Silver Travel Book Club - June 2020

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Silver Travel Book ClubEach month, we'll find out what Andrew is reading about a different destination, and two lucky Silver Travel Book Club readers can win a free copy of the month's book.

HF HolidaysThis month the Silver Travel Book Club – proudly sponsored by
HF Holidays – is reading Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham.

The British Isles are an archipelago made up of two large islands and 6,289 smaller ones. Some, like the Isle of Man, resemble miniature nations, with their own language and tax laws; others, like Ray Island in Essex, are abandoned and mysterious places haunted by myths, ghosts and foxes. There are resurgent islands such as Eigg, which have been liberated from capricious owners to be run by their residents; holy islands like Bardsey, the resting place of 20,000 saints, and still a site of spiritual questing; and deserted islands such as St Kilda, famed for the evacuation of its human population, and now dominated by wild sheep and seabirds.

In this evocative and vividly observed book, Patrick Barkham explores some of the most beautiful landscapes in the British Isles as he travels to ever-smaller islands in search of their special magic. Our small islands are both places of freedom and imprisonment, party destinations and oases of peace, strangely suburban and deeply wild. They are places where the past is unusually present, but they can also offer a vision of an alternative future. Meeting all kinds of islanders, from nuns to puffins, from local legends to rare subspecies of vole, he seeks to discover what it is like to live on a small island, and what it means to be an islander.

As tentative steps are taken out of our locked down lives, it may well still be a little while until we’re all completely comfortable venturing beyond these shores. Until then, perhaps we’ll be thinking of travelling closer to home, where our sponsor HF Holidays has some very rewarding and varied holidays around the UK.

HF Holidays UK & Ireland Island Hopping

HF Holidays – Walking Holidays and Sightseeing Tours in the UK

Discover the United Kingdom's rich cultural heritage, diverse wildlife and gorgeous landscapes on a stunning walking holiday with a guide or under your own steam. With 18 country houses at the heart of Britain’s finest destinations, located within National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can be assured of a warm welcome and relaxing base from which to enjoy your walking holiday or activity break.

Take in the dramatic Dorset coastline or Cornish coast. Traverse the winding mountain trails of the Scottish Highlands or Snowdonia, explore the picture-postcard valleys of the Lake District and look out over the patchwork colours of the Shropshire moorlands and Peak District, among others.

More details

HF Holidays Channel Islands
HF Holidays Orkney & Shetland
HF Holidays Scilly Isles

Great British Bucket ListHow to win a copy of 'Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago' by Patrick Barkham

Simply add a comment at the end of this page to tell us which of the smaller 6,289 British Isles you have explored, and which you have enjoyed most. Why was that island travel experience so memorable?

Read more about all of our Silver Travel Book Club books.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 26 Comment(s)

  • KP
    9 days ago
    Sark would be hard to beat for stepping back in time.
  • Antony
    9 days ago
    My favourite is Lundy Island only 3 miles long and a short boat trip from where we live - Ilfracombe. You can walk the whole length very easily, it’s beautiful and lonely with just wild birds and seals in the sea for company. There are a few cottages to rent - perfect getaway from the madding crowd.
  • SilverTravelEditor
    10 days ago
    Thanks for all the British island memories and recommendations so far this month. And there's still just over a day to tell us about your favourite of the 6,289 smaller British isles, to be in with a chance of winning this month's book, the fascinating 'Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago' by Patrick Barkham.
    We'd love to hear from you!
  • GypsyWanderer
    14 days ago
    How many? 6289? I have been to so few, a week in Jersey, a long weekend in Guernsey, a day on Lindisfarne and that island off Scotland’s west coast, connected to the main land by a short bridge over the Atlantic. As a teenager I went on a boat trip round the inner Hebrides, going into Fingal’s Cave on Staffa and visiting delightful Mull and Iona. That trip has always stayed with me and I was delighted. to join my sister on a driving trip to Mull. I loved our few days there so much that I returned the next year with my husband. Tobermory is magical with it’s brightly painted buildings along the sea front and it’s tiny brewery. I love Tobermory Malt! We joined a safari and saw porpoise, and a family of sea eagles as well as a multitude of birds. We drove along dramatic coast roads and visited Iona. Such a special place. We walked it’s length and breadth and spent quite time in the tiny cathedral. Now, being locked down with four others, how I would love to return to Iona alone and have my own private retreat enjoying walks, the sea and quiet.
  • Ladybird_1
    20 days ago
    Almost exactly 14 years ago in 2006 for my 60th birthday we had a magical 10 night holiday in Guernsey. What a beautiful and diverse island that is. BUT best of all was the trip to the little island of Herm. We got off the ferry around 10.30am and unlike most of the passengers we decided to walk round the island first, and let the others crowd into the tiny village. We turned right and walked along high cliffs. We stood for 15 mins or so watching a school of dolphins playing in the water below us before carrying on. We came to a beautiful horseshoe shaped bay it’s lovely sandy beach almost deserted. There was little beach bar up on the cliff above renting out deck chairs and selling snacks and drinks all of which were very welcome. We stayed there for 3 hours and chatted for a while to an older guy soaking up the sun. A frequent visitor apparently. We learnt he lived just 5 miles up the road from our home ! Small world. We carried on round the island over shell beach and some pretty countryside back to the one hotel and little cluster of cottages where I purchased a fantastic book written by the then longtime owners of the island telling the history and adventures of the island. “Herm our Island Home” by Jenny Wood. The book has brought back many lovely memories over the years as it was the last long walk my husband and I were able to take together. He was soon after diagnosed with vascular dementia. We often look at our Guernsey holiday photos and we were lucky enough to spend a day on the beautiful island of Sark as well. Herm was definitely my favourite though. I love travel books as they take you on journeys you can perhaps no longer do.
  • SilverTravelEditor
    22 days ago
    Thanks to everyone for nominating your favourite smaller British Isle. Lindisfarne seems to be the most popular so far, with the Scillies not far behind. Quite a few votes for the Channel Islands too, although the jury is out on whether they're technically part of the British Isles....but we'll include them for this competition!
    Thanks @GeminiJen for letting us know about Gigha, it sounds delightful and one I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard of until now.
    Please keep those memories and nominations of your favourite smaller British Isles coming, in order to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this month's Silver Travel Book Club title: 'Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago' by Patrick Barkham.
  • Patricia48
    24 days ago
    Still have this pleasure to look forward to. Briefly stopped at the Isle of Skye on a cruise but unfortunately not there long enough to explore it's delights.
  • Cassgirl
    25 days ago
    Tresco. Love it there. Brings back memories of family holidays although I haven't been there for ages now.
  • Hardyplant
    28 days ago
    St Martin`s, one of the Isles of Scilly, is my favourite island - although all of the islands in that group are amazing in their own way. I haven't been for several years but I can clearly remember the fine white sand of the beaches and the turquoise sea. I remember walking round the island in a day, seeing the flower farm, popping into a little shop to buy some lunch, watching birds and delighting in the wild flowers. I'd love to go back to actually stay on the island instead of just visiting for a day.
  • Marpau
    28 days ago
    Lindisfarne is so magical and the journey is breathtaking.
  • SuzCG
    29 days ago
    St Michaels Mount in Cornwall - having visited Mont St Michel in France as a teenager
  • GBG
    29 days ago
    I just love islands. There is something special about being surrounded by water. Lindisfarne is certainly one of my favourites with it's fabulous setting on the Northumberland coast.
  • sallie
    about 1 month ago
    The Farne island boat trip was one of the best we have ever been on. Thoroughly recommend it. The birds and the seals were amazing.
  • philatel
    about 1 month ago
    In my youth, I can remember visiting Holy Island, Lindisfarne whilst on a trip in the North. We had to be sure to get there and back whilst the road was still clear - part of the single road gets covered with sea making it difficult to drive.
  • Cherry-Eddy
    about 1 month ago
    I love Tresco, one of the Scilly Isles. Life is peaceful there with plenty to enjoy, not least the wonderful gardens. And you can enjoy the other islands while there.
  • LH
    about 1 month ago
    Skomer is my favourite island as I love being able to sit amongst the puffins, and watch all the sea birds nesting on the cliffs. It is a short crossing from the Pembroke coast and the bluebells and wild flowers are magnificent in the Spring. You can get the cutest photos of puffins looking comically at you before they dive underground to their young!
  • chrismse
    about 1 month ago
    I like to visit the Isle of sky and some of those amazing little islands close by. I would treat myself to a whale spotting boat tour too.
  • GrannyCR
    about 1 month ago
    Skomer island off the Penmbrokeshire coast, up close and personal with puffins!
  • Woofles
    about 1 month ago
    Any and all of the Channel Islands. They are beautiful at any time of the year and offer a slower more relaxed pace of life. In only I could move there permanently!
  • Hunter
    about 1 month ago
    A few years back my husband and I visited Iona to see an elderly friend who went to live there. As you embark from the ferry, she has a beautiful little cottage just a few yards away. Mainly know for it's Abbey but it also has a wonderful tranquility and natural environment. It is only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, with not many residents but is one of Scotland's most beautiful places to visit.
  • LindyLouMac
    about 1 month ago
    Many years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Isle of Mull and I would love the opportunity to return. I think this book would be a very useful tool to plan a road trip of our wonderful British Isles.
  • GeminiJen
    about 1 month ago
    I have fond memories of a weekend visit a few years ago to the Isle of Gigha. We travelled by Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Tayinloan, Kintyre, a short 20 minute crossing. We left our car on the mainland and took our bikes, all the better to explore this jewel of an island. We met friendly locals, explored pristine, deserted beaches of white silvery sand, swam in crystal clear water, visited Achamore Gardens and enjoyed a slap up meal at the Boathouse restaurant. Hope to return once lockdown ends.
  • DRSask
    about 1 month ago
    My most recent island visit was two years ago to St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. It was a lovely day and great to spend some time on this picturesque island that seems so much less touristy and congested than Mont St. Michel in France. The castle and the gardens were well worth the visit and we enjoyed both the walk over the sands and up the causeway as well as the ferry ride back to shore at the end of the day. Other memorable island visits include Lindisfarne three years ago with its mystical poles still in the water marking the original access to the island and its impressive beach on it's eastern shore; a few days on the Isle of Man many years ago touring the many historical sights around the island; and a visit to the islands of Mull and Iona on the west coast of Scotland over 20 years ago where the water was so blue it looked like we were in the Caribbean. This spring we were supposed to be in Jersey for another island visit but that will have to wait for another time...
  • PaulineTurner
    about 1 month ago
    A few years ago my husband and I took a fly drive holiday to the Outer Hebrides. We flew from Glasgow in a small plane and had the wonderful experience of landing on the beach on Barra. No waiting by a carousel to retrieve your luggage here It simply appeared on a shelf in the terminal building, which was also a lovely little cafe where we had lunch. We collected out hire car from a gentleman who also doubled up as the island postman! We spent a few days walking on the island and drove across a causeway on to the tiny island of Vatersay. Here there were two "apple core ' beaches, two beaches either side of a piece of land shaped like an apple core. I stood on one of them, a beautiful stretch of white sand and was the only person there! It was heaven! I will never forget those islands, the beautiful deserted beaches, the remoteness and the feeling of community. I hope that I am able to return one day!
  • woodentops
    about 1 month ago
    Many years ago I stayed on Guernsey and spent a wonderful day on the island of Sark. It is a fantastic island, so calm and peaceful, would love to return one day.