You don’t need to travel far from home for a holiday full of interest and fascination. Chris Carter looks at four island destinations around Britain.
Who needs to venture out with a passport when there’s so much to see in a small stretch of the British Isles? asks Penny Walker in The Daily Telegraph. Take Jersey, for example. The Channel Island is home to the largest rocky intertidal zone in Europe, where the water can rise up to 40 vertical feet during spring tides. So while a walk along the coast is “infinitely fascinating, it’s also incredibly dangerous”. It’s best to set out with a guide.
Walker set off on a coastal walk, and the landscape seems to change every few feet. Two hours from La Rocque, after traversing the barren wilderness and “sloshing through rock pools”, large red rocks “loom around us as we make our way up to the base of a beached 18th-century tower”. Seymour Tower was built in 1782 and its outline dominates the landscape. Access is usually only granted to those staying the night (£350, jerseyheritage.org), but you can climb the steps for the view.
Stay at the Atlantic Hotel if you’re looking for luxury. It is in a beautiful location with pretty sea views and has large rooms, a spa and indoor and outdoor pools (from £230, theatlantichotel.com).
A stone circle older than Stonehenge
Callanish – or Calanais in Gaelic – is a 5,000-year-old stone circle on the Hebridean island of Lewis, says Peter Ross in The Guardian. Seen from above, it resembles a Celtic cross, despite long predating Christianity – and, for that matter, Stonehenge.
The drama is heightened by its location on a ridge above a loch. You can gaze across the water to other prehistoric sites nearby – Calanais II and Calanais III. “Like Led Zeppelin albums, the stone circles around here are numbered, and they are heavy.” The central monolith at Callanish is almost five metres tall and weighs around four-and-a-half tonnes. Photos don’t do the stones justice. Only by getting up close can you get that “tingling pleasure of the way they feel beneath your palm”.
The Lewis chessmen are another draw on the island – 12th-century figures dug up on the coast in 1831. Six of the pieces are on display at the Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway and the Uig Museum in Timsgarry, run by volunteers, has lots of interesting material on the pieces and other aspects of local history.
Subtropical sunshine in a corner of England
The Scilly Isles are still technically England, says Duncan Craig in The Sunday Times. So, despite enjoying a warm microclimate courtesy of the Gulf Stream, the sunshine still comes and goes. The weather is about as changeable as young children. The Star Castle hotel (from £194, star-castle.co.uk) on the main island of St Mary’s gets this. The outstanding staff either “genuinely love kids or they’re tremendous actors. Our girls played in the indoor pool. They tore around the grounds and the grassed inner sanctum of the 16th-century fortification… were told to get down from cannons… asked tricky questions… and were indulged wherever they went”.
The hotel’s Conservatory restaurant is “first rate”. Wild bass, crab, John Dory, fillet steak, pork tenderloin – “all were handled with flair and invention”. From the ramparts of the hotel, you can survey all of Scilly’s five inhabited islands, a fair chunk of its islets – and plan out your week.
An enticing and remote retreat the tourists forgot
The Faroe Islands are a remote, enticing group of 18 volcanic basalt rocks thrusting through the North Atlantic, halfway between Norway and Iceland, says Jennifer Parker on Bloomberg. Tourists have yet to decamp here en masse, but with three new, large hotels opening next year, that is set to change.
Heimablídni is a great way to experience Faroese customs first-hand. It translates as “home hospitality” and refers to dinner parties hosted by local farmers in their homes. Anna and Óli Rubeksen are two such award-winning farmers (for details, go to their Facebook page via visitfaroeislands.com). Up to 15 guests are welcomed into an oceanfront dining room and greeted with a stiff round of Faroese schnapps. Vegetable soup and lamb jerky are typical starters, followed by cod or halibut. “For the main course, the farmers whip up a wintry bowl of clove-spiced blood sausage and fermented sheep’s-head meat, with a side of rhubarb chutney. The whole evening feels like a family holiday, fuelled by plenty of Faroese beer from the archipelago’s two local distilleries.”