Review by Linda Hepworth
Publisher: Vertebrate Publishing 7th October 2021
ISBN:: 978-1-83981-090-9 PB
From the opening paragraphs of her introduction to this wonderful guide, Lisa Drewe’s passion for islands immediately becomes apparent in her ‘confession’ that over the past twelve years she has explored nearly five hundred islands of the British Isles, finds them ‘completely irresistible’ and spends her time ‘poring over Ordnance Survey maps and scouring coastlines to find new ones to visit’. I’ve always loved spending time on islands because I find that even those which can be reached on foot (becoming islands only when surrounded by water at high tide), seem to offer something quite magical, an opportunity to feel cut off from everyday life, to experience a sense of solitude and peace, and to discover the idiosyncratic nature of each one. Hardly surprising then that I was delighted to say ‘yes please’ when the publisher asked me if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing this guide.
It would be hard to exaggerate what a very special book I found it to be, almost impossible to tear myself away from once I started reading it. This was not only because the stunning photographs are an absolute joy to look at, immediately encouraging me to indulge in some very enjoyable ‘armchair-travelling’, pondering which of the islands I’d like to visit (and with three hundred I felt spoilt for choice!) but because of the impressive amount of detail the author includes about each of them. There is information on how to get there, the types of accommodation available (including official campsites), where to find food and drink, information about other local amenities, public transport on the larger islands, outdoor activities (eg walking, swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding etc.) information about specific local attractions, flora and fauna to look out for, geological and other natural features, details of local history etc.
Each of the twelve geographical areas covered (eg Isles of Scilly, Cornwall & Devon, North East & North West coasts etc) includes an overview of the region, followed by a map showing the location of each of the islands described, the latter making it as easy for adventurers who want to plan an ‘island-bagging’ itinerary as it is for people who want to visit to just one island. Some of the islands are quite large and well-populated, with a wide range of amenities; some are smaller, with tight-knit communities; some are remote and uninhabited; many are off the mainland coast whilst others are in the large river estuaries of the Thames, Severn and Humber or in large natural harbours. However, what becomes clear when reading this book is that no two islands are the same, each has its own unique characteristics and each is magical and special in its own way.
I was impressed by the amount of useful, practical information and advice the author incorporated into her introduction, including safety warnings to take into account tidal and weather conditions, with details of the appropriate websites for gaining up to date information. I also liked her appeal that people should follow the Countryside Code and explore respectfully, advice which included reminders about not starting fires, leaving litter, picking flowers, removing shells or fossils, not disturbing wildlife, checking whether dogs are allowed, no wild camping, unless with the permission of the owner of the land etc.
The final, and very useful, section in the guide is entitled ‘The Islands: top tens’ which, in eighteen sections highlights the top ten islands for specific attractions … these include beaches, tidal crossings, stargazing, walking, cycling, bird watching, families, ancient history, to name just a few.
Although I was aware that our coastline is ‘dotted’ with islands, before reading this book I had no idea that there are so many hundreds to explore. I think that Lisa’s enthusiasm must be infectious because I’m now feeling inspired to do some ‘island bagging’ of my own and although I know I’ll never ‘bag’ as many as she has, I’m sure that any island visits I do make will be enhanced having read this truly delightful and informative guide.
With thanks to Vertebrate Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.