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The best of the British Isles  holiday cottages

The best of the British Isles

Kate W 25 November 2020

Ever wondered which of the enchanting islands around our British coastline hides the most beaches? Where offers the most serenity due to its low population, or provides visitors with the widest range of places to eat out? 

The British Isles has a spectacular variety of islands from tiny wildlife-rich rocks to vast landscapes hiding secret beauty spots and fun-filled days out. It’s impossible to compare these impressive destinations, but we have done our very best, based on a range of measurable factors. 

We compared 76 islands across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands, each one of which offers a unique experience, to try and determine the top islands in the British Isles. 

The best of the British Isles

The categories we decided to investigate are made up of: the most Instagrammable islands, top-rated islands by the public, the least-crowded islands, the best islands for beaches, the best islands for foodies and, finally, the best islands overall.

Read on to find out which of these incredible destinations have beat out the competition to be named the very best islands in the British Isles. 

Jump straight to the winning island locations: 

The most Instagrammable islands

Every Instagrammer loves capturing a sweeping view or colourful panorama to inspire their feed, and we began to wonder exactly which of the UK’s islands offer the best scenery for keen photographers? 

To answer this question, we went straight to Instagram and searched for a hashtag followed by the island name to find the most Instagrammable islands i.e. #isleofwight

According to our findings, the top 10 most Instagrammable islands are as follows:

The most Instagrammable islands in the British Isles

It will come as no surprise that the glistening shores, turquoise waters and lush fields of the Isle of Wight have placed this island at the very top of the list! 

Popular for its temperate climate and many wonderful attractions, the Isle of Wight has always been a favourite travel destination. For unbeatable Insta photos, you may wish to stop by the grand and enchanting Osbourne House, photograph footsteps in the sand at Freshwater Bay, or take your camera along on a walk to view the mighty Needles landmark. 

Search for #isleofwight yourself to be inspired by other’s extraordinary captures and begin planning adventures to some of the most beautiful destinations on the Isle of Wight. 

The top-rated islands by the public

Inishbofin in Scotland

To determine the top-rated islands, we headed over to Google Reviews to find out what travellers are saying about our British Isles. 

Once we’d tracked down the top scorers in Google Reviews, we ranked them by number of reviews to calculate the top-rated islands. All of our top 10 rated islands came out with a very respectable review score of 4.9, with several of them being based off the Scotland coast. The top scorer, Inisbofin, is a beauty spot just off the east coast of Galway, Ireland, and a popular tourist destination known for its sites of historical importance including the prehistoric Dún Aonghasa hill fort. 

Here are the 10 top-rated islands as reviewed by the public: 

Name

Number of reviews

Average score

Inishbofin

129

4.9

Inishmore

101

4.9

Great Cumbrae

88

4.9

Jura

81

4.9

St Mary's

62

4.9

Herm

61

4.9

Lismore

46

4.9

St Martin's

43

4.9

Clare Island

38

4.9

Inishturk

33

4.9


We’re proud to say the Isle of Wight received a high-scoring 4.6 on average out of a remarkable 1,276 reviews. 

However, the Isle of Wight was not the most reviewed island overall. That accolade goes to the Isle of Skye which has been reviewed 1,768 times! 

The British Isles’ least crowded islands

Isle of Rum viewed from the Isle of EiggIsle of Rùm viewed from the Isle of Eigg

Now, we come to the most tranquil of all our British islands where their citizens enjoy nearly absolute peace and quiet. 

We calculated the population and the size of the island in squared kilometres to illustrate how crowded each of our UK islands are. With just one person for every 4.8 km2, Rùm is far and away the least crowded on our list. Rùm is one of the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides, located just below the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and renowned for its impressive cliffs that are home to one of the largest Manx Shearwater colonies in the world. 

If you like the hermit life, these are the islands to know about. Here are the 10 least crowded islands in the British Isles: 

Name

People per km2

Km2 per person

Rùm

0.2095238095

4.772727273

Scalpay

0.4

2.5

Jura

0.5122615804

1.95212766

Calf of Man

0.6666666667

1.5

Ulva

0.8

1.25

Papa Stour

1.875

0.5333333333

Bardsey Island

2

0.5

Fetlar

2.097560976

0.476744186

Coll

2.12987013

0.4695121951

Eigg

2.233333333

0.447761194


On the other end of the scale, you’ll find the bustling, lively hub that is Portsea Island, part of the county of Hampshire and home to Portsmouth. It is the most crowded island in the UK with 6,128 people per square kilometre – there’s life and energy around every corner on busy Portsea! 

The best British islands for beaches

A beach on St Agnes, the southernmost island in the Isles of ScillySt Agnes, the southernmost island in the Isles of Scilly 

Searching for idyllic shores where you can breathe the salty sea air and soak up coastal panoramas as you explore? For all the seaside lovers out there, we have managed to figure out which islands’ coastlines are truly dominated by beaches. 

With each of our British islands, we looked up the number of beaches according to Google Maps, and compared this figure with the size of the island.

The top five spots were all taken by islands in the archipelago of the Isles of Scilly. St Agnes, the southernmost island, came out on top with three beaches for every square kilometre square of island, while Bryher to the west, trails a close second with a respectable two beaches per square kilometre.

Here are Britain’s top 10 best islands for beaches, based on the sheer number of beaches you can expect to find there: 

Name

Beaches per km2

St Agnes

3

Bryher

2

St Martin's

1.5

St Mary's

1

Tresco

1

Herm

1

Alderney

0.9

Thorney Island

0.5

Lindisfarne

0.5

Coll

0.4


While the Isle of Wight doesn’t make it into the top 10 when it comes to beaches per square kilometre, it does have a fantastic offering with an amazing 33 beaches on its coast. 

As one of the islands with the highest number of beaches, the Isle of Wight is secured as one of the best islands for anyone who loves beach-hopping or spending a relaxing day at the seaside. 

The best islands for foodies

Portsmouth on Portsea Island

Anyone with a taste for hearty foods and local cuisine will be keen to read the outcome of this round. 

We concluded the best way to discover the top foodie destinations would be to count up the number of restaurants and cafes on each island according to Google Maps, and compare that to the size of each island. 

With nearly seven restaurants per square kilometre, Portsea Island off the coast of Hampshire, was our stand-out location as it appears to be absolutely filled to the brim with places to eat. 

St Mary’s, St Agnes and Bryher in the Isles of Scilly were the next runners up with less than half the number of eateries Portsea lays claim to. As Portsea Island has already been recognised as the most crowded island in the UK, perhaps it’s no surprise there are lots of cafes and restaurants to feed its bustling population.  

Here are the top 10 best British islands for foodies:

Name

Restaurants per km2

Portsea Island

6.7

St Mary's

3.7

St Agnes

3

Bryher

3

St Martin's

2.5

Sark

2.2

Canvey Island

2.2

Alderney

2.125

Guernsey

2.1

Jersey

1.8


While the Isle of Wight is not quite as crowded as Portsea Island, it did excellent in our search for the best foodie locations in the British Isles. It turns out that the Isle of Wight boasts the second-highest number of restaurants overall with 218 where visitors can try a variety of delicious local produce and homemade meals. 

With so much choice, you’re sure to find a café or restaurant on the Isle of Wight with foodie favourites you will love. 

The best islands overall

While our findings may be hotly debated – everyone has their own favourite place to go after all! – we have determined the overall best islands using our findings above. 

And the top 10 best islands in the British Isles are…

The top ten best islands in the British Isles

To calculate the very best of the best, we ranked each island from 1 to 76 for the following categories: number of Instagram hashtags, people per km2, beaches per km2, and restaurants per km2. The score of 1 was awarded to the best in that category, all the way down to 76 for the worst. 

All these figures were added together to calculate the final number for each island in our British Isles, with the island scoring the lowest score being the best overall. Congratulations to St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, for nabbing itself the top spot! 

While the Isle of Wight has not bagged the top spot on this occasion, it has scored fantastically throughout, and we still believe it to be the best island for a holiday adventure – but perhaps we’re biased! 

The Isle of Wight came 15th overall and, although it doesn’t have the most restaurants or beaches per kilometre, it is one of the islands with the widest choice of beaches and places to eat out in all of the British Isles. Not to mention, the Isle of Wight’s winning Instagrammable beauty makes it the top destination for unbeatable surroundings.

Our favourite island getaway 

Freshwater Bay on the Isle of WightFreshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight

 

Are you planning a holiday bursting with beach days lounging on sandy shores, lunches of sumptuous seafood and delicious home cooking, and Insta-ready views for your holiday photo ops? 

While the Isle of Wight may not be the least crowded or have the most beaches per square kilometre, it does boast a long history as one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations, even Queen Victoria fell in love with this south coast island escape.

Enjoy a retreat to this enchanting location yourself and take a look through our Isle of Wight holiday cottages for travel inspiration.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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