Island bagging and wild swimming – best secret islands for skinny dipping


Lisa Drew, author of island bagging book Islandeering, shares her favourite secret islands around Britain for wild swimming and skinny dipping.

Britain is fringed by a constellation of thousands of uninhabited or little-known islands. Islandeering is the ultimate way to explore these retreats, by circumnavigating their outermost land edge and exploring the natural history that’s on offer along the way.


These islands are a celebration of wilderness and wildlife, some with thriving tiny communities that cling to the very edge of our world. Here you’ll find beauty, harmony and life lived according to the rhythm of nature. Seek a trail along their shoreline to discover deserted beaches, secret swims, ancient ruins, whales and dolphin spotting, wild flower gardens and vast colonies of seabirds. For those looking for adventure there are epic tidal crossing, exhilarating cliff top scrambles, sea cave explorations and more.

Let the wind blow through your hair and the thick aroma of ozone and seaweed fill your nostrils this summer and discover Britain’s most secret coastlines.

Scolt Head


This is a great destination for families looking for a heavenly picnic spot, sublime swims and beaches that stretch to the horizon. For the more adventurous it’s a wet and wild circumnavigation.

Starting at Burnham Overy Staithe, an idyllic creek-side village, the route crosses flower-filled saltmarsh and two creeks to get to the island itself – then wades the tidal channels of the island’s south shore. Here the secluded pools, warmed by the sun, make for superb secret swims hidden by the glorious mud banks full of samphire and birdlife. The return is on the north shore alongside pounding surf and dunes with the final stretch to the car park possible in true islandeering style – simply swim along the channel on the incoming tide.

Ynys Giftan

Floating in the deliciously warm waters of Ynys Giftan’s deep emerald pools and soaking up the views of the majestic mountains of Snowdonia, the fairy tale turrets of Portmeirion and the vast wild sands of the estuary feels like the ultimate freedom.

Just a short walk from the mainland the route crosses saltmarsh that brims with colourful wildflowers, egrets and wildfowl before crossing the tidal sands. Once on the island the foreshore circumnavigation passes the pools that are refreshed daily by the tide. Inland the island is topped with a jumble of lush green bracken, gorse and elder and there is a ruined farmhouse to explore.


Cei Ballast

Cei Ballast sits secretly within a few metres of Porthmadog. Its deep, sun-warmed emerald pools are incredible for bathing, diving and swimming. Then a short distance away, the skinny dippers heaven of Ynys Giftan beckons across wildlife-filled saltmarsh. Basking in the sublime pools with views of otherworldly sands, the dreamy, pastel spires of Portmeirion and majestic mountains of Snowdonia it’s as idyllic as it gets.



Ynys Lochtyn


This tiny island that juts into Cardigan Bay is one of the best places to watch Europe’s largest pod of bottlenose dolphins, their location usually given away by the diving frenzy of feeding gannets.

This is a headland separated from the mainland by an exposed scramble down colourful and dramatic cliffs, with a couple of small beaches and verdant rock pools to explore at its base. The island itself is accessed through a sea cave followed by a short climb on ledges to its grassy plateau. Not for the faint-hearted there is a thrilling sense of exposure here, so it remains secret to all but a few.


Oronsay (Skye)



Spectacularly located in Loch Bracadale on the west coast of Skye this uninhabited wedge-shaped island is almost completely undiscovered, yet it is full of incredible scenery, rock formations and wildlife.

Once across the tidal causeway with its two sand beaches the easy free-range route over the grassy cliff-tops leads to colourful rock pools to rummage in, a vast sea cave and steep gullies to explore. From this lofty vantage point there are stupendous views of the precipitous Talisker headland, the jagged peaks of the Black Cuillin and the distant Old Man of Stor with the grey outline of the Outer Hebrides further to the west. Watch out for dolphins, golden eagles, gannets, otters and sea eagles.


About island bagging and the Islandeering book

Lisa Drewe is author of Islandeering: Adventures Around the Edge of Britain’s Hidden Islands (Wild Things Publishing, £16.99)