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The Jersey shore looks a little bit different in the Channel Islands. No Snookis here—instead, the partying of choice is the annual Battle of Flowers, a sweet-smelling carnival that culminates in the Moonlight Parade. Kayakers, surfers, divers and sailors will find plenty to love about Jersey’s active watersports scene, and adrenaline junkies will (cliff) jump for a coasteering tour of the caves, cliffs and crags. A day of shopping and café-hopping in St. Helier is an excellent dose of cultural retail therapy.
The Isle of Wight is the perfect place to enjoy some peace, quiet and natural beauty. Except perhaps in the summer, when the Isle of Wight Festival draws visitors from all over the world. In 1970, the Festival was the largest rock-music event ever held. It was called Britain's Woodstock and featured Jimi Hendrix and The Who. (Not so much peace or quiet that week.) The island is also known for its world-famous sailing and lovely resorts, where people have been holiday-making since Victorian times.
The landscape is dramatic—even a bit moody, with the Cuillin Range in the background—but outdoorsy kids will have a blast on the Isle of Skye. Plenty of water sports are available, and you’ll also find great hiking and even pony rides. Portree, the largest town, makes a great base for exploring this striking island.
Prehistoric stone markers and monuments dot the landscape of the Isle of Anglesey, serving as stately beacons to visitors. The beaches of Rhosneigr are great for surfing, fishing and diving. The dunes and pebbly shores of Broad Beach span from the village all the way to the Barclodiad y Gawres neolithinc burial chamber. Hauntingly beautiful Beaumaris Gaol will give you chills. Warm up with a pony petting session at Foel Farm Park.
The Isle of Man is simply magical, an enchanted journey back in time that somehow still feels modern. The island is peppered with stone churches, castles, forts and intricately carved Celtic crosses, all in varying states of preservation. A ride on the steam engine Heritage Railway is a wonderful way to take in the splendid countryside. Don’t miss the Victorian-era Laxey Wheela or Curraghs Wildlife Park, a fun way to get up close and personal with some of the island’s most adorable natives.
A British crown dependency, the sunny (well, relatively speaking) island of Guernsey boasts mild winters and warm summer months. From coasteering to kayaking, windsurfing to foodie foraging, outdoor enthusiasts of all types will love to roam this gorgeous Channel Island. A great base for fishing and angling trips, Guernsey also has plenty to see and do on the mainland. Explore Neolithic sites, stoic Castle Cornet, and ancient burial sites like Le Creux es Faies, a tomb that was once believed to be the gateway to a magical fairyland
Packed to the gills with antique silver, porcelain and furniture, the red sandstone Brodick Castle is one of the highlights of the Isle of Arran. The castle overlooks Goatfell, a majestic hill that’s a popular day hike. The Machrie Moor stone circles make for a mystical field trip, as does a tour of The Arran Malt whisky distillery.
The aptly named Mainland is the main island of Orkney, a collection of Scottish islands with serious Viking cred. On West Mainland you’ll find the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, prehistoric ruins that include a chambered tomb, stone ceremonial circles, and Skara Brae, a well-preserved Neolithic village. Cap off your visit with a hoppy glug from the Orkney Brewery. Over on the East side, marvel at a collapsed sea cave known as The Gloup, take a provincial stroll through St. Mary’s Village or just dip your toes in at Mill Sands or Dingieshowe Beach.
A visit to Lewis and Harris is like stepping into the pages of a Scottish fairy tale. In Lewis—the northern part of the island—the legendary Callanish Standing Stones poke up from the ground like a strange and massive rock city. The Blackhouse, the Shawbost Norse Mill and Kiln, and the Carloway Broch all offer a peek at what island life used to look like. In southern Harris, the east side beaches boast some of the oldest known rocks in the world, dating back millions of years. Cruise over to the volcanic islands of St. Kilda to explore the ruins of a medieval village.
St. Mary’s is a postcard-perfect jumble of castles and coves. It’s the largest island of the United Kingdom’s Isles of Scilly, an archipelago that’s been inhabited for thousands of years. Ancient stone structures, Spanish windmills, lush gardens and breathtaking wetlands all draw visitors longing for a quaint Cornish holiday that’s steeped in history and modern charm.