10 idyllic island retreats to explore by boat

There’s something enduringly enticing about exploring a secluded isle – whether on foot or by boat. Peter Cumberlidge handpicks the best island holiday rental properties in which to drop anchor for a few days...

When cruising, I am always drawn towards small islands, where the feeling of being entirely surrounded by water is obvious as you glimpse the sea in all directions. Perhaps this attraction harks back to a childhood spent reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. In any case, it is now ingrained and I can’t see an island on a chart without wanting to step ashore.

Lawrence Durrell described a condition he called ‘islomania’, experienced by those who find islands irresistible. The sensation of inhabiting a tiny self-contained world adrift at sea fills ‘islomanes’ with heady intoxication. Surely there is no better way to escape the stress of modern life than by spending a week in such a place. I have therefore chosen ten special island idylls, some with moorings for your own boat, others with a craft waiting for you or the option to hire one…


Bryher in Scilly could easily be mistaken for more exotic climes


Bryher, Isles of Scilly

Just over the horizon from Land’s End, Scilly is a fantastic archipelago of sheltered sounds, sandy lagoons and piercingly clear water. Bryher is one of my favourites, its west coast faces the Atlantic, the east looks across a shallow strait towards neighbouring Tresco. At low water the Tresco channel gleams turquoise over the shoals and when the tide is more than half way up, boats can reach New Grimsby haven to the north.

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Chafford is a comfortable, elegantly furnished family house on Bryher’s east shore, with a large garden and magical sea views. Nearby is the inter-island ferry landing and a toe-scrunching white beach, all the ingredients for nostalgic summer hols.


Local boating: If you arrive with your own boat there are visitors’ buoys in New Grimsby Sound, a short dinghy ride from Chafford. Alternatively you can hire small motor boats, power cats or RIBs from Bryher Boatyard and spend lazy days exploring. Rushy Bay is a heavenly beach on Bryher’s south coast.

Address: Chafford, Bryher, Isles of Scilly TR23 0PR
Sleeps: Up to 8
Bookings: Moya and David Tosh (owners)
Contact: +44(0)7803 905098 / stay@chaffordonscilly.co.uk
Price guide per week: Available all year, from £1,200–£4,600
By air/ferry: Flights to St Mary’s from Exeter, Newquay, Land’s End, or ferry from Penzance, then local boats to Bryher.
By boat: Cruising to Scilly, most boats leave from Falmouth, perhaps stopping a night at Penzance or Newlyn. Falmouth direct to Scilly is about 60 miles.
Charts: Admiralty 1148, 34.


Villa Oneiro

Antipaxos, Greece

Antipaxos is an Ionian jewel just south of the larger island of Paxos. Only two miles long, this haven of tranquility has no shops, cars or proper roads. There are several tavernas but few inhabitants. The beaches have stunningly clear water over soft white sand and the hills are lush with olive groves and vineyards.

Villa Oneiro stands high above the sea with dreamy panoramic views. The owner picks you up at Paxos and ferries you across in his own boat. Guests can use a jeep free of charge, though you can easily walk to the tavernas and beaches.


Gin-clear coves and ancient olive groves await in Antipaxos

Local boating: You can hire a motor boat for exploring the coast and popping over to Paxos for any shopping or provisions. Pretty Gaios harbour is hidden behind a tiny wooded island on the south-east shore of Paxos.

Address: Villa Oneiro, Voutoumi, Antipaxos 490 82, Greece.
Sleeps: Up to 6. Ideal for two couples or a family.
Contact: +44 (0)20 7377 8518 / www.thethinkingtraveller.com / info@thethinkingtraveller.com
Price guide per week: Available all year, from £2,092–£4,895
By air/ferry: Fly to Corfu, transit to port, then hydrofoil to Gaios on Paxos where the villa owner meets you with his boat.
By boat: If you have your own boat in the Ionian, the villa owner may find you a berth in Gaios. Other beautiful islands are nearby, but most folk opt to stay on sleepy Antipaxos.
Charts: Imray Mediterranean chart G11.


Île Molène is part of an idyllic string of islands off the Brittany coast

Gîte de Molène

Île Molène, West Brittany

Île Molène lies five miles west of the Chenal du Four, part of a fascinating chain of islands and reefs sheltering this much-used passage between the Channel and the Brest approaches. In fair weather, Molène harbour is easily reached by following a leading line westwards from opposite Pointe de Corsen.

Molène village huddles on the east side of the island, with a small supermarket and a café-tabac that sells bread. Gîte de Molène is near the Mairie and looks across the harbour, a view you could watch all day from the terrace. The house is attractively furnished and has a garden.


Local boating: Avoid dead springs if you come with your own boat. The harbour has several visitors’ buoys, which have greater low tide depths towards neaps. There are amazing channels to explore and Molène has some fabulous beaches.

Address: Gîte de Molène, 29259 Île Molène, France.
Sleeps: Up to 4
Bookings: Jean-Jves and Marianne Le Gall (owners)
Contact: +33 (0) / +33 (0) / jlegall@molene.net
Price guide per week: Available all year, from €335-495
By road/ferry: Brittany Ferries to Roscoff or St Malo, drive to Le Conquet Gare Maritime, then Penn Ar Bed passenger ferry to Molène.
By boat: Cruise down the Chenal du Four from L’Aber Wrac’h as far as Pointe de Corsen. Then head just south of west from a position half a mile north-east of Pourceaux north-cardinal buoy.
Charts: Admiralty 3345, French SHOM 7123.


This stunning waterside villa in Norway has a runabout moored at the jetty – ideal for exploring nearby islands

Lakeside villa

Storholmen, Norway

When cruising in Norway we love the sense of space in the complex layers of islands fringing the coasts of this spectacular country. For a first Norwegian experience I have chosen a house on Storholmen, which is not far from Bergen yet feels way out in the wilds in a beautiful boating area. An outboard runabout is moored at the jetty so you can potter to your heart’s content.

This luxurious waterside villa looks across low skerries towards gentle wooded shores. There are spacious terraces and you can swim in crystal clear water or just soak up the peace on a lounger.


Local boating: Storholmen lies in a sheltered sound with other small islands nearby. The larger island of Huftarøy has an enticing inlet, also dotted with tiny islands and skerries, where you can spend halcyon hours nosing about in a small boat.

Address: Storholmen, Austevoll, Norway
Sleeps: 12. Ideal for two families with youngsters.
Tel: +44 (0)333 012 4926 / www.novasol.co.uk / novasol@novasol.co.uk
Property Ref: N18885
Price guide per week: From £1,989
By air/ferry: Fly to Bergen, pick up a hire car and drive 15km south to Krokeide. Car ferry to Hufthamar on Huftarøy island. Then 6km drive to Storholmen, linked to Huftarøy by a bridge.
By boat: Few UK boats cruise to Norway, except hardy crews from Scotland and Orkney. We have sampled the islands on yacht deliveries and thoroughly recommend them for holidays.
Charts: Norwegian chart 21, Selbjørnsfjorden to Bergen.


Bantry Bay in Ireland is a magical cruising ground

Bere Island holiday homes

Bantry Bay, SW Ireland

Bantry Bay is one of south-west Ireland’s grandest inlets, penetrating 16 miles inland to Bantry harbour and peaceful anchorages at Adrigole and Glengarriff. The north shore is backed by mountains rising well above 600m. Bere Island lies just inside Bantry Bay to port with its own rolling hills, and the marina at Lawrence Cove is a delightful base with good facilities.

Three comfortable detached holiday houses stand just above the marina, looking up the bay towards the rugged slopes of Hungry Hill. Architect-designed with light interiors, these magnificently sited properties have large gardens and superb views.


Local boating: Lawrence Cove is a perfect billet if you come with your own boat. For those arriving by road and ferry, Barry Hanley, owner of the houses, can organise RIB hire for exploring the dramatic reaches of Bantry Bay.

Address: Bere Island Holiday Homes, Ardagh, Bere Island, Beara, County Cork
Sleeps: Each house sleeps up to 8.
Bookings: Barry Hanley (owner)
Contact: +353 (0)27 75995 / +353 (0)86 8845709 / info@bereislandholidayhomes.com
Price guide per week: Available all year, from €500–800
By ferry: Ro-Ro ferries from Pembroke Dock or Fishguard to Rosslare, then a five-hour drive to Castletown Bere. Small ‘landing-craft’ car ferry to Bere Island.
By boat: Cruising along Ireland’s south coast to Bantry Bay is a memorable experience. Lawrence Cove marina is completely snug for a short stay, a season
or over-wintering.
Charts: Admiralty 2424, 1838, 1840.


Sark has some glorious anchorage bays for long summer days

Clos de Saignie

Sark, Channel Islands

Sark is the most mysterious Channel Island seen from offshore. Its high cliffs show few signs of habitation and Sark can look rather aloof, even in fine weather. The picturesque village is a surprise when you climb to the plateau and wander inland to the Avenue, the slightly Wild West main street where locals go shopping on bikes.

Clos de Saignie is a modernised single-storey house above Saignie Bay on Sark’s secluded north-west edge. A field runs down to the cliffs with fabulous views towards Guernsey and Herm. This is a true Islomane’s retreat you’ll be reluctant to leave.

island-boating-holiday-rentals-06-Clos-de-Saignie_225804611_358666682-credit-peter-cumberlidgeLocal boating: There are visitors’ buoys at Havre Gosselin on the west coast and Grève de la Ville on the north-east, so arriving with your own boat you can moor in quiet weather. Sark has some glorious anchorage bays for long summer days.

Address: Clos de Saignie, Sark, Guernsey GY10 1SF
Sleeps: Up to 8. Ideal for two couples or a largish family.
Bookings: William and Annabel Raymond (owners)
Contact: +44 (0)1481 832440 / willabel@cwgsy.net
Price guide per week: Available all year, from £600–£2,000
By air/ferry: Numerous flights to Guernsey from Southampton or Gatwick. Fast ferries from Poole, daily Ro-Ro ferry from Portsmouth. Then Sark ferry from St Peter Port, Guernsey
By boat: Sark lies six miles ESE of Guernsey. Grève de la Ville is 22 miles SW of Cap de la Hague and 19 miles from Diélette.
Charts: Admiralty 2669 and 808.


One of the many peaceful inlets in the outer skerries of the Stockholm archipelago

Swedish summer house

Elgö, Stockholm archipelago

The Stockholm archipelago is a boating paradise, with countless islands and skerries fanning out in a maze of linked channels. The outer reaches are wild and remote, but the sheltered inner islands are wooded and some have holiday homes to rent. Elgö is 15 miles north-east of Stockholm and we passed it once while cruising here and saw this enviable summer house right on the shore with its private jetty.

Perfectly secluded with glorious views, the house is furnished in delightful Scandinavian style, a Swedish home from home in idyllic surroundings for simply messing around in boats.

island-boating-holiday-rentals-07-Elgö-island-Stockholm_225804691_358666682-credit-peter-cumberlidgeLocal boating: An outboard runabout is provided and the channels around Elgö are enchanting. The midsummer days are long and time slows right down as you hop into the boat on a whim and head off to scout another wooded shore or secret inlet.

Address: Elgö, Österåker, Stockholm, Sweden
Sleeps: Up to 6.
Bookings: Yvonne Skanlert at Skärgårdsstugor AB
Contact: +46 73 655 6700 / www.bokaskargardsstugor.se / info@bokaskargardsstugor.se / yvonne.skanlert.werner@gmail.com
Property Ref: LJ-108101
Price guide per week: From 7,959kr–11,016kr (about £700 to £950)
By air/ferry: Fly to Stockholm Arlanda, bus shuttle to city centre, then island ferry to Elgö brygga. 20 mins walk to the holiday house.
By boat: The 15-mile passage between Stockholm and Elgö is an unforgettable trip through intricate channels between wooded islands.
Charts: Swedish chart ‘Stockholms skärgård’


Low water at Port de la Corderie on Île de Bréhat

Ty Raden

Île de Bréhat, North Brittany

Brittany’s north corner between Paimpol and Les Héaux lighthouse is often the first destination for boats cruising down from Guernsey. Centrepiece of the rocky Trieux estuary, Île de Bréhat is an exquisite prospect of neat Breton cottages, soothing pines and luxuriant gardens.

Ty Raden is a tucked away six-bedroom house in a large garden on Bréhat’s south-west coast, looking across the Kerpont Passage near an old lifeboat slip. There’s a small sandy beach below the house and you can stroll along country lanes to the island village. Sheer bliss for Brittany lovers.

island-boating-holiday-rentals-08-Brehat-Ty-Raden-03_225804782_358666682-credit-peter-cumberlidgeLocal boating: Arriving with your own boat, you can berth at Lézardrieux marina and whizz to and from Bréhat by dinghy, landing at the Ty Raden beach or further north at Port de la Corderie. The island channels are great to explore in calm weather.

Address: Ty Raden, 22870 Île de Bréhat, France
Sleeps: Up to 17 in principle, but just right for a two-family summer party.
Bookings: David and Ingrid Saclier (owners)
Contact: +33 (0) / (0)6.86.751.451 / www.brehat-infos.fr
Price guide per week: Available April to October, €1,400–1,600
By ferry: Brittany Ferries to Roscoff or St Malo, then a two-hour drive from either to Ploubazlanec ferry terminal for Bréhat, 7km north of Paimpol.
By boat: Bréhat is 42 miles from Guernsey west-about Roches Douvres. Lézardrieux marina is five miles upriver.
Charts: Admiralty 2669, 3673.


Fabulous Feall Bay beach on Coll’s north-west coast

White House Lodge

Isle of Coll, Scotland

Romantic Coll feels far-flung but is only 17 miles out from Tobermory. Long and low with few houses or trees, Coll is a refuge from modern life, with big skies and some of the finest white beaches in the world. Arinagour village has a few small shops, the Island Café and the Coll Hotel with a good restaurant.

White House Lodge is an imaginatively converted farm worker’s cottage near the Atlantic side of Coll, out on its own with sea and moorland views. This award-winning house has a light contemporary interior impeccably presented. Arinagour is about 20mins bike ride.

island-boating-holiday-rentals-09-Coll-White-House-Lodge-03_225804882_358666682-credit-peter-cumberlidgeLocal boating: This is ideal trailer RIB country and on a quiet day Coll is an easy run from Tobermory. Loch Eatharna is Coll’s main harbour, funneling into the east coast with Arinagour village at its head. In settled weather a RIB can use a mooring here, or dry out near the inner pier.

Address: White House Lodge, Grishipol, Isle of Coll PA78 6TE
Sleeps: Up to 8.
Bookings: Lauchlan Maclean-Bristol (owner)
Contact: +44 (0)1253 542658 / +44 (0)7787 541384 / info@whitehouselodge.co.uk
Price guide per week: Available all year, from £600.
By air/ferry: Hebridean Air Services small plane flights or Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from Oban to Coll.
By boat: From Tobermory, leave the Sound of Mull round Ardmore Point and track about 257°T to Loch Eatharna entrance. Slack water is best for the passage.
Charts: Admiralty 2171, 2474.


An idyllic anchorage near Favignana, Sicily

Villa Zu Nillu

Favignana, Sicily

A few miles off Sicily’s west tip, Favignana is my largest island, yet feels sufficiently cosy for Islomanes. Its history lies with tunny fishing and the harbour has impressive vaulted warehouses where nets and tuna boats were stored. Favignana’s beaches are gorgeous with translucent blue shallows. Its hills are dotted with pale stone houses, which complement the landscape perfectly.

Zu Nillu is also a homage to native stone, perched above a Roman quarry near Cala Rossa, a stunning cove on the north-east coast. Built on several layers, Zu Nillu looks like a fairytale monastery, its garden and pool enclosed by ancient sandstone.


Local boating: The agents can arrange boat hire, and cruising round Favignana is ravishing. Cala Rotunda is a dazzling inlet and swimming beach on the west coast. You can take a skippered boat trip with Clemente Ventrone, a retired tuna fisherman and island legend.

Address: Zu Nillu, Favignana, Egadi Islands, Sicily
Sleeps: Up to 8. Not ideal for young children.
Contact: +44 (0)20 7377 8518 / www.thethinkingtraveller.com / info@thethinkingtraveller.com
Price guide per week: From £4,452–£9,630
By air/ferry: Fly to Palermo or Trapani on Sicily, then ferry or hydrofoil to Favignana. The local agent can drive you to Zu Nillu.
By boat: Anyone with a boat in Italy can reach Favignana via Sicily’s wonderful coastline. You might find a berth in Favignana, or use Marsala marina on Sicily.
Charts: Admiralty 964.


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