By Rose Shepherd
From paradisical, car-free Sark in the Channel Islands, via the family-friendly Isle of Wight, to romantic Skye, mystical Iona and remote Harris, the islands of Great Britain are places of escape. And whether you’re looking for family fun, glamour, or deserted white sand beaches, wild flora and fauna and a simpler way of life, The Good Hotel Guide has the perfect hotel. Here are some of our favourites for a summer getaway.
There are sea views from most bedrooms at this New England-style hotel on the west coast of this tiny, rugged island of sandy beaches, ancient woodland, bulb fields and pony-grazed moorland. It may have been hell for sailors, with Atlantic waves crashing on the rocks, but it’s heaven for the visitor. Some of the suites have a decked patio, some a balcony. You can dine in the restaurant, more casually in the bar, and on the freshest seafood, at the Crab Shack.
From its vantage above town, under St Boniface Down, this highly characterful hotel commands splendid sea views. If there is something of a fairy-tale gingerbread house about the thatch-roofed 18th-century exterior, Danish owner Gert Bach has gone for Scandi-style interiors, bare floorboards, white walls hung with striking modern artworks, along with such hygge home comforts as a blazing log burner, woollen blankets, new-laid eggs from the burbling hens. You can sit on a scenic sun terrace or in the sea-facing conservatory and marvel at the vistas, dine from a two-course set menu.
A ‘sea tractor’ will ferry you over the sands to this Art Deco hotel on a tidal island where Agatha Christie found inspiration. Past guests have included Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, and Noël Coward. Bedrooms have a retro transistor radio, a Bakelite phone, Devon fudge and bespoke toiletries. Enjoy a cream tea or cocktails in the Palm Court Lounge. Dress up to the nines to dine in the Grand Ballroom with live music from a band or pianist. Dress down for a cosy pub lunch in the ancient Pilchard Inn. Take a dip in the sea-bathing Mermaid Pool.
On an island hop and skip to Bryher, you might stop over on car-free Tresco to stay at its only inn. Newly revamped bedrooms and bathrooms have a soothing marine palette, fresh coffee, biscuits, REN toiletries. Guests have access to the spectacular subtropical Abbey Gardens. Food, served all day in a beamed bar and alfresco, runs from pub classics to a half lobster or local mackerel. Robert and Lucy Dorrien-Smith, who live in Tresco Abbey, own Tresco itself and Hell Bay Hotel on Bryher. On summer evenings a supper boat will ferry you across for a different dining experience.
Inspired by 1930s marine architecture, this hotel above St Ouen’s Bay was built for family fun and leisure. Bedrooms with full-height sliding windows have views of the sea or across La Moye Championship Golf Course. Some rooms interconnect. In the Ocean restaurant, a ‘Little Ones’ menu caters to kids, while parents enjoy fine dining from an à la carte or tasting menu. A lighter house menu is available it you want to eat alfresco. The gardens, with swimming pool, overlook Les Mielles wildlife site. Gourmet picnics can be ordered for lazy beach days.
Hostess Elizabeth Perrée devotes herself to a hotel begun by her family in 1948, on this tiny island with no tarmac roads. Arrive by horse-drawn carriage and settle into a room styled with old-fashioned charm in a whitewashed 17th-century farmhouse or one of the surrounding cottages. Dining in rose-scented gardens on lobster or hand-dived scallops is about as good as life gets. By day you can fish, sunbathe in a sheltered sandy cove, or take a guided donkey walk: bring a picnic and Florence and Ruby will carry it in their panniers (tips in the form of carrots are accepted).
To the north of the island, with breath-taking vistas over Loch Dunvegan, a former crofter’s house is home to Gordon Campbell-Gray’s restaurant-with-rooms. Those rooms, in the ‘House over By’, have a stripped-down, Scandi aesthetic, with bare floorboards and white walls. One accessible room can sleep a family, and there is no charge for an extra bed for a baby or toddler. A short, tempting menu might include creel langoustine from the loch, lightly pickled mussels and brown butter dressing.
Two couples own and run this small, dog-friendly hotel gazing across the Sound of Iona towards Mull, on this Hebridean island, place of pilgrimage for Christian, Pagan, Druid and New Ager. Bedrooms, some quite snug, have pine or oak furniture, local artworks. They range from a garden-view single to a sea-view double with tub armchairs, a log burner, an exposed stone wall. There are soup-and-sandwich lunches, imaginative dinner menus using organic homegrown produce, sustainably landed fish and shellfish, meat from local crofters. You can play golf on the machair, walk, cycle, take wildlife-spotting boat trips.
In an edge-of-the-world location in the Outer Hebrides, between mountains and ocean, overlooking an endless sandy beach, Patricia and Tim Martin’s Georgian manse has a home-from-home ambience, with cosy, individually styled bedrooms, some in an annexe. Lucy has a sitting room with an extra sofa bed, views over fields to sea and sands. There are cosy sitting rooms, while in the dining rooms a changing set menu features island produce – fish and shellfish, beef, lamb, game, vegetarian dishes by arrangement. No visit is complete without a visit to a weaver of the famed Harris tweed.
This selection is taken from the Guide’s favourite island hotels in the UK and Channel Islands.