There are hundreds of island destinations dotted throughout Europe's waters, so Ed Leahy suggests a few different options that might be worth visiting this summer.
Island destinations remain very popular amongst Irish holidaymakers, with the main resorts being the Canary or Balearic Islands in Spain, or the main islands of Greece, including Corfu, Crete and Rhodes. However, there are hundreds of island destinations dotted throughout Europe's waters, so here are a few different options that might be worth visiting this summer.
Part of the archipelago that is Malta, Gozo is a lot less travelled than the main island. Often referred to as "the land where time stood still", Gozo is excellent walking country, especially between October and May when the temperature is usually around 18C. One of the best walks is along Dingli Cliffs, where you can watch the sun set from the highest point in Malta, 220m above sea level. Places to visit on the island include the Azure Window, the Inland Sea and the Ggantija temples, while there also a number of excellent dive spots located around the Gozo coast, none more so than the Blue Hole, which is considered to be one of the best dives in Europe. The Ramla il-Hamra beach with its red sands is also deemed one of the best in the country.
Surrounded by the brilliant blue Adriatic Sea, the island of Hvar is one of Croatia's top tourist destinations. Located 30 kilometres off the coast from the city of Split, Hvar is one of the sunniest spots in Croatia and also one of the greenest. Pretty beaches are dotted around the coast of Hvar, while the town with the same name is rich in culture and history. A ramble through Hvar town will take you past the ancient walls into the Starigrad (the Old Town) and through the amazing main square in front of the cathedral. The old village of Starigrad and Jelsa are well worth a visit, while a short boat trip will take you to the nearby Pakleni Islands. The climate allows vegetation to flourish and the sprawling lavender fields add a fantastic aroma throughout.
Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Ireland
Located out beyond Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are a mainstay of Ireland's traditional language, culture and music, and also have a unique geological and archaeological significance. Inis Mór (Inishmore) is the largest and most developed of the Islands with excellent facilities and a lively nightlife. You can walk, cycle or ride the laneways of the island to discover Inis Mór's most celebrated monument, Dún Aonghusa, a semi-circular stone fort that sits dramatically on top of a 100-metre drop into the sea. Circular forts, early Christian remains, 12th Century high crosses and medieval churches are all to be found around the island, while nightly music sessions, dances and currach racing are part of everyday life.
ISLE OF SKYE, Scotland
This misty gem in the Hebrides sits just off the coast of west Scotland, about 100 kilometres north of Glasgow. The island is an adventure playground for climbers, walkers and cyclists with high peaks and deep sounds throughout. The centre of the island is dominated by the Cuillin mountains, while several peninsulas jut out in every direction. Visit the Quiraing on the Trotternish peninsula for stunning scenery, while Dunvegan Castle is steeped in history and legend and is home to the McLeod clan. Castle Moil, Dunscaith Castle and Duntulm Castle are also places to check out on your visit, while the coast of Dunvegan is home to 'MacLeod's Maidens', which are giant sea stacks off the coast of Maiden's Point, amongst the highest cliffs in Britain. The sea plays a big part in Skye's attraction, as sea fishing is widely available, along with a wide range of other water sports. And wildlife lovers will be spoilt for choice as red deer, seals, otters, golden eagles and rare sea eagles can often be spotted.
Located five kilometres off the Campania coast, Capri is renowned throughout the world for its romance and beauty. The main attraction on the island is the Blue Grotto, which is located at the water's edge and lights up the internal water a fantastic turquoise colour. The Villa Jovis, Villa San Michele and Church of San Michele Arcangelo are some of the main sights to see around the island, while watching the sunrise over the mountains to see the vivid colour changes is another thing to add to your list ahead of your visit.
A constant contender for most romantic location in Europe, Santorini is located around 200 kilometres off the Greek mainland and is famous for its sensational sunsets. This volcanic island is often referred to as the "Gem of the Aegean", with its main attraction being the landscape. The beaches of Santorini are a spectacular sight, boasting white, red or black sand or volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and impressive lunar landscapes. In fact, Santorini is actually a group of islands which are effectively an active volcano with the sea being the crater, but don't let that put you off visiting. Panoramic views of the volcano can be found around the towns of Firá, Oia, Imerovígli and Firostefáni, which are known as the balcony of Santorini. Gastronomy is a big deal throughout the island, while scuba diving and snorkelling are also very popular.
EL HIERRO, Spain
The edge of the world as it was known, El Hierro is the most western of the Canary Islands. You can explore the islands many natural swimming pools or travel inland to the vast area of protected woodland. Paragliding, mountain biking, surfing, caving and hiking are all available, while the coast of El Hierro boasts clear, deep waters, which are ideal for scuba diving and snorkelling. Daily flights are available from Gran Canaria and Tenerife, while there is also a ferry service from Tenerife and La Gomera into Puerto de la Estaca. The island has also been granted UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation.
Located approximately 170 kilometres from Nice, Corsica is often described as a mountain in the sea and as a result is covered in pine forests and mountain lakes with 120 peaks above 2000m. Corsica is also home to the famous GR20 walking trail, which is amongst the toughest and most spectacular walks in Europe. Nature is one of Corsica's biggest attractions, with the Corsican Regional Natural Park stretching over 3500km². The Calanche de Piana and the Réserve Naturelle de Scandola are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, while the Sanguinaires Islands, the Bavella Needles and the small fishing village of Centuri are just some of the many attractions in this very unique and pretty emerald green island.