island life

Get castaway in the UK

Think private island stays are just for the Caribbean or the Maldives? Think again

osea island offers complete seclusion at high tide
osea island offers complete seclusion at high tide

Take a look out the window: things are a little tumultuous out there. So surely we can be forgiven for wanting to escape somewhere where crowds are non-existent, skies are big and we can have our very own stretch of sand, sea or land? Well, believe it or not, there are a whole host of private islands scattered like the shards of a dropped plate around the UK, many of them with cosy cabins, boutique hotels or sweet little huts to hole up in. Sound like a dream? It doesn’t have to be, although you may have to forego the palm trees… Here’s our pick of the best places to find an island of one’s own, closer to home.


if only you could pull up the drawbridge…
if only you could pull up the drawbridge…

The Island, Cornwall

Now this one actually does come with palm trees. Perched vertiginously atop a 70ft rock stack that towers high above Newquay’s popular Towan Beach, you’ll feel as if you’ve been cast adrift from the rest of the world in the very best way. Only reachable via suspension bridge, the bite-sized island is completely surrounded by clear Cornish waters at high tide, and comes with its very own six-person house, decked out in Scandi-style neutrals, crackling wood-burners and cosy rocking chairs. Should you wish to tear yourself away from your sanctuary of calm, you’ll find incredible beach and cliff walks right on your doorstep and watersports galore on the beach below.

From £1,776 for a long weekend or mid-week break; hostunusual.com


eilean shona house is the jewel in the island's crown
eilean shona house is the jewel in the island's crown

Eilean Shona, Scotland

This beautiful foresty wilderness isle, cast off the west coast of Scotland, was the inspiration for JM Barrie’s Neverland. The 1,300-acre island is awash with pristine moorland, secluded woodlands and rolling hills, and with such lush surroundings comes a plethora of wildlife; you’ll find more animal than human life on this island. Not only does Shona have its very own Big Five – with seals, sea eagles, sea otters, red squirrels and pine martens easy to spot – but in the summer months, the surrounding waters boil with basking sharks, minke whales and dolphins. Stay at the magnificent Eilean Shona House, a former hunting lodge, or the brand new Timber Cottage which is one of nine scattered across the island. All accommodation is within walking distance of the silver-sand Shoe Bay, where you can kayak, paddleboard or wild swim in the aquamarine seas.

One week’s rental of Timber Cottage costs £900 including towels, bed linen and return transfers to the mainland; eileanshona.com


agatha's beach house is the perfect place to pen your very own crime novel
agatha's beach house is the perfect place to pen your very own crime novel

Burgh Island, Devon

On a surf-pummelled tidal island near quaint-as-you-can-get Bigbury-on-Sea, you’ll find the art deco marvel that is Burgh Island Hotel. Built in 1929, it is steeped in the history of its high-profile former guests, which include Winston Churchill, The Beatles and Agatha Christie, who has a whole luxury beach house here named after her. When the tide is high guests are transported to the island via a mammoth-wheeled sea tractor, but come dinner all sand is firmly dusted off, as black tie must be worn at the restaurant. Elsewhere, things are a little more casual, and you can trudge across to The Pilchard Inn – a wonderfully cosy 14th-century smugglers haunt – in your wellies for a pint of local ale and a hearty pie.

Rooms from £300 per night; burghisland.com


rooms with a view: see the menai strait from every window
rooms with a view: see the menai strait from every window

Ynys Castell, Anglesey

Pebble-sized when compared to some other private islands, this teeny tiny swathe of land is still as lush and exotic as they come. Funny, then, that it’s actually in Wales. Popping up out of the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland, a stay at the seven-bedroom house comes with views of the water on every side, jungly gardens to explore and, well, very little else. But that’s the beauty, right? Plus, when the tide allows, you can drive off the island to explore Anglesey’s ruggedly beautiful coastline, featuring exhilarating hiking trails, hidden beaches and plenty of spots for a brisk, enlivening paddle.

Two nights from £1,104; sykescottages.co.uk


a little slice of the hamptons in essex
a little slice of the hamptons in essex

Osea Island, Essex

Hidden gem Osea is an exclusive private island retreat in the moody Blackwater Estuary of Essex. It’s so moody, in fact, that it was the setting for the TV and film adaptations of The Woman In Black and, more recently, Sky’s chilling new drama, The Third Day. Only accessible via an ancient causeway, this place is completely secluded come high tide, but you’ll find plenty of things to keep you busy, including 4.5 miles of coastline to explore, blustery beaches to potter around and plenty of nature to spot (tip: bring binoculars). Nights can be spent stargazing or listening out for the hoots of owls before bedding down in one of several boltholes here, from the grand manor house to charming beachfront cottages.

From £490 for two nights; hostunusual.com