03 May 2016
Thinking of spending the summer holidays in the UK? There's a wealth of islands off the British coast which can be easily reached with www.aferry.co.uk. So, why not go south? The Isles of Scilly perhaps or a little closer - the Isle of Wight?
The Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly lie just under three hours ferry ride away from Penzance. Leave your car on the mainland as there are no vehicles allowed on the ferry. You will appreciate the peace and quiet of the Scillies even more on arrival after cruising down the picturesque Cornish coast. Ferries bookable via www.aferry.co.uk run between March and October to St Mary's, one of the five main inhabited islands of the archipelago - with a total population of 2,200. It is possible to take a local boat between the islands - St.Martin, Tresco, Bryher and St.Agnes.
The whole island group is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is very unusual as the classification is normally by island. Although the islands have the greatest density of historical sites on the whole of the UK, with 239 scheduled monuments, most people venture here for the natural beauty. There are 35 stunning beaches including Town Beach on St.Mary's, Pentle Bay on Tresco and Great Par on Bryher.
The coastal walks are dramatic with so much wildlife to enjoy. Due to the warm air from the Gulf Stream there is rarely any snow or frost so plant life blooms. Commercial flower growing is an important source of income for the islanders but wild narcissi, pinks and daffodils abound. The islands are also home to the dwarf pansy and orange birdsfoot which cannot be found anywhere else in the UK. Visit the famous Abbey Gardens in Tresco to see the exotic plants and flowers - called Kew without the glass!
Rare animal species can also be found here - the Lesser white-toothed shrew and the Red Barbed ant for example - but you are more likely to see seals, dolphins and puffins. There are few domestic cattle or sheep but fish is important to the economy especially John Dory, lobster, crab and crayfish. The heritage of the islands is more connected to the sea although vestiges of the Bronze Age, the Tudor period and the English Civil War can be found. The major sporting event in the Scillies is also sea bound - the World Pilot Gig Championships are held here in May. The gig was the boat that would guide ships through the perilous seas in days gone by.
The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is just a 45 minute ferry crossing away from Portsmouth, or even quicker by HoverTravel from Southsea plus there is a service from Lymington to Yarmouth. There is plenty to see on the island and it makes a fine all-year round destination. In fact there are more activities per square metre than any other place in the UK so there really is something for everyone.
Whatever activity you enjoy, the Isle of Wight has it on offer. There are some wonderful cycle routes, horse riding is popular, paragliding, mountain boarding, coasteering, segways, sailing (it is not just during Cowes Week!).and swimming of course. Try the beautiful beach at Ventnor which still has the old fashioned bathing huts from Victorian times. Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor herself to which Osborne House and the church in Whippingham are testament.
Towns like Sandown, Ryde, and Shanklin with its lovely Blackgang Chine are worth a visit, as is Newport - for the Roman Villa, Quay Arts Centre and Island History Museum. Quarr Abbey is on the tourist trail as is the Bembridge Lifeboat Station, the Donkey Sanctuary and Area 5 which is the oldest theme park in the UK. Area 5's theme is dinosaurs. In fact the Isle of Wight is known as the dinosaur capital of the UK - with fossil trails and so forth all over the island.
2016 is the year of the English Garden which is celebrated everywhere and visitors also flock to the Festival of the Sea which takes place this year at the end of June. The big favourite however is the Isle of Wight Festival which this year is 9th - 12th June and will feature Queen, Iggy Pop, Adam Ant, the Stereophonics and will undoubtedly keep the good villagers of Godshill, the oldest village on the island, awake at night!
Britain's top ferry operators carried more than 8.6 million cars during 2015*, 1.3% up on 2014. So why do so many of us like travelling by ferry?
- No luggage restrictions - the kitchen sink can travel with you!
- Fido can come too!
- Less time spent at passport control.
- Huge range of routes and companies to choose from.
- Book on the move via AFerry.co.uk's apps for both Android and iPhone. If you download the app before 30th June, you'll automatically be put into a draw to win an iPad PRO.
- With families expanding more, it's often more cost effective to travel by car and ferry than by air, plus there are no baggage fees.
- Bookings can be amended or changed on the road with AFerry's app and iPad app access.
- Want to know what it's like to travel via AFerry.co.uk? Check out the review section - perfect for #ferryfirsttimers.
*Figures from Ferrystat via Discover Ferries