The beautiful Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, still home to the Chief of the Clan MacLeod

Our island feature this time has a look at the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight and Jersey. All these islands are just a short hop from the UK mainland, making them ideal for group trips

ISLE OF SKYE

Skye is the best known and largest of the Inner Hebrides. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland and is renowned for its natural beauty. In addition to the wildlife, awe-inspiring scenery and history, Skye offers visitors a wide range of outdoor activities and places to visit.

Dunvegan Castle boat trips take visitors to see a colony of seals

DUNVEGAN CASTLE

No visit to the Isle of Skye would be complete without savouring the wealth of history on show at Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. Built on a rock in an idyllic lochside setting, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. It has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of MacLeod for 800 years and is still home to the Clan MacLeod Chief.

Groups will find more than enough to see and do for a wonderful day out. Castle tours are available, which guide visitors through the historic rooms and explain about Dunvegan’s treasures, including the Great Sword of Dunvegan, the ‘Fairy Flag’ and portraits of the Dunvegan clan chiefs and their wives in the dining room. Three shops offer a wide range of Highlands and Islands gifts and crafts, including bespoke items inspired by the castle collection, jewellery, knitwear, chocolates and Harris Tweed items. The MacLeod Tables Café serves great coffee and homemade soups and snacks, made from produce from the castle’s walled garden.

Outside, several different gardens display a range of styles and plants. The Water Garden has ornate bridges, islands and rich, colourful plants while the Round Garden features a boxwood parterre as its centrepiece. The Walled Garden is formally planted with roses and herbaceous borders and has a Victorian-style glasshouse. Historical photographs and information about the gardens can be found in the Garden Museum, which explores the past and present of Dunvegan Castle’s grounds.

For something a bit different, boat trips onto the loch take visitors to see a colony of seals. A traditionally-built clinker boat takes passengers to observe the playful mammals at close quarters.

T: 01470 521206
E: info@dunvegancastle.com
W: www.dunvegancastle.com

SKYE MUSEUM OF ISLAND LIFE

The aim of the Skye Museum of Island Life, opened in 1965, was to preserve a township of thatched cottages, each depicting the conditions that islanders lived in at the close of the nineteenth century. Thatched houses were very typical for the Highlands, but few are left today. These crofts were warm and sturdy homes, ideal for the landscape and climate. The museum lets visitors take a look round a typical croft, complete with peat fire and box bed.

T: 01470 552206

E: info@skyemuseum.co.uk

W: www.skyemuseum.co.uk

Seaprobe Atlantis offers a unique opportunity to see underwater in an internationally important area.

SEAPROBE ATLANTIS

Just before crossing the bridge onto Skye, groups should not miss an opportunity to go on an award-winning Seaprobe Atlantis trip. These boat trips from the Kyle of Lochalsh are unique, taking place in a semisubmersible glass-bottomed boat operating within a marine special area of conservation of international importance. Kelp forests, coral reefs, seabirds, whales, dolphins, otters and seals are just some of the wonderful wildlife and marine life for passengers to witness. Sitting below the waves, looking out through the large panoramic windows and actually being part of a whole new beautiful underwater world is an unforgettable experience for any sort of group.

T: 0800 980 4846
E: seaprobe@msn.com
W: www.seaprobeatlantis.com

ISLE OF MAN

Located in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland, the Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown Dependency. Plenty of places to visit, things to see and pretty scenery keeps tourists returning year after year. The best way to start any visit is by popping into the Welcome Centre, based at the Sea Terminal in the island’s capital, Douglas.

Mount Murray Hotel on the Isle of Man

MOUNT MURRAY HOTEL

Often described as the jewel of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is a group travel gem not to be missed. The Mount Murray Hotel and Country Club is perfectly set in 200 acres of beautiful Manx countryside and ideally situated between the airport at Castletown and the island’s ferry terminal in Douglas – transfer time from either is only about ten minutes. There is lots of parking for cars and coaches. The Mount Murray Hotel is an AA rated four star hotel which contains 103 of the most spacious bedrooms on the island, a superb health and fitness centre, hydrotherapy unit and indoor swimming pool. Mount Murray is the only hotel on the Isle of Man with its own 18-hole championship golf course, which is reputed to be the most challenging inland course on the island – but however you find the course, the views are simply stunning! To complement the course, there is a floodlit driving range, fully equipped clubhouse and shop from which golf clubs can be hired.

The hotel tailors packages to each group’s needs, ensuring that the group members have an unforgettable holiday experience. Mount Murray Hotel and Country Club prides itself on its friendly personal service ensuring that all guests are treated as individuals not en masse. Ambassadors are on hand to provide an evening entertainment programme chosen in advance by the group organiser. Local knowledge is invaluable and so they can also advise on, and arrange, off-site activities such as clay pigeon shooting, brewery visits and fudge tasting to name but a few!

T: 01624 695305
E: reservations@mountmurray.com

STEAM TRAIN

The Isle of Man steam train runs on the only line left of a once vast steam railway system. Originally built in the late 1800s, today the train runs just on the southern line, covering 15 miles from Douglas to Port Erin.

For most passengers, the journey will start in Douglas at the old Victorian station. From there, the train takes a route through the island’s pretty countryside.

W: www.iomguide.com/steamrailway.php

CASTLE RUSHEN

Perhaps the best medieval castle in the British Isles, Castle Rushen is believed to have been built around 1200. It was the residence of the last Norse King of Man, who died in 1266. Part of the castle was destroyed in a siege by Robert the Bruce in 1313, but was later rebuilt by Sir William de Montacute around 1344. The site consists of an outer wall, 25 feet high and seven feet thick. Clinging to this wall are five towers, which once served as offices for the Receiver General, Clerk of the Rolls and other officials. The main northern tower is 80 feet high and the other three are around 70 feet high.

Visitors can see round the castle from the dungeon to the clock tower. Rooms have been decorated to depict different eras in the history of the castle, with a clearly marked route and guides to answer any questions. Groups can enjoy a film presentation, museum and the heritage shop.

W: www.iomguide.com/castlerushen.php

ISLE OF WIGHT

Known as the ‘Garden Isle’, this popular destination off England’s south coast has over 60 visitor attractions, over 500 miles of footpaths and beautiful scenery round every corner. Look out for our extended Isle of Wight feature next month.

BRADING ROMAN VILLA

Brading Roman Villa is one of the finest Roman sites in the UK. It has an award-winning visitor centre and the museum offers a unique insight into Roman life in Britain, from beautifully preserved mosaic floors to an extensive collection of Roman archaeology. A brilliant attraction for visitors of all ages, the site has interactive displays, a licensed café, shop and extensive grounds including a Roman garden and meadow trail. The villa site sits within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

T: 01983 406223
E: info@bradingromanvilla.org.uk
W: www.bradingromanvilla.org.uk

The Trouville Hotel on the Isle of Wight

TROUVILLE HOTEL

Renowned for friendly hospitality, the Trouville Hotel is an ideal base for a group to explore the Isle of Wight. From a summer tour to an autumn break, or for an individuallytailored dance or bowls break, the Trouville Hotel is the perfect venue. All rooms are ensuite with most offering superb panoramic sea views. The impressive ballroom, with its maple sprung dance floor, offers great entertainment and dancing options. The newly-refurbished function room commands an impressive view across the sweep of the bay and the dance floor is ideal for groups of 40 – 50 people.

The restaurant at the Trouville Hotel also commands panoramic views across the bay. It provides efficient service and a varied choice of menus to suit all tastes; dietary requirements are happily catered for. With a four course table d’hôte, they aim to ensure quality and catering of the highest standard. Full English breakfast in the morning makes sure guests feel ready to face the day, while breakfast can also be arranged for an early departure.

The Trouville Hotel offers ferry inclusive group rates by coach or by car, and coach drivers are free of charge, with discounts also available for couriers.

T: 01983 402141
E: info@trouvillehotel.co.uk
W: www.trouvillehotel.co.uk

JERSEY

The warmest place in the British Isles, Jersey has a rich maritime heritage which shows in the amount of water-based activities that visitors can participate in. Golden beaches, hidden coves and cliffs make up the beautiful coastline, and inland there is lovely countryside to enjoy. Jersey also offers some great attractions, shopping and exceptional dining.

Condor Ferries offer a fast, reliable service to Jersey, including day trip options

CONDOR FERRIES

Travelling to Jersey using Condor Ferries is easy and convenient. Ferries leave from Poole and Portsmouth with plenty of choice of sailings to suit group schedules. High speed ferries are available meaning that a day trip to Jersey is possible; Condor Ferries take lots of groups over to the island for a day of shopping thanks to the favourable tax regulations. Condor Ferries terminal on Jersey is located in St Helier, the capital of Jersey. St Helier has an eclectic mix of high street stores, small boutiques and local gift shops.

Onboard facilities on Condor Ferries include spacious airconditioned passenger lounges, a caféteria serving delicious hot meals and snacks, a bar and a duty-free shop. They offer generous group discounts – please contact for further details.

T: 0845 609 1024
E: customer.services@condorferries.co.uk
W: www.condorferries.co.uk

The Jersey War Tunnels tell the story of the island’s occupation.

JERSEY WAR TUNNELS

One of the most difficult periods in Jersey’s history is explored in a visit to the Jersey War Tunnels, no ordinary museum. Dug deep into the hillside within St Peter’s Valley, the tunnels were originally intended to be a barracks and ammunition store for the occupying forces. Today they tell the story of the occupation, looking at how all sides coped under such extreme conditions and examining the daily dilemmas that were faced by island residents and the authorities, whether Jersey, British or German. The story of the German occupation of Jersey is as compelling as it is strange, to think that this small area of Britain was occupied by the Nazis and forced to fly the swastika for five dark years.

Visitors can explore the maze of tunnels, stopping at various displays and information points throughout. Outside the tunnels, there is the peaceful Garden of Reflection and a woodland walk along the historic War Trail. A bar, café, sweet shop and souvenir shop are included in the facilities available.

T: 01534 860808
E: info@jerseywartunnels.com
W: www.jerseywartunnels.com