Alderney Clonque Bay. Picture by Martin Batt, courtesy of Wildlife Trusts
Britain's Wild Islands
If you want to get away from it all, why not escape to one of this country's wonderful natural gems - islands where you can get closer to nature. From dramatically rugged and sea-swept to supremely tranquil, there's something for everyone
Opt to escape from the masses on the mainland and really get away from it all this summer by exploring wonderful islands full of wildlife that are scattered around the country.
From sound-rich seabird colonies on windswept, rugged sea cliffs to a tranquil haven in the Thames, there is something for every taste up and down the UK. Many of these islands are not only wild and untamed places, which are home to rare and iconic species, they are also dripping with fascinating industrial and cultural history.
Looe (St George's) Island - Cornwall Wildlife Trust
This is a marine nature reserve with woodland, maritime grassland, sand, shingle and rocky reef. It’s great for its Black-Backed Gull breeding colony, Thrift and Grey Seal. For history buffs, the site of a 12th century Benedictine chapel can be seen at the highest point of the island.
It’s open between Easter and September (weather and tide permitting). Access to the island is managed for the benefit of wildlife. An authorised passenger boat makes the 20 minute crossing from East Looe. Check Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s website for details.
Grid ref: SX 258 519.
Foulney Island - Cumbria
Formed entirely of pebbles and once a true island, Foulney Island is now connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway built in the 19th century. It’s great for Arctic and Little Tern breeding colonies, Yellow-Horned Poppy, and thousands of waders in the winter.
Note that around high tide the island may be cut off for several hours. Access is also restricted to designated paths during the breeding season. For more information, visit the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website.
Grid ref: SD 246 640
South Walney – Cumbria
With stunning views across Morecambe Bay, this shingle island reserve is full of interest and a fantastic place for bird watching. It boasts miles of unspoilt coastline and spectacular views of the Lakeland fells, as well as providing a beautiful and unique habitat.
In summer see nesting Gulls, Eiders, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers. Burnet Moths and Grayling butterflies are on the wing and Viper's Bugloss, Yellow Horned Poppy and Sea Lavender are in flower. The Grey Seal has made its home upon the island alongside rare sea birds which nest along the sands, and the noisy and distinctive Natterjack Toad also inhabits this wildlife-rich haven.
For more information visit the Cumbria Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: SD 225 620
Brownsea Island - Dorset
If you long to see Red Squirrels then this is the place for you, as Brownsea Island is famous for them. It’s also great for Water Vole and Sika Deer, as well as large flocks of Avocets that are attracted by the large and sheltered lagoon which is so vital for overwintering and summer breeding birds.
Brownsea Island is open every day from mid-March to the beginning of November, with boats from Poole and Sandbanks. Landing fees may apply.
For more information, visit the Dorset Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: SZ 028 878
Mill Ham Island - Dorset
This is a small nature reserve with steep banks to the River Stour on one side and a wet, reedy area to the other on the river's old course. With its dense vegetation, this little-visited area offers a retreat for water birds. It’s great for Goldfinch, Reed Bunting and Heron, as well as Comfrey.
Mill Ham is accessed by a public footpath across fields and over a small bridge to the entrance. Please note the reserve itself is overgrown and without paths.
For more information, visit the Dorset Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: ST 824 126
Cardigan Island - Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
Cardigan Island comprises maritime cliff and grassland off the northern shore of the river Teifi estuary. It has a long history of human use but is now only home to breeding seabirds; great for Razorbill, Shag, Raven, Rock Pipit, Chough and Fulmar. Access is by chartered boat from Cardigan or Gwbert only by permission of the Trust. There are good views from Cemaes Head & Cardigan Island Farm Park.
For more information, visit the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website. Grid ref: SN 160 515
Skokholm Island - Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
Skokholm Island is next to Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire coast, in some of the most wildlife-rich waters of the UK. Breeding seabirds, cetaceans,
seals and migrant birds can all be seen here, including Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel and Harbour Porpoise.
Skokholm is open from April to September. Access is restricted to residential visitors and occasional Trust-organised day visits during the summer. For more information, visit the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website. Grid ref: SM 735 050
Skomer Island - Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
Skomer and Skokholm in west Wales are home to over half the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters. With its sheltered bays and rugged coastline,
Skomer is also well known for its other breeding seabirds, such as Storm Petrel and Chough, and a Puffin colony. It's great for Peregrine Falcon - and Grey Seal, too.
The island is also rich in historical remains and is covered by a carpet of bluebells each spring, even in the absence of woodland.
Skomer is open from April to September. Passenger boats depart from Martin’s Haven - landing fees apply for non-members of the Wildlife Trusts. Limited accommodation is available on the island.
For more information, visit the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website. Grid ref: SM 725 095
Isle of Muck - Ulster Wildlife
This island is home to the third largest colony of cliff-nesting seabirds in Northern Ireland. The birds are monitored by staff each year. This is the place for you if you want to enjoy Kittiwake, Guillemot, Peregrine Falcon, Puffin, Coastal Otter, and Seals.
It is open at all times but access is for Wildlife Trusts members, with permission only (boat required). It is well worth the extra effort involved in visiting though, you will not be disappointed. Otherwise it is best viewed from the mainland, at Portmuck.
For more information, visit Ulster Wildlife's website. Grid ref: NW 607 555
ABOUT THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS (TWT)
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK, all of which are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. They manage around 2,300 nature reserves.
The trusts have more than 800,000 members, including 150,000 members of their junior branch, Wildlife Watch. In addition to working with thousands of schools every year in order to educate youngsters, the Trusts also advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife.
Wildlife Trusts also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife.
Their nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors, and has a proud tradition of working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area.
For more information go to
Crane Park Island - London Wildlife Trust
Once the site of the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills, now a carefully managed mosaic of woodland, scrub and reedbed, this nature reserve is great for Kingfisher, Water Vole and Greater Spotted Woodpecker. It is open at all times, with the visitor centre opening on the first and last Sunday of each month.
For more information, visit the London Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: TQ 128 727
Frays Island - London
Alongside flower-rich Mabey's Meadow, the willow woodland of Fray's Island provides a perfect spot to see the beautiful River Colne. It’s great for Kingfisher, Banded Demoiselle and Orchids in the summer. Fray’s island is next door to Mabey’s Meadow and accessible by footbridge.
For more information, visit the London Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: TQ 053 792
Wilderness Island - London Wildlife Trust
An enticing nature trail between two babbling arms of the River Wandle. Wander through fruit trees and crack willow to a vibrant meadow. It’s great for Black Poplar, Kingfisher and the Speckled Wood butterfly. Wilderness Island is open at all times, with public footpaths throughout.
For more information, visit the London Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: TQ 282 653
Ray Island - Essex Wildlife Trust
This rough grassland and shingle beach is connected by Bonners Salting saltmarsh to the Strood causeway. It is great for Short-Eared Owl, Shelduck and Oystercatcher, as well as Golden Samphire.
Ray Island is open from 1 March – 31 August to Essex Wildlife Trust members only. The mile-long crossing involves a number of single plank bridges without handrails, which can be slippery, so do take care. The path is also flooded at high tide.
For more information, visit the Essex Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: TM 011 154
Skipper’s Island - Essex
Completely surrounded by saltmarsh, this reserve of thorn thickets and flower-rich grassland is only linked to the mainland by two 19th century livestock causeways. Skipper’s Island is great for Barn Owl and flocks of Brent Geese in winter, and botanists will find Sea Hog’s Fennel, Adder’s Tongue Fern and more. It is accessible via a private road and flooded pathways only by prior arrangement with Essex
Red Squirrel on Brownsea.
Photo by Stewart Canham
Wilderness Island, London. Picture courtesy of London Wildlife Trust
Wildlife Trust. For more information, visit the Essex Wildlife Trust website Grid ref: TM 218 242
Two Tree Island - Essex
Reclaimed from the sea in the 18th century, when a seawall was built around the saltmarsh, Two Tree Island’s mudflats and lagoons attract a range of migrating winter birds and its grassland supports butterflies such as Essex skipper. It is also great for saltmarsh plants, thousands of wildfowl and waders and short-eared owl in winter. It is open at all times and accessed by road.
For more information, visit the Essex Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: TQ 824 852
Isle of Eigg - Scottish
Head up to the small Isle of Eigg for a chance to spot Minke whales between July and September. It's also great for Bottlenose Dolphin. Visit also for panoramic views, native woodland, raised bog and moorland.
Caledonian MacBrayne ferries for foot passengers operate from Mallaig, and during the summer a private ferry runs daily (except Thursdays) from Arisaig, stopping for whales and dolphins. For more information, visit the Scottish Wildlife Trust website. Grid ref: NM 474 875
Photo courtesy of Wildlife Trusts
Fisher's Estuarine Moth, Essex.
Photo courtesy of Wildlife Trusts