Britain’s coolest island experiences

Friday 30 July 2021
Deer at Lochranza, Scotland. VisitBritain/Dougie Cunningham

Hundreds of small islands can be found off Britain’s coast, packed with an eclectic mix of wildlife, history and landscapes. Many can be explored via boat trips and immersive experiences, bringing visitors face to face with puffins, dolphins and a vast array of other seabirds and marine life. Here, we round up some of Britain’s coolest island experiences, for an escape to the very heart of nature.


Farne Islands, Northumberland coast 

The majority of this group of islands are only accessible to wildlife and volunteers, making them a haven for a number of different species. Dependant on the tide, 15 to 28 of the islands can be viewed, and regular boat trips allow visitors to view one of the world’s largest grey seal colonies, as well as fluffy puffins and native seabirds. Inner Farne is the largest of the islands and is looked after by the National Trust, with landings included with some of the available tours.

Getting here and excursions:

Boat trips from Seahouses Harbour run from March until October. Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours offers a range of options, including a tour of the islands and Inner Farne, costing £30 for adults and £23 for children. Under 5s go free. There is an additional National Trust landing fee for Inner Farne, which costs £12 for adults and £6 for children in peak season from May to July. It reduces to £8 for adults and £4 for children in March, April, August and September. Discounts are available to National Trust members.

The company also offers a Holy Island Trip, which includes the Farne Islands and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, priced at £45 for adults and £25 for children aged 4-15. Under 4s go free.

A similar trip is run by Billy Shiel’s Boat Trips, with the same pricing as above. Other trips include a Grey Seal Cruise, costing £20 for adults and £15 for children, and a Seabird Cruise, costing £25 for adults and £18 for children.

Golden Gate Farne Island Boat Trips also offer trips to Inner Farne. In addition, they operate to Longstone and can tour Longstone Lighthouse, costing £25 for adults and £15 for children under 12.


Lundy Island, North Devon coast

Located just off the coast of North Devon, Lundy is renowned for its natural beauty - and for its puffins! At just over three miles long and half-a-mile wide, it’s home to an abundance of wildlife and many protected monuments. Lundy’s grassy cliffs and rugged shoreline are also incredibly popular with migratory birds, especially during the spring and autumn. Around 140 species are recorded on the island every year, making it a haven for birdwatchers. The waters around Lundy are one of Britain’s prime diving spots too, with plenty of marine life and wrecks to explore, including ten which are recognised dive sites.

Getting here and excursions:

Lundy has its own ferry and supply ship, the MS Oldenburg, which runs from Ilfracombe and Bideford from the end of March until the end of October. Launched on 1958, it maintains a number of its original features and offers both period and day returns, with the crossing taking around two hours. Day returns cost £44 for adults, £41 for concessions, £22.50 for children aged 4-15 and is free for under 4s. Period returns (for those staying on the island) cost £76 for adults, £39 for children aged 4-15 and £17 for infants.

Ilfracombe Sea Safari also runs a Lundy Shuttle service which takes visitors to the island in the morning before picking them up in the evening, priced at £75 for adults and £55 for children. The company also runs a four-hour wildlife experience around Lundy Island, costing £69.50 for adults and £49.50 for children.

During the winter when the MS Oldenburg is not running, visitors can travel to Lundy by helicopter from Hartland Point in Devon, which costs £137 for adults, £73 for children under 16, and £18 for under 2s.

For those wishing to stay on Lundy, there are 24 self-catering properties to pick from, which are managed by the Landmark Trust.


Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire coast

Renowned for its eclectic mix of wildlife, Skomer Island is around a mile from the Pembrokeshire Coast. Along with its sister island Skokholm, it’s home to puffins from April to August, while its surrounding waters are a haven for marine life. There’s a chance to spot dolphins, harbour porpoises and Manx shearwaters, as well as razorbills, gannets and the native Skomer vole. Atlantic grey seals can also be seen during most of the year, and especially during pupping season between August and October. In addition, the island houses the remains of an Iron Age settlement, while bluebells in the spring and red campion later in the summer provide a vibrant injection of colour.

Getting here and excursions:

Visitor numbers to Skomer Island are limited. Pembrokeshire Islands runs Skomer Landing trips between April and September. These trips must be pre-booked online and cost £40 for adults and children. Cruises around Skomer cost £18 for adults and £14 for children.


Bardsey Island, North Wales coast

Situated around two miles off the Lynn Peninsula in North Wales, Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli in Welsh) has a rich spiritual history. It’s widely known as the ‘Island of 20,000 saints’, as a number of people choose to be buried here in medieval times, believing that it would provide easier passage to the afterlife. The island remains a place of pilgrimage for some, while it’s now a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest which is home to an array of wildlife, including a population of grey seals and a diverse set of seabirds. Britain’s tallest square-towered lighthouse, which dates back to 1821, can also be found on the island.

Getting here:

Bardsey Boat Trips runs excursions to the island from Porth Meudwy, subject to good weather, costing £35 for adults and £25 for children.

The Bardsey Island Trust has a range of accommodation options on the island, including Grade II-listed houses, available between March and October.


Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Dorset

Managed by the National Trust, Brownsea Island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest located in the heart of Poole Harbour. It’s home to more than 300 different plant species, and its various woodland trails offer ample opportunity for wildlife spotting and taking in the sights and sounds of the island. As well as birds and sika deer, Brownsea has a population of around 200 red squirrels, while visitors can regularly spy kingfishers, sandwich terns and oystercatchers. A natural play area and numerous picnic spots make Brownsea Island a fun destination for the whole family.

Getting here and excursions:

The island is open from mid-April until the end of October and foot ferries depart from Poole Quay. Ticket prices to Brownsea Island include the ferry and entry fee, and cost £21.50 for adults and £11.50 for children (under 5s go free). Discounts are available for National Trust members.

Wheelchair users who are unable to use the passenger ferry can access the island via the Brownsea Seahorse, a bookable landing craft which departs from the Sandbanks Yacht Company slipway. This service costs £12.50 for adults and £7 for children, with island admission then due on landing.


Isle of Arran, Scotland

One of Scotland’s larger islands, the Isle of Arran is a short distance from the mainland and packs in everything from mountains and glens to vast forests and sandy beaches. Found between Ayrshire and Kintyre in the Firth of Clyde, the landscape is popular with hikers and walkers. It’s also home to the Isle of Arran Distillery and the Taste of Arran, a collection of 11 food and drink experiences where visitors can sample delectable produce including oatcakes, artisan cheeses and fresh ice cream. The Bronze Age site and six standing stones at Machrie Moor provide a glimpse into the island’s past, as does a visit to the imposing Brodick Castle and Gardens in the east of the isle.

Getting here and excursions:

The ferry from Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick takes 55 minutes and vehicle reservations are recommended. Another ferry links Claonaig in Kintyre to Lochranza, at the northern end of the island and takes around 30 minutes. Note that in the winter this ferry route departs from Tarbert, rather than Claonaig. Visitors can discover more information on excursions and activities in Arran, including distillery tours, abseiling and photography workshops, at VisitScotland.


Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. Visitors are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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