The idyllic islands of England are dotted around our coastline. There are too many list to here (many of them are uninhabited by humans). But they exist all the same: a good reason to keep our oceans clean and safe for fish, seabirds and marine life creatures. Here you will be introduced to a few of our best-known islands, in various corners of England.
Many ‘islands’ are in fact peninsulas, which means they are stretches of land that go out to sea, but they 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 so rich in wildlife, that this is Sir David Attenborough’s favourite spot for nature in the whole of the British Isles. At the right season, you can spot seabirds galore (including puffins) and seals, who like to breed here. You have to visit by boat, and charter owners are very careful not to disturb the wildlife unnecessarily.
- Nearby is Lindisfarne (also known as ‘Holy Island’ as monks used to live here for years in solitary prayer). Today, it’s more known for being a spot where scatty motorists don’t listen to the tides (if you drive across a the wrong time, you can literally get stuck or even swept away with your car, so take great care).
- The Lake District is home to many islands, on Lake Windermere. The only one with any residents is Belle Isle (named after the former owner’s daughter Isabella), which used to house a villa, built by a Roman governor years ago. Others include Lord’s Island and St Herbert’s Island (named after a Catholic saint who would pray here, and asked to die on the same day as his Northumberland friend St Cuthbert: they did indeed die the same day). This island is ‘Owl Island’ in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.
Islands in Southern England
- The Isles of Scilly are a group of 5 inhabited (and many more uninhabited) islands, lying off the coast of Cornwall. This is a different world. The sandy beaches, blue seas and warmer temperature means these islands look more like the Caribbean, than England. However, the shipwrecks below the surface, show that the weather is not always that forgiving. A haven for local artists, the islands are popular stop-off points for tired birds, during their migrations.
- St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island in Cornwall, linked to the mainland, which you can walk to, when the tide is out. It’s owned by the National Trust and has its own castle and chapel. Like many of our islands, it used to be somewhere for monks to visit, to spend quiet time alone in prayer. This is just one of over 40 similar islands that you can walk to (another is Devon’s Burgh Island, used often as the setting for Agatha Christie films, due to its beautiful Art Deco hotel).
- The Isle of Wight is England’s smallest county (or Rutland, depending on whether the tide is in or out). Facing Hampshire (which has its own Hayling Island), you can reach the mainland via a 10-minute trip by hovercraft.
- Two Tree Island is a tiny little island over a bridge at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. It has thankfully been made over from a landfill site to a nature reserve. Over the creek is Canvey Island and in Kent, find Isle of Sheppey (Olde English for ‘sheep!’)
- Brownsea Island is just off the coast of Poole, and a protected wildlife site. It’s only a few minutes by sea-ferry over to see some of the most beautiful countryside, and a sharp ‘natural contrast’ to showy Sandbacks, a few miles away. Cornwall’s Puffin Island (near Padstow) is named after birds who fly south (there’s an island of the same name in North Wales).
- Lundy Island is just 3 miles long, and lies just off the coast of North Devon, in the Bristol Channel. It has a population of just 28 people, which includes staff for England’s only ‘pub that never shuts!’ Steep and rocky, this is the scene of many shipwrecks. However, wildlife love it here, especially our native seal populations.