A guide to the great British isles for holidaying

There are so many island escapes off Britain’s coast, from the Channel Islands in the far south-west to the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. Every one is a perfect place for a peaceful, escapist camping or caravanning holiday.

Jersey is the biggest of the Channel Islands and is only a short crossing from Poole. It has a good choice of sites for whichever outdoor living option – camping, a motorhome or a caravan – suits you. 

I’ve tried all three, and I think stepping outside our mobile accommodation into the open air in the morning for that instant contact with the countryside is the simplest form of holiday bliss.

Ocean breeze: Jersey is the biggest of the Channel Islands and is only a short crossing from Poole. It boasts some great camping spots 

Ocean breeze: Jersey is the biggest of the Channel Islands and is only a short crossing from Poole. It boasts some great camping spots 

Camping and caravanning is easier, and more comfortable than ever these days. Most places provide ample toilets and washrooms, free wi-fi, cafes, shops, swimming pools and children’s play facilities.

A highlight on Jersey is the Durrell Conservation Centre (set up by author Gerald Durrell). It breeds some of the world’s most threatened creatures.

Nearby, and slightly smaller, Guernsey is similarly blessed with good campsites, and a seashore fit for the world’s art galleries – French artist Renoir painted 15 canvasses on the island in 1883. 

You are no more than a 30-minute drive from anywhere, although you won’t want to hurry through the flower-filled country lanes.

All aboard: The Isle of Man’s steam railway has wide family appeal, with intriguing links to the Thomas The Tank Engine stories

All aboard: The Isle of Man’s steam railway has wide family appeal, with intriguing links to the Thomas The Tank Engine stories

Animal magic: An orangutan at the Durrell Conservation Centre on Jersey

Animal magic: An orangutan at the Durrell Conservation Centre on Jersey

Further west are the Isles of Scilly. Think of them as a cosy extension of the tip of Cornwall, all heathland and sandy beaches. 

The ferry from Penzance takes under three hours. You can’t take a car but there are campsites, and the five inhabited islands are small enough for an easy stroll.

Wherever you live in the UK, there is an island not too far away. 

Drive north and the most convenient for many is the Isle of Man, served from Heysham, Liverpool and Belfast by the world’s longest-running ferry service, The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Ancient mystery: The Callanish Stones on the uninhabited island of Lewis

Ancient mystery: The Callanish Stones on the uninhabited island of Lewis

In the middle of the Irish Sea, the 35-mile-long island boasts concentrated visitor appeal, with a rugged, rocky coastline, fine sandy beaches, glens, castles, the imposing 2,000ft-high Snaefell, and splendid views over to the English Lake District and across to Ireland. 

The steam Isle of Man Railway has wide family appeal, with intriguing links to the Thomas The Tank Engine stories. And you don’t even have to take a tent, or a vehicle of any sort, to enjoy an outdoors holiday here. 

One option is a stay in a wooden cabin, yurt or wigwam. Some offer wood-fired hot tubs and solar-powered phone-chargers.

The biggest choice of island castaway adventures is in the Hebrides. 

Caledonian MacBrayne sailings from Oban, Mallaig and Ullapool, and elsewhere on the mainland, serve many of the 36 inhabited islands in the Inner Hebrides. 

They include Islay for its whisky distilleries, Mull for its sea eagles and Staffa for the wonder of Fingal’s Cave.

There’s a good services, too, to the Outer Hebrides, a chain of 100 islands 43 miles west of mainland Scotland. 

The 15 inhabited islands include Barra, Benbecula, Berneray, Harris, Lewis, and North and South Uist.

Visitors are drawn to the prehistoric Callanish Standing Stones, Iona Abbey, white sands… and solitude.


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