirt the southern base of the mountain, then through the fields – where you’ll encounter medieval field boundaries – to Gorlan, anddown the lane to Breakwater Park. Full route details at Islandeering.com using OS Explorer Map 262.

Getting there Take the A5154 north from Holyhead and then head west on the coast road, following signs for Breakwater Country Park.
Stay Anglesey Outdoors offers a range of land- and water-based activities and also has a choice of private rooms, glamping pods and cabins (twin rooms from £38); the Seacroft pub close to Trearddur Bay has rooms (doubles from £65 B&B).

Be a castaway for a night in Jersey’s Seymour Tower

Explore the largest intertidal zone in Europe by walking a mile offshore at low tide to stay in a refurbished 18th-century coastal defence tower, which is perched on its own islet and cut off from Jersey at high tide. Seymour Tower offers basic but comfortable overnight guest accommodation and is known as “Jersey’s version of a mountain hut”. Start your walk at Seymour slipway in La Rocque harbour, and discover the colourful and secretive marine life along the way to the tower.

Getting there By car from St Helier travel east on the A4, or take the Liberty Bus (No 1) from St Helier to Le Roque harbour.
Stay Guide and overnight accommodation in Seymour Tower from £70pp, minimum five people, or £350 for a private group of seven. Contact Jersey Walk Adventures for dates.

Visit the seal pups on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire

Boat in a bay of Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom.
Photograph: Alamy

As natural spectacles go this is among the cutest, with up to 700 fluffy white pups born every year on Ramsey Island’s beaches, sea caves and harbour. The island has southern Britain’s largest colony of breeding Atlantic grey seals, with the main pupping season from late August until the end of October when visitors literally have to step over the pups as they land. There are also Ramsey’s three peaks to climb for panoramic views, a 4.6-mile circular walk around some of the highest cliffs in Wales, while knowledgable RSPB wardens are on hand to explain more about the seals’ life and habitat in this dramatic environment.

Getting there Take a day trip on a Thousand Island Expeditions boat from St Justinian’s Lifeboat Station, 2.5 miles west of St Davids (adult £25, child £12.50; discount for RSPB members). Teas, coffees and basic snacks are available at the island’s farmhouse.
Stay St David’s Cross Hotel in the centre of Britain’s smallest city (doubles from £125 B&B).

This is an edited extract from Lisa Drewe’s England & Wales Island Bagging: A Guide to Adventures on the Islands of England, Wales, the Channel Islands & the Isle of Man, published on 7 October (Vertebrate Publishing, £20).


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