The British Isles comprises some 6,000 islands, though only 194 of them are inhabited. In his new book, Treasured Islands, Peter Naldrett explores 200 of the most beautiful and most interesting, making it (to quote TV presenter and writer Ed Stafford), ‘The definitive guide to Britain’s quirky and rugged islands. Islands have always had a mysterious allure – Peter has managed to capture the magical essence of our old favourites and lesser known gems.’ In this blog, Peter looks at some of the most remote and isolated.
On Lindisfarne it comes with the twice-daily rising of the tide.
Islands such as Eigg off the west coast of Scotland find it arrives when the ferry departs for the fall time of the day.
However the quiet hush of isolation greets you, it’s something you’re not likely to forget. Being cut off from the bright lights of the nearest mainland town or village has an allure of discovery, the adventure of surviving in an environment you’re not used to.
Island life is not for everyone, I’ll readily admit. Don’t think about moving to Barra if you’re the type of person who has to pop out to the nearest Tesco Express every night. But even the most ardent urbanite will find magic in the silence that descends on many of our British islands at night – even if it’s only for a short stay.
And there is no shortage of opportunities for a trip to a British island. There are literally thousands of them, with a couple of hundred being home to humans. And if you’re looking to explore, you’ll find there are islands in our waters to suit all tastes.
If theme parks and ice creams are your thing, head to the Isle of Wight or Canvey Island. For beaches and fine weather, venture to the Scillies. Rugged beauty can be discovered on many Scottish isles, with food treats waiting in Wales and traditional music among other attractions in Ireland.
Whilst travelling around Britain, Ireland and further afield to write this book, I focused on just over 200 of our finest, most treasured islands and exactly what their allure is.
And all the time I kept coming back to that one constant feature; isolation and a break from the mainland rat race.
Lindisfarne, a tidal island in the north east of England, experiences this solace twice a day. Huge posters remind day trippers to set off back in time to beat the racing tide and photos of flooded vehicles urge them not to leave it too late. After they have deserted the island – and many of the island’s workforce have left, too – the place takes on a completely different feel, taking you back in time to experience a peaceful kind of silence.
Eigg is not a tidal island, but it experiences a similar kind of isolation every day when the ferry leaves the jetty, and a sense of excitement when it returns with new supplies and visitors.
Bad weather can – and frequently does – bring an end to the timetable and sometimes it can mean folk are stranded for days by the harsh weather felt in these parts. When I was making my trip, I met people who had visited the vets on the mainland and had to stay an extra couple of days because of a storm. Even the simplest of tasks need a risk assessment on some of our islands.
Writing this book has been a fabulous challenge over the last three years and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting these incredible places, revisiting some but heading to many for the first time. The people who live on our islands face tough challenges, that much is clear, but they are also blessed with inspiring landscapes and a superb array of wildlife. They are often serene destinations, and I could see myself living on some of them in the future, so much was I smitten by the character of places like Orkney. More than once I found myself looking longingly at an estate agent window weighing up the opportunities.
Island life often reminds you that you’re part of a bigger picture where nature is king. I’d urge you to spend as much time as possible in that bigger picture and explore as many of these fantastic places as you can.
Here is a sample of the types of places you can expect to read about in the book – so check out my brief guide to some of our quirkiest island destinations.
TOP TEN ISLANDS FOR PURE ESCAPISM
1. Spend a night on the tidal island of Lindisfarne, enjoying the quiet when the day-trippers go home.
2. Climb the ancient steps of Skellig Michael to discover the stone buildings made famous in the Star Wars series of films.
3. Book an overnight stay on Lundy to find tranquillity in the Bristol Channel.
4. Peace, quiet and fabulously dark skies make Coll the perfect island for stargazing.
5. Leave your car on the mainland and take your tent to Bryher for an idyllic stay on the Isles of Scilly.
6. Soak in the views of the Old Man of Hoy, standing on the cliffs of this quiet island in Orkney.
7. Walk along the gorgeous white sand beaches of Berneray to give your travels a tropical feel.
8. Iona is famous for spiritual solitude and personal retreats, but even a day trip here will nourish the soul.
9. Walk on the magnificent limestone pavements of Inishmore, enjoying fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean from the west coast of Ireland.
10. Spend a few hours rummaging through the creative and artistic wares on sale during the open days on Eel Pie Island.
Treasured Islands is published on 26th June, RRP £18.99. You can pre-order it with a 10% discount direct from our website here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/treasured-islands-9781844865925/