The idyllic islands of England are dotted around our coastline. Many are uninhabited by humans: a good reason to keep our oceans clean and safe for fish, seabirds and marine life. Many ‘islands’ are peninsulas; stretches of land that go out to sea, but are still linked to the mainland. Examples are the Isle of Dogs (near London) and the Wirral Peninsula.
Islands in Northern England
- The Farne Islands (Northumberland) are the favourite wildlife spot of Sir David Attenborough. At the right season, you can spot seabirds galore (including puffins) and breeding seals. Most people view from afar (on TV), with visitors having to walk certain paths, so as not to disturb the wildlife.
- Nearby is Lindisfarne (also known as ‘Holy Island’, as monks used to live here for years, to pray in isolation). Today it’s known for scatty motorists who don’t listen tide time tables (if you drive at the wrong time, you can get swept away with your car, so take great care). It’s the nesting place for the pale-bellied brent goose, who visits each year – no doubt he likes the cold weather! Read The Island of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne.
- The Lake District is home to many islands, on Lake Windermere. The inhabited one is Belle Isle, which years ago housed a villa, built by a Roman governor. Others include Lord’s Island & St Herbert’s Island (named after a Catholic saint who prayed to die on the same day as his Northumberland friend St Cuthbert: and indeed they did). The island was inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s ‘Owl Island’.
Islands in Southern England
- The Isles of Scilly are a group of 5 inhabited (many more uninhabited) islands, off Cornwall’s coast. Sandy beaches, blue seas & warm temperatures suggest the Caribbean, but the many shipwrecks tell a different tale. A haven for local artists and migrating birds.
- St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island in Cornwall, linked to the mainland (you can walk to it, when the tide is out). It’s owned by the National Trust, with its own castle and chapel. Like many islands, it used to be somewhere for monks to visit, to spend quiet time in prayer.
- The Isle of Wight is England’s smallest county (or Rutland, depending on whether the tide is in or out). Facing Hampshire (which has Hayling Island), you can reach the mainland via hovercraft. It features sandy beaches, a railway, coastal walks and The Needles (a natural wonder of chalk rocks – one’s missing, as it crashed to the sea in a storm).
- Two Tree Island is a tiny island at Leigh-on-Sea (Essex) that has been transformed from landfill site to nature reserve. Over the creek is Canvey Island. In Kent, find Isle of Sheppey (Olde English for ‘sheep!’)
- Brownsea Island (Dorset) is just off the coast of Poole – a protected wildlife site. Cornwall’s Puffin Island is named after birds who fly south.
- Lundy Island is just 3 miles long, off North Devon’s coast. It has a population of just 28 people, which includes staff for England’s only ‘pub that never shuts!’ Our native seals in particular, adore this area.