Author Interview: Lisa Drewe, England & Wales Island Bagging
- Wednesday 6 October 2021
Self-confessed ‘islomaniac’ Lisa Drewe has explored over 350 islands of the British Isles in the last ten years. She is Chair of Whale and Dolphin Conservation and runs islandeering.com – a free online guide to the islands of the British Isles. Her new book, England & Wales Island Bagging, is a stunning and informative guide to almost 300 islands of England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. In the Q&A below, Lisa discusses her favourite locations, what inspired her to write the book and her plans for the future.
Lundy, coast path © Lisa Drewe
(1) Perhaps an obvious question to ask, but what was your favourite location?
I have explored nearly 600 islands now and every one of them has something beautiful, unique, challenging or surprising. I am in awe of them all. I guess the Isles of Scilly are a personal favourite though as that’s where my ‘island bagging’ curiosity was piqued. I had kayaked around a whole island and was exhilarated by the experience. Calm, turquoise waters on one shore and the raging Atlantic on the other. When I returned home, I pledged to circumnavigate every island in Britain – that’s before I knew there were several thousand of them with very little information on most – but then, I do like a bit of a challenge!
(2) Are there any locations which surprised you?
Anglesey with its own set of fascinating tiny satellite islands, a stunning coastline, charming villages and Wales’ greatest concentration of ancient sites. Separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait, it remains a stronghold of Welsh language and culture and lies in the shadow of the mountains of Snowdonia. A land of druids and saints, it holds some of Wales’ finest chambered cairns and passages. There are hidden Holy wells, the most technically perfect castle in Britain and the fascinating ruins of industrial history – including the impressively located ruins of Porth Wen brickworks and the surreal, colourful moonscape of one of the world’s largest copper mines. There are fabulous wild beaches at Newborough Warren, Aberfraw and Dullas – which are perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities – and bird hotspots at Cemlyn Bay amongst many others. A 200 kilometre coastal path around the whole island shares some of the best scenery in Wales, whilst the extensive network of lanes and cycleways make cycling here a joy. There are twenty or so smaller islands to explore too, either by tidal crossing, boat trips or viewing from the coast path. I have spent weeks here exploring and am always ready to go back for more.
(3) What is it about islands that has drawn you to them for so many years?
I guess it’s the sense of discovery. So little has been written up on many of them. I mean, who knew that there were nearly 300 islands in the UK outside of Scotland? I love following the coastline of an OS map and finding an island, then planning a trip there to see what it’s like. Part of the adventure is getting there; the rest is enjoying the simplicity of getting around its perimeter by whatever means. Completing the circle. Exploring the interior. Swimming from the beaches, through the rock arches or enjoying the wildlife. Blue spaces are known to improve our mental wellbeing, so islands make perfect sense to me as they are surrounded by water. I feel at ease with myself and the world when I’m on an island. I also love meeting the many characters on islands. They are carved out of the landscape, nature and culture that surrounds them, are more in tune with the ebb and flow of the tides, and just seems to have a stronger love, understanding and sense of place.
(4) What inspired you to write this guide?
I have met many people on my island travels that have asked me to share my passion so that others can explore the islands too. So I started writing guides and developed my website islandeering.com to help provide the inspiration and information to visit the islands. There is so little information out there and now, more than ever, it’s important to distribute the footfall from the places that are hammered by visitors. I hope it opens a whole new world of possibilities for walkers, runners, swimmers, paddleboarders and wildlife-lovers. The islands have certainly done that for me.
(5) What is your next step now that your book is completed?
Write my next book and inspire more island adventures.
(6) Are there any islands beyond the UK which catch your eye?
Of course! I have all of the islands of the British Overseas Territories in my sights. I would love to explore and write a guide on those one day, but will have to work on my sea-legs to get to some of them!
(7) Any advice for anyone wanting to start out on their own island bagging journey?
I guess it’s all about your interests and where you want to travel in England and Wales. In the book, I try and help a bit with a section in the back that shares my top ten islands for a whole variety of things like beaches, tidal crossings, star gazing, walking, paddleboarding, cycling, swimming, boat trips, pubs, history, families and more. The main section of the book is structured around geographic locations so if you are in Cornwall, for example, you can check out the islands there, the best things to do on them and how to access them. I hope that inspires some starting points (if not, just drop me a line and let me help!)
(8) And finally, is there any moment from your island bagging journey that sticks out in your memory?
Gosh there are loads. As the Chair of Whale and Dolphin Conservation though, I guess for me the highlight will always be seeing these magnificent creatures off our shores and the islands are the best places to spot them. There were the dolphins that surfed alongside The Scillonian to the Isles of Scilly; Rhisso’s dolphins and basking sharks off the Isle of Man; or sitting atop Ynys Lochtyn in Cardigan Bay and spotting the largest pod of bottlenose dolphins in Europe right beneath my feet. Pure magic.
England & Wales Island Bagging is available now with 20% off and free UK postage.