From the countless white sandy bays of the Scilly Isles to the impressive white chalk Needles of the Isle of Wight, there are many beautiful English islands which will make you feel like you are worlds away.
An island itself, you may be surprised by just how many fascinating islands there are around the UK coastline. The British Isles are made up of over 6,000 islands, but only a very small portion are inhabited. Whilst the majority of the larger inhabited isles are in Scotland, England also has its fair share of beautiful islands worth visiting.
1. Isle of Wight
The largest island in England and the second most populous, the Isle of Wight is located a few miles off the coast of Hampshire. Known for its beautiful scenery, the island is home to resorts that have been holiday destinations since the Victorian times. Featuring a mild climate, varied coastline, rich wildlife, a unique geology and plenty of things to do, it’s easy to understand why it’s England’s favourite island.
Head to one of the island’s many beautiful beaches to relax or enjoy some of the thrilling water sport activities. Explore the museums and historic sites, such as St Catherine’s Oratory. Eat at one of the amazing restaurants or pay a visit to one of the UK’s oldest working vineyards. And don’t miss The Needles, a row of chalk stalks on the western tip of the island. You will leave this beautiful English island longing for more!
2. St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
Not to be confused with Sicily, the Isles of Scilly is an archipelago 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall. There are over 140 islands in total, but only five are currently inhabited (St Mary’s, Tresco, St Agnes, St Martin’s and Bryher). The majority of the population live on St Mary’s, which is often tourists’ first stop as it houses the main airport and ferry terminal. With glorious beaches, shops and coastal trails, you might not ever want to leave this island, but a boat trip to one of the neighbouring isles is a must!
You can fly to the islands from Lands End, Penzance, Newquay or Exeter. There is also a regular boat service running from Penzance throughout the summer.
3. Tresco, Isles of Scilly
The second largest of the Scilly archipelago, Tresco is a subtropical gem. Not only home to white sandy beaches, but the island also boasts the famous 19th century Abbey Gardens. Tresco’s star attraction, the gardens are home to 20,000 plants from all around the world and were established in the 1830s by Augustus Smith.
4. St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
St Agnes is the most southerly point in Britain, and it definitely feels the most isolated out of the five inhabited islands. Only a mile across in length, its closest neighbour is the uninhabited Isle of Gugh, which is joined by a sand bar during low tide. Hire some kayaks or SUPs and discover some of the hidden coves to truly enjoy the peace and tranquillity.
5. St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly
St Martin’s is the most northerly island in the archipelago and is home to some breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Make sure to visit Great Bay, voted one of the UK’s best beaches. Go snorkelling with friendly grey seals, gaze at the stars from the observatory and delight in sumptuous food at the island’s eateries. St Martin’s also boasts its own vineyard, flower farm, dive school, bakery and a gallery.
6. Bryher, Isles of Scilly
Bryher is the smallest inhabited island in the Scilly archipelago. An island of contrasts, the west coast is rugged and wild, whereas the east coast is sheltered with glorious views over to Tresco. It is even possible to walk between Bryher, Tresco and the uninhabited island of Samson during the lowest of tides. Only home to around 80 people it can feel very deserted, but that is all part of the appeal, right?
7. Isle of Lundy
Lundy is an island in the Bristol Channel, located off the coast of Devon. Only three miles long and half a mile wide, it’s one of the most unspoilt inhabited English islands. With no roads, no cars, no streetlights and dodgy mobile signal, it’s the ideal place to escape modern life.
The name ‘Lundy’ derives from the Norse word ‘lundi’, meaning puffin. Aptly named as the island lies on a major bird migration route and is a paradise for birdlife watchers. It is also very popular with walking and climbing enthusiasts, as it is home to the UK’s longest continuous slab climb, ‘The Devil’s Slide’.
There is tourist accommodation on the island, but it is also possible to visit on a day trip. You can reach the island by ferry from Bideford or Ilfracombe during the summer season. If you wish to visit in winter, then a helicopter service is available from Hartland Point.
8. Mersea Island
Mersea Island in Essex is the most eastern inhabited island in the UK. The perfect seaside getaway from London, you can visit on a day trip or even spend a week exploring this beautiful English island. Inhabited since pre roman times, Mersea Island has been a popular holiday destination for centuries.
You may have already seen the iconic pastel coloured beach huts of West Mersea beach plastered all over your Instagram feed, and for good reason! The sandy-shingle beach is the most popular on the island and you can even rent one of the delightful little beach huts for the day! Lovers of seafood (especially oysters) are in for a treat as there are many fantastic beach bars and restaurants selling their catch of the day.
From water sports to bird watching or simply a walk across the tranquil island, Mersea Island is a great place to visit. TIP! As Mersea Island is an estuary island please check the island tide times before visiting as the causeway can flood during high tide.
9. Brownsea Island
Brownsea Island is located in Poole Harbour and is owned by the National Trust. Steeped in history, beautiful nature trails and a haven for wildlife, Brownsea Island is great for a day’s adventure. Keep an eye out for the red squirrels, which thrive on this island, mainly because grey squirrels have never been introduced. Take a walk through the woods, stroll along the beach or head to the viewpoint for views across the Purbecks.
There are regular boat services to Brownsea Island from Poole Quay and Sandbanks. Most people visit Brownsea Island as part of a day trip, but it is also possible to stay overnight at the island’s campsite or holiday cottages.
10. Isle of Man
Although technically not part of England, the Isle of Man is a British Crown Dependency that sits between England and Ireland. The whole island was awarded UNESCO Biosphere status and is described by UNESCO as a ‘special place for people and nature’. Home to peat reserves, grasslands, wetlands, a varied coastline and a diverse marine environment, this special island will captivate you.
Here you will find beaches to relax on, mountains to climb, castles to explore and wildlife to spot. Points of interest include Douglas Bay, Manx Museum, Peel Castle, Castletown, Castle Rushen and the Manx Electric Railway, to name but a few. You can reach the Isle of Man by sea or air, with regular flights from English, Scottish and Irish airports.