When is an island not an island? When, for a few hours each day, the low tide reveals a strip of land joining it to the mainland. The UK has just over 40 tidal islands, some large some very small. The best feature unique churches and chapels, often with monastic beginnings and built in these places for peace and tranquillity. They are often beautiful and fascinating places to visit. But, always check the tide times in advance - or be ready to swim back...

Walk in the footsteps of pilgrims

Reached by a stone causeway, used by pilgrims in the Middle Ages, this iconic rocky island just off Cornwall is crowned by a medieval church and castle. Standing strong and serene through the ages, the chapel at the Mount’s summit dates back to the 12th century. 500 year old alabaster carvings of biblical scenes and a 15th century granite Lantern Cross now shelter in the safety of the priory walls.

St Michael, St Michaels Mount

Origins of a Holy Island

This delightful, unspoiled, historic island lies just off the extreme Northeast corner of England near Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. The paved causeway is covered by the North Sea twice a day. The church is reputed to stand on the site of the original monastery founded by Aidan, and parts of the structure date back to the 7th century, several hundred years before the appearance of the Priory.

St Mary the Virgin, Holy Island

Cut off from the world

Cross a dramatic causeway to reach the island of Lindisfarne, on a journey that will stay in your memory forever. Lindisfarne is a tidal island cut off from the mainland twice a day by the rising seas. It is this peaceful isolation that originally appealed to the monks, and still attracts over a million visitors every year.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island

A Roman holiday

History is all around this ancient parish church, with a Roman villa, Benedictine Priory and a watch tower all close by. Mersea Island lies off Essex, and is connected to the mainland by the Strood, a causeway that floods at high tide. It was a holiday destination in Roman Britain for occupants of Camulodunum (Colchester) and is still visited by many people today.

St Peter & St Paul, Mersea Island

A tale of two bridges

Church Island is situated in the Menai Strait and is reached by crossing a small causeway from Belgian Promenade. It is something of an enigma as there is no clear evidence as to its origins. The Welsh name for the island is Ynys Tysilio, meaning the Island of Tysilio. Tysilio was a 6th century Welsh saint and it is widely believed that he established a church on the island, but no evidence has been found.

St Tysilio, Menai Bridge

The church in the sea

The most recognizable church on Anglesey, St Cwyfan's, is popularly known as the Church in the Sea (or eglwys bach y mor in Welsh). Perched on a tiny island called Cribinau and encircled by a sea wall, this simple medieval church dates to the 12th century. It is thought to be dedicated to the Irish St Kevin, who founded the monastery across the sea at Glendalough, Ireland.

St Cwyfan, Llangwyfan

Welsh island of love

Dig your bare toes into the soft sand beyond the Llanddwyn Beach car park and glance to your right. There, in the near distance, is the Welsh Island of Love. Llanddwyn Island, just off Anglesey, is named after St Dwynwen, who retreated to the island in the early 5th century after an unhappy love affair. She became known as the patron saint of lovers and pilgrimages were made to her holy well on the island.

St Dwynwen, Llanddwyn Island

Pictish, Norse and medieval

Reach this very special tidal island by causeway to explore Pictish, Norse and medieval remains. Brooches, rings and dress pins found on the Brough of Birsay, Orkney, suggest that it was a Pictish power centre. The best place to start an exploration of the site is in the remains of the church, which dates from about 1100 and was dedicated to St Peter.

St Peter, Brough of Birsay

A wonderfully preserved priory

It is believed that Oronsay, in the Inner Hebrides, has its name from St Oran, the founder of the original Oronsay Priory in 563, but it could also come from the Old Norse ‘island of the ebb tide’. The walk to Oronsay Priory from the south end of the The Strand is beautiful and offers stunning views towards the Isles of Jura and Islay as well as to the low lying skerries to the southwest.

Oronsay Priory, Oronsay

Onward Christian soldiers

From seawards, the gaunt square tower of St Edmunds stands stark above the East Mersea skyline, a dominant and trusty seafarers' landmark. The best way to visit this lovely Essex church is to cycle from the Strood causeway with each rise bringing a little more of the tower into view.

St Edmund King & Martyr, Mersea Island

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