10 sublime castaway islands for when this is all over

Chris Leadbeater
la digue - istock

From Anguilla to Patmos, ten destinations you'll want to escape to.

1. For escapism at home

Mainland

The idea that you cannot avoid crowds in the UK is undercut by the Shetland Islands. Our northernmost archipelago is a splendid sanctuary, all stiff breezes and seabirds haunting the air. Despite its name, there is nothing of the giant land mass about Mainland, which lives at the mercy of the Atlantic, waves beating the cliffs below Eshaness Lighthouse. This edge-of-the-world ethos is good for the soul. McKinlay Kidd (0141 260 9260; mckinlaykidd.com) offers a four-day Shetland Fly-Drive from £590 per person, including hire car and flights.

2. For a quieter Channel Island

Alderney

There is much to recommend Guernsey and Jersey in summer, but the northernmost Channel Island has an understated charm in the hotter months, not least because, at just three square miles, it is hardly set up for mass tourism. Alderney Holidays (01621 734777; alderneyholidays.com) offers getaways to the elegant Braye Beach Hotel, on the north coast. Prices start at £349pp for a four-night layover – or at £499pp for a week – including breakfast and direct flights from Southampton.

3. For beach bliss 

La Digue

The postcard perfection delivered by the Seychelles needs little explanation. Perhaps nowhere more so than on the west coast of La Digue, where Anse Source d’Argent looks like a vision of a lost world, with vast granite boulders framing its sands. This is the country’s fourth largest island, but any talk of size is deceptive. La Digue is a pinprick in the Indian Ocean where cars are (largely) absent and life ebbs woozily. A week’s stay in September, in a garden villa at the five-star Domaine de L’Orangerie, starts at £1,689 per person, flying from Heathrow. Book through Tropical Sky (01342 310570; tropicalsky.co.uk). 

4. For Caribbean seclusion

Anguilla

The autumnal dash for the Caribbean does not have to mean banging elbows on busy shores. A sliver of just 16 miles by three, with barely 15,000 people to its name, Anguilla is one of the region’s true hideaways. A calypso calm definitely awaits at Cap Juluca, a Belmond retreat on Maundays Bay at the island’s south-west tip. A seven-night stay costs from £2,900 per person, including flights, with Scott Dunn (020 3131 7596; scottdunn.com). 

Anguilla: now that is some white sand - istock

5. For tropical Crusoeism

Fernando de Noronha

This 21-piece archipelago, 220 miles east of the Brazilian mainland, is the antithesis of the sweat and swagger of Rio de Janeiro. Its population of about 3,000 is small enough not to disturb the turtles and dolphins that gather in its shallows. Steppes Travel (01285 601784; steppestravel.com) lets you combine the islands’ magic with the beauty of Bahia on its 11-day Beaches of North-East Brazil tour, costing from £4,000 per person (flights extra).

6. For a calmer Canary

La Palma

The Canary Islands’ reputation as oases for unfussy fly-and-flop breaks undersells the tranquillity of much of the archipelago. The northwesternmost member of the group is all but bereft of huge hotels and package-holiday pandemonium, revelling instead in volcanic majesty. Hotel Hacienda de Abajo keeps to this blueprint, staring across lines of curved fruit in west-coast Tazacorte. A seven-night stay costs from £999 per person including flights from Gatwick, via Prestige Holidays (01425 480400; prestigeholidays.co.uk). 

7. For Scandinavian serenity 

Koster Islands

Sweden does not struggle for space or silence. Both are available in abundance in the Koster Islands – a pair of outcrops marooned in the Skagerrak strait, all but on the Norwegian border, 100 miles north of Gothenburg. The picture is everything you might expect of a country that rarely lifts its heart-rate unnecessarily – pine fragrance, paths free of cars (but ideal for cycling), seafood and genteel hotels. Discover the World (01737 886214; discover-the-world.com) offers a one-week Discover West Sweden road trip that can be tailored to include the archipelago. From £851 per person, including flights.

8. For American isolation 

Deer Isle

It was John Steinbeck who described Deer Isle best – referring to it, in his 1962 road-trip memoir Travels with Charley, as an “Avalon [that] must disappear when you are not there”. Certainly, this piece of the Maine landscape is representative of the New England state whose Atlantic hem it helps stitch together – sleepy in the sun apart from the noise of the ocean biting its edges and the slurp of lunchtime sustenance in Stonington’s lobster restaurants. America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com) is offering a one-week Coastal Maine fly-drive that can pay Deer Isle a visit. It costs from £1,050 per person, including flights.

9. For seismic scenery

Vulcano

Italy’s volcanic geography is hardly unknown – but while Vesuvius attracts tourists in droves, the Aeolian Islands are a little less visited – and with good reason. They are relatively remote, dotted in the Tyrrhenian Sea 25 miles north of Sicily. Vulcano and the archipelago’s poster-boy, Stromboli, are both active but the former has kept its fire in check since 1890. It boasts accommodation that basks in the setting, not least the five-star Therasia Resort. A seven-night stay, flying from Gatwick on Sept 5, costs from £1,154 per person with Citalia (01293 765055; citalia.com). 

The Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily, are less visited - istock

10. For the end of days

Patmos

If 2020 continues down its seemingly cataclysmic path, there may be but one place from which to watch the fireworks. Patmos is known as the island where St John wrote the Book of Revelation – and you can visit the cave where he supposedly did so, in the aptly named village of Apokalypsi. Happily, there is more to this small Dodecanese outcrop than the big biblical climax, including its pretty port Skala. A one-week bed-and-breakfast stay in the latter, at the tiny Skala Hotel, flying out of Bristol on Sept 5, starts at £955 per person with Sunvil (020 8568 4499; sunvil.co.uk). 

All holidays are predicated on borders being open and international travel being possible.