An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

Mersea Island circular walk

Keep the sea to your left and keep going until you return to the start. It’s impossible to get lost, well really lost. You’ll have heck of an adventure on the way, in the footsteps of…..hardly anyone else to be honest

‘What’s all this about then’ you might ask. ‘It’s called Islandeering’ we’ll reply. Have you heard of many mountaineers that start out to walk half way up a mountain? Probably not. Well we feel the same about islands. We have to go all the way around.

We like to explore the last great wilderness of the British Isles. The outer edge of islands. A lot of it is uncharted. We think this is where the action is – the cliffs, sea caves and surf. It’s where we love to walk, scramble, swim and kayak. It’s where we love to chill on a beach, experience whales breaching and enjoy the spectacle of bird-filled rock walls. It’s where we forage for seafood, watch sunsets and sunrises reach across the ocean and where we love to sleep. Our first unintentional stranding on an island felt like a disaster. Now, many deliberate strandings later, as the ocean closes her path back to the mainland we love the feeling of true disconnection from the frenetic world. We feel peace. Real peace.

We also explore the island’s interior and share with you all the special places and experiences each island has to offer.

Is this for you?

Yes, islandeering is for everyone.

There is the adventurous element of islandeering and we are sharing our 170 routes (so far) with you as fast as we can. You may have to improvise a bit. Foreshores and cliffs are wild. Some islands have a coastal path but for most islands you have to chart your own way around for part of the way at least. It’s a proper adventure exploring wild places. You’ll find the details in the ‘islandeering‘ page for each island.

We also want to share  the best each island has to offer – for kids and families, birdwatchers, history buffs, wildlife enthusiasts and foodies – so that everyone can enjoy these magical mini-worlds. You’ll find the details of how to experience the best the island has to offer in the ‘activities‘ page for each island.

This website aims to inspire island adventures for all. We are not going to write them all up though – it’s important that some places remain undiscovered and that you can create an island adventure of your own.

How did Islandeering start?

I had a free-range childhood, always delving under rocks in the brook, pushing the boundaries of where I was allowed to cycle and climbing over the fence to discover the undiscovered. There was a defining island moment though. I was twelve at the time, it was 1979, and as far as my parents were concerned our family holiday at the Cornish seaside had taken a turn for the worse when the incoming tide threatened to cut us off from the mainland. But I was thrilled with the idea of exploring my very own lump of rock, surrounded by sea with the remaining picnic to sustain us. What more could a girl of twelve really want?

It all turned into an obsession from there for the next 30 years or so. I quite literally travelled all over the world to experience islands. Then, several years ago, on a sea kayaking trip around the outer edge of the islands of Scilly I had a bit of an epiphany.

”Why do all that travelling when we have places of exquisite beauty, wilderness and adventure right on our doorstep?”

That was it, I couldn’t wait to get home and see how many other islands of the British Isles I could get around. To my delight I found there were several thousand islands to choose from with scant information about circumnavigating them.

I’m 170 islands in now and am looking forward to a lifetime of adventure and discovery. I have come to terms with my obsession with several years of walking, cycling, swimming and kayaking the amazing gems of the British Isles under my belt. Researching how to get to them, finding routes around them and helping others do the same has become Islandeering.

We also moved to an island. Over the winter months we retreat to the Isle of Skye where we have a home to sit in front of the fire and watch the storms roll by.

I only returned to Asparagus Island last year. It was as exhilarating then as it was in my memories. This time I swam around it on a beautiful calm day in the blazing sunshine. Thoughts of jellyfish and shark attacks pushed far back in my mind. The beach I left behind was seething with humanity and fluttering ice cream wrappers but after just a few metres of swimming out to the island I found my peace and my haven of raw natural beauty. I was twelve again with not a care in the world. The healing power of islands and the ocean.

In the news 

We’ve written and chatted to a whole number of folks in newspaper, magazines and radio stations. Here’s some of our favourites:

We are always planning new islands and adventures, sign up to our newsletter and be the first to know!

Next adventure?

16 Replies to “About”

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  2. Jonathan Fulthorpe says:

    Wonderful and inspiring. Please put me on your mailing list. I will write again in a few weeks, and will follow up on my interest.

    Very best,


    1. Lisa says:

      Thank you for your message Jonathan and yes I will do.

  3. John says:

    Have you ever been to the Faroe Islands? I went last year and they have some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.

    1. Lisa says:

      I’d love to go – we were going to go along to their trail running festival this year and explore more but then decided to spend more time on our own islands. The Faroes are definitely on my list though.

  4. James Christison says:

    Found you through the BBC article. Fantastic idea, surely the smiles per £ must be well on your side. Hope we share a pot of coffee one day on the far side of who knows where. You are an inspiration! Jim.

    1. Lisa says:

      Hi James – thanks so much for your message. Hoping to meet a whole lot more islandeers out there now – particularly coffee drinking ones. I shall look out for you. Lisa

  5. Patrick Herring says:

    Do you know “Some Lovely Islands” by Leslie Thomas? A kindred spirit to be sure. I deliberately didn’t finish reading it so there would always be more.
    A favourite island experience: taking the tourist boat to Inner Farne you get an hour on the island of which the last 5 minutes can be alone because everyone else needs to make sure of getting back. Then there was the heart centre glow that only comes with completion and wholeness.

    1. Lisa says:

      Thank you for the book recommendation Patrick. Just ordered it!
      I love Inner Farne too. I was lucky that the National Trust allowed me on the island before the main boats arrived to photograph the wildlife relatively undisturbed. So I share that incredible experience of nature with you. Interesting that you talk of completion and wholeness too. That’s what I find so compelling here. Completing the circle and all that it entails.

  6. David says:

    Alas, some of us are also ‘anoraks’… .Portland Dorset , not an island …. consider Kent, many islands no longer such as Thanet and Oxney…… don’t forget islands on Rivers and Lakes …. when does a sea stack become and island, would you visit Goodwin. I hope I have extended your bucket list and always happy to share experiences from visits ..

    1. Lisa says:

      Hey fellow island anorak…great to meet you. Well I have been trying not to get into the definition of an island – generally if it feels like an island it’s good enough for me. Surrounded by salt water or freshwater, joined by bridge, tombolo or causeway, an ex-island now part of the mainland, a speck of rock in the middle of the sea. I don’t really mind. Would love to hear more of your travels though – please do keep in contact. Lisa

  7. gerard says:

    Very difficult to read grey text on grey background.

    1. Lisa says:

      Thanks for your feedback Gerald. This is all self-funded and I am doing my best.

  8. Ben Berry says:

    I was fascinated to discover your identification of a basic pyschological desire to ‘conquer’ islands by circumnavigating them, in much the same way that people feel compelled to climb mountains. When I reflected on my choice of holiday destinations over many years, I realised that almost unknowingly I was picking islands ( which I felt I could fully embrace) and in every case had the compulsion to reach the highest point.
    As a boy of 14 I had this real urge to run away from home ( not that it was an unhappy childhood) and live and survive on Toll’s island off the coast of St. Marys in the Isles of Scilly, hundreds of miles from my home town. I bought some maps and constantly studied and plotted a way of achieving this. Of course it never happened, but just a few years ago ( and very many further on from this dream) I visited the Scillies and nothing would stop me wading across the water to actually step foot on this small rocky outpost. I actually think I was originally inspired watching a James Mason film called A Touch of Larceny where he ‘survived’ on an island, alone, for several weeks. Very interesting psychology, that appeals strongly to some , who wouldn’t want to ‘own’ an island ?
    Now, I must buy your book!

    1. Lisa says:

      Thank you for your message Ben. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of my island compulsion and find a way of better articulating it.
      I’m not sure I would personally use the word ‘conquer’ – I think that may have been newspaper magic. Much like I wouldn’t use it when climbing a mountain as I rather feel that the mountain dictates whether it is possible to reach the summit or not. Much is the same with islands where weather, tide, topography, ground cover and other natural factors have meant that I haven’t been able to make the full circuit in some cases.

      Certainly the wish and curiosity to complete the circuit is the same in me as to get to the top of a mountain.

      It is also fascinating to hear ‘run away’. At the moment I have spent a few weeks behind my desk and am desperate to get back out there but I am not thinking of coastline – I am desperate to get to an island. Loved your story of plotting your escape as a child. The process you went through is exactly how I find new islands!! Even now that I have completed almost 150 islands, I love the thrill of getting to places like Toll and if there was a further outcrop beyond it I’d want to get there too. It’s a bit like reaching a false summit, of course you won’t stop there you’ll go on until you reach the top.

      I will continue to analyse the psychology of this – but for now am content with the description that a few have bestowed on me by saying ‘you must be bonkers’.
      Thank you for buying the book and I hope that it gives you some more ideas for island escapes.
      Best wishes

  9. Karen says:

    I came to your blog via Alastair Humphreys, when I read that you had a ‘free-range childhood, I knew we were kindred spirits. I too had a free-range childhood wandering the countryside and seaside, I just loved and still do, my freedom and the great outdoors. A couple of years ago after coming back from a trip to Oz, I too, decided that we have so much beauty in Blighty and needed to explore it. I too was drawn to islands we have, but never knew, until reading your blog, that there were so many. I love the countryside as well as the sea, I grew up in North Devon and learnt to swim in the sea by county the rhythm of the waves so I could get a good swim on, not easy in the Atlantic.

    I will leave this now to read to purchase your book and look forward to following your adventure with you.

    Happy islandeering 🙂

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