FROM the Isle of Wight in the south to the Outer Hebrides in the north, UK islands are overseas destinations that your clients don’t even have to pack their passports for.
Ferries are plying the waters all around the UK, linking this island of ours to smaller islands that variously offer beaches, spectacular scenery, activities, and a chance to escape back to an age when life seemed a lot calmer.
So whether your client wants to wander coastlines, show off on a surf board, or hop around the Hebrides, you will be able to help.
Where are they? Off Scotland’s northwest coast. The archipelago has seven islands, running for 150 miles. An eighth island, St Kilda, is 40 miles to the west.
Why go? The islands are remote, offering a real chance to get away from it all and experience life at a different pace, but each also has its own attractions.
The Isle of Lewis, the largest island, has dramatic cliffs visitors can abseil down, bays and smaller islands to explore. The Isle of Harris has sandy beaches, cliffs, mountains and moors. North Uist is a birdwatchers’ paradise, South Uist has 20 miles of white-shell beaches. Barra is just eight miles long and five miles wide and is good for cycling, walking and wildflowers.
Who goes there?Caledonian MacBrayne operates between the mainland and the islands year-round, and also between Castlebay (Barra) and Lochboisdale (South Uist), Berneray (North Uist) and Leverburgh (Harris).
Sample product:WA Shearings has a 12-day Lord of the Isles coach tour, visiting Lewis, North and South Uist, Benbecula and Barra, from £849 per person half-board.
One the web:visithebrides.com
Where is it? Off the northwest coast of England, in the Irish Sea.
Why go? This is the home of the TT Races, attracting bikers in their thousands to watch the greatest motorcycle road race in the world. It all happens at the end of May and the beginning of June, so if that doesn’t appeal, avoid those dates.
The island is also great for golfers. It’s just 33 miles long and 13 miles wide but has seven 18-hole golf courses. Meanwhile, walkers can meander along the coast and through the inland woods and valleys, or join the Walking Festival from October 13 to 15, with a choice of five different walks each day.
Cyclists will find six well-signed trails, rated easy, medium and hard. The Snaefell Mountain Railway, built in 1895, is the easy way to climb the island’s only mountain and makes a popular day out. Visitors can step back in time on the steam railway, running south from Douglas, the capital, to Port Erin, or ride the horse-drawn trams along the capital’s two-mile promenade.
Who goes there? The Steam Packet Company has two sailings a day from Douglas to Heysham on conventional ferry Ben-my-Chree. Crossing time is three hours, 30 minutes. It also operates up to three fast-ferry services a day from Douglas to Liverpool. Crossing time is two hours, 30 minutes.
On the web:isle-of-man.com
Where is it? In the Solent.
Why go? This used to be the place for a family holiday – easy to get to, with safe beaches for the kids to play on. The families still come, but for short breaks rather than two-week holidays, and for attractions such as the dinosaur museum, Osborne House – the island home of Queen Victoria – and Amazon World, where kids can get up close to animals and watch falconry displays.
There’s sailing, horseriding and golf, but the island has also become popular with walkers – there are more than 500 miles of signposted footpaths – and cyclists, who can explore 200 miles of marked routes. For those who prefer the sea, the international White Air Extreme Sports Festival, from October 26 to 29, is the place to take on the best at windsurfing, kitesurfing and mountain boarding, among other disciplines.
Who goes there?Wightlink sails from Portsmouth to Fishbourne and Lymington to Yarmouth, with services every 30 minutes in the peak season. Crossing times are 35 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively. Southampton-based Red Funnel operates a conventional ferry to East Cowes and its fast Red Jet to West Cowes. Crossing times are 55 minutes and 22 minutes, respectively.
On the web:iwight.com
Where are they? In the English Channel, closer to France than the UK – Jersey is 100 miles from the south coast of England.
Why go? For the beaches, the weather – the islands get more sun than the rest of the UK – the good food and the slower pace of life. All the islands are great for walking and cycling as there are plenty of country lanes to explore. Traffic has to go slowly in the little lanes and there are special Green Lanes where bikes and pedestrians have priority.
There are five islands – Jersey is the biggest and has heritage museums, castles and the zoo set up by Gerald Durrell to help save animals from extinction. Guernsey has more heritage and pretty St Peter Port, the capital. It is also the jumping-off point for boating daytrips or longer stays on tiny Herm or bigger Sark, neither of which have cars, or to Alderney, which has beaches but few tourists.
Who goes there?Condor Ferries has a fast-ferry service from Weymouth and Poole to Jersey – crossing times are three hours, 30 minutes and three hours respectively – and from Weymouth and Poole to Guernsey. Crossing times are two hours, 10 minutes and two hours, 30 minutes respectively.
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