When the advance copies of a new publication pop along in the post, the excitement is high as the box gets ripped open. It’s been months since I penned the last words of Treasured Islands and since then the editors and designers have been busy. So much time passes from the end of the written project to publication day that seeing the book for the first time has a strange ‘third person’ feel, as if it’s somebody else’s altogether. Fortunately, my first impression of Treasured Islands was that it looks beautiful, it feels great, it has been designed fabulously and it smells – for all new books have a unique aroma – lovely.
Having written Around the Coast in 80 Days and explored the best places to visit around the edge of Britain, I wanted to go further afield. What were the mysterious, enticing lands lying off our coast, reached by causeways, ferries and aircraft? What were the people like who lived there? What did they do for a living? Are these decent places to spend a holiday?
Only one way to find out, I reckoned. Let’s get exploring and write a book.
First problem – there are quite a lot of islands. Over 6000 of them, actually. And that’s just around the coast of Britain. I wanted to go even further afield – to Ireland, the Channel Isles, the Faroes. This was clearly not going to be an all-inclusive book about our islands. I would have to be heavily selective – and the most obvious way was to focus on the inhabited islands some folk called home. Throw in a few deserted beauty spots – all of which you can get to fairly easily – and I had just over 200 special islands to visit.
Visiting them all wasn’t going to be easy, but it was a three year project so if I planned it out well I’d be able to make my way around, meet local characters, take photographs and get a feel for every island’s individual nature. All was going well until the pandemic hit and 2020 became a difficult year to be a travel writer. With travel plans disrupted, I was, in the end, pleased to get to over 150 of the Treasured Islands and make sure I spoke to people living on the islands I couldn’t reach.
The result was many, many adventures. From Shetland to the Scilies, from the Faroes to the Farne Isles, and everywhere inbetween, these are islands that often make lists of the best places to visit in the world, and here they are with easy reach of our shores. So join me in discovering these fascinating places, their industries, traditions, foods and landscapes. Whether you’re somebody who has plans afoot to start travelling again or if you’re an armchair explorer wanting to know more about the features that make up our beautiful islands. Come and discover our Treasured Islands and start to plan your first trips after lockdown.