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Isles be seeing view.

THERE'S no need to scour the world for beautiful islands - just look on your own doorstep. STEVE RICHES picks his favourite five in Britain...

Isle Of Skye It's dramatic, it's moody, it's a precious jewel even in Scotland's gem-studded scenic crown. Serious hikers can tackle the demanding Cuillin Hills, leisure walkers may settle for exploring the huge sea cliffs (from above, that is, Mum). There's diving, sailing, fab fishing and boating, kayaking, cycling and tucked-away tiny beaches. Serpentarium Reptile World (skye serpentarium.org.uk) and Talisker Distillery (scotlandwhisky.com) are rather different distractions for little kids and big kids. WHERE TO STAY: The largest town, Portree (pop. 2,300), is a great base and the two-star Portree Hotel (travelrepublic.co.uk/portree) is within five minutes of its shops and harbour. Good menu, stacks of whiskies. Doubles (rooms, not whisky) from PS92 B&B. WHERE TO EAT: In the north-west of the island, amid stunning scenery in Dunvegan, is the Three Chimneys (threechimneys.co.uk). The restaurant's seven-course fish-based tasting menu is PS90, but you only live once.

Mersea Island For Essex seafood fans, The Only Way Is Mersea. But more of that in a minute. Here is a strangely appealing island, Britain's most easterly, all mudflats and beach huts, yet with fine beaches, good swimming, sailing and windsurfing in the estuary formed by the marriage of the Colne and Blackwater. Clacton and Southend it isn't. Except for the cockles and the odd dodgy hat. WHERE TO STAY: Right on the waterfront on the Coast Road is The Victory At Mersea (victoryatmersea.com), a top-drawer pub and winner of awards including the Oscar-like Best Leased in East Anglia. Doubles from PS70 B&B. WHERE TO EAT: No question. Get yourself to The Company Shed (the-company-shed.co.uk) for lunch - and get there early. You can't book, you have to take your own booze and bread and it's a bit of a squeeze on dodgy furniture in a ramshackle old hut, once a canteen for local fisherman. But the food - wow! This is sea stuff at its best, from the famed Colchester oysters onwards. The seafood platter (PS11.50) is a steal and you can buy whatever you like to take away. Shuts at 5pm.

Bryher Look to the west beyond Bishop's Rock Lighthouse and what do you see? Water, nothing but water, all the way to the US. The most westerly of the inhabited Isles of Scilly serves solitude with a smile, a beautiful area for walking in the greenest of countryside and on the cleanest of beaches, even if you can traipse the entire island in a little over an hour. Swimming, bird watching and boat trips to the neighbouring islands are your other entertainment options. Otherwise it's chill time. Do visit the largest island, St Mary's, and the one famed for its gardens, Tresco.

WHERE TO STAY: Hell Bay Hotel (hellbay.co.uk), with three AAA stars, is the highest-rated hotel in the Scillies, a smart oasis in a picturesque cove. Doubles from PS135 DB&B. Travel to St Mary's by plane or boat, then a boat transfer to Bryher. Isles of Scilly Travel (ios-travel.co.uk) has varying rates.

WHERE TO EAT: The Hell Bay Hotel is a good choice, particularly its seafood, but so too is the busy (though hardly rocking) Fraggle Rock Bar (bryher.co/fraggle-rock-bar) in Harbour View. Great fish and chips, stunning views over to Tresco and cocktails for PS4.

Lindisfarne Mystics, don't miss out on this. First settled by St Aidan in AD 635, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is recognised as the home of Christianity in England. The castle looms large over all, cobbled together with the stones of the now-ruined priory, a victim of grumpy old Henry VIII's dissolution policy. But it's not just for history buffs. Cut off from mainland Northumberland twice a day by tides, it offers wonderful small rocky bays and sandy dunes, great views and a huge array of wildlife, from grey seals to thousands of migrating birds in one of the country's most dramatic nature reserves.

WHERE TO STAY: The Manor House Hotel (manorhouselindisfarne.com) in the Market Place has fine views of the castle and harbour and double rooms from PS95 B&B. WHERE TO EAT: The Ship Inn (theship inn-holyisland.co.uk) is in the Marygate area, handy for the castle, has superb Hadrian & Border beers (mine's a pint of Secret Kingdom) and hearty dishes like beef and ale pie (PS12.95).

Anglesey Is this the most under-rated UK island of all? The middle is more functional than pretty, but its 125 miles of coastline aren't bad. Like six Blue Flag beaches, 14 Green Coast Award beaches and 26 Seaside Beach awards. Match that. Top spot is the huge expanse of sandy beach at Llanddwyn, where swimming and sunbathing meets kite-surfing and mackerel fishing. Great spot for sailing too, and power boating if you're in more of a hurry. Just north of that is Newborough Beach, even longer and less busy. Take time out to visit the family-friendly Sea Zoo (angleseyseazoo.co.uk) and Beaumaris Castle (beaumaris.com), started in 1295 and never finished. Builders, eh? WHERE TO STAY: Beaumaris is home to The Bishopsgate House Hotel & Restaurant, a smart 18th-century Georgian townhouse stuffed with antiques and with lovely views across the Menai Straits to Snowdonia. Doubles from PS97 B&B. WHERE TO EAT: Five minutes out of Beaumaris is the rural setting for the very friendly Owain Glydwr (ogdllanddona.co.uk) pub and restaurant. Good local beers and Welsh ciders. Home-made mains such as traditional Anglesey eggs, a mixture of eggs, potatoes, leeks, cream and cheese. You'll get change out of a tenner.

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CAPTION(S):

MERSEA ISLAND: Pretty beach huts

ANGLESEY: Beaches take the honours

LINDISFARNE: The ruins of the priory

BRYHER: See it all on foot in just over an hour

ISLE OF SKYE: Gem at sunset
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 26, 2013
Words:988
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