Island bagging book – exploring Britain’s hidden islands

Lisa Drewe, author of island bagging book Islandeering, shares her favourite hidden islands for walkers who like to bag islands by circumnavigating their outer edge, from Scottish island bagging to little-known island in England and Wales

Hilbre island, Wirral

Distance: 8.3 km Walking time: 2 hours Grade: moderate, crossing tidal sands and mud
Hilbre Island in the mouth of the Dee estuary is part of a long rocky strand that, together with the small islands of Little Eye and Middle Eye, forms an archipelago. The route from West Kirby crosses the tidal sands and muds to discover all three. Hilbre has an old lifeboat station, bird observatory and telegraph station to explore and a free-range walk around its foreshore reveals wave-sculpted cliffs, caves, arches, and geos. The haunting wails of seals on West Hoyle Bank and the huge variety of waders, wildfowl and terns heightens the sense of remoteness on this walk on the wild side.


Herm, Channel Islands

Distance: 6.4 km Walking time: 1 hour 45 mins Grade: easy coastal path
Herm exudes a gentle small-island charm and this laid-back walk imbibes it all. Just a short boat trip from Guernsey this circumnavigation follows unspoilt beaches, dramatic clifftops, marram-topped sand dunes and wildflower-studded commons. There is plenty to explore from the smallest jail with room for just one to Neolithic tombs, six astounding beaches and Europe’s most southerly puffin colony. With good food and drinks in the palm-fronted island hotel, Herm Island Gold to sample in The Mermaid Tavern and beach cafes with parasols, white sands, and turquoise seas there are plenty of idyllic stops on the way.


Ynys Giftan, North Wales

Distance: 4.5 km Walking time: 1 hour Grade: easy, crossing tidal sands
Sitting at the head of the long Dwyryd estuary, one of the most unspoilt places in Cardigan Bay, Ynys Gifftan is surrounded by vast tidal sands, saltmarsh, and the mountains of Snowdonia. Its beauty is further enhanced by the ruined outline of Harlech Castle and the ornate spires and domes of Italianate Portmeirion just across the river. From Talsarnau access the island two hours before low tide through wildlife-filled saltmarsh and a short walk across the tidal sands of the estuary. The delightful island circumnavigation is short, but dotted with deep emerald-green pools, perfect for sun-warmed bathing and a heavenly picnic on the surrounding rocks.


Holy Island, Arran. Scotland

Distance: 8.7 km Walking time: 2.5 hour Grade: moderate, path steep and rough in places
A Tibetan Buddhist vision realised on an unspoilt island in the Firth of Clyde where people live in harmony with nature. After a short ferry trip from Lamlash, expect to be greeted by a bona fide monk, large white stupas and multi-coloured prayer-flags. The first half of the walk is through wood and moorland on the steep, rough path over Mullach Beag and Mullach Mor, the highest point on the island set amongst the towering peaks of Arran. The second half is via the gentler coastal path, passing sacred caves with Runic inscriptions, Buddhist rock paintings, flourishing vegetable gardens and the tranquil centres for retreat.


Mersea island, Essex

Distance: 21.5 km Walking time: 6.5 hours Grade: easy coastal path
Perfect for foodies, discover native oysters and locally-produced fizz on this undiscovered walkers’ gem. The coastal circuit is surrounded by silent tidal creeks and the Blackwater and Colne estuaries. Village houses soon give way to wild saltmarsh and mudflats packed with wading and migratory birds. Follow the sea wall along the north coast alongside the Strood and Pyefleet Channels and round the eastern tip of the island before passing low Jurassic cliffs and woodland. Holiday parks and rows of pastel-coloured beach huts mark the return to civilization at West Mersea and time to enjoy the freshest of seafood.

About the island bagging Islandeering book

Lisa Drewe is author of Islandeering: Adventures Around the Edge of Britain’s Hidden Islands (Wild Things Publishing, £16.99)

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