Martin Clunes: Islands of Britain

martin_clunes_islands of britain

Martin Clunes embarks on the last stage of his epic journey to search for island paradise in a new ITV1 series, Martin Clunes: Islands of Britain

Martin leaves the cold and windswept islands of the north for the sunny southern havens for the final part of his journey.

The islands along Britain’s southern coast have a warmer climate and more sunshine hours than any other part of the British Isles. They provide an escape from the stresses of mainland, whether it is the tax havens of the Channel Islands, the tranquil retreat of Sark, where the only form of transport is horse and cart, or possibly the most exotic location in the country – the Isles of Scilly.

On Guernsey Martin discovers that the affluent island is often the target of criminal gangs intent on drug running or laundering money. The severe sentencing policy on Guernsey has meant the price of drugs is very high.

The next leg of the exploration takes Martin to the unique island of Sark, which until recently was Europe’s last remaining feudal state with laws dating back 500 years.

Sark has no airport, no cars. In fact the only motorised transport allowed is a tractor, and then only if it essential for your work. Travel is by bike or horse and cart.

Martin meets Rossford De Carteret to learn how to drive a horse and cart, and passes the test with flying colours.

He meets the Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, who discusses how the democratic reforms which took place in December 2008 will affect the island. A lot of the changes on Sark have been encouraged by the Barclay brothers, owners of The Ritz Hotel, and The Telegraph newspapers, who bought the nearby island of Brechou and built a castle on it.

Law and order on the peaceful island is maintained by just two volunteer police officers. There’s a two-cell prison which has been used just once in recent years.

Martin continues to St Michael’s Mount, four hundred yards off the Cornish mainland. Originally home to Catholic monks from the 14th century, has been owned by the St Aubyn family for 350 years.

The island is suffering from climate change, with waters slowly rising, necessitating more defences for cottages which have already been buffeted by gales coming in from the Bay of Biscay. Recent scientific studies in Newlyn show that St Michael’s Mount could experience real problems in 20 years time.

Martin’s penultimate port of call is to one of his favourite islands, and one of the most exotic places in Britain – the Scilly Isles, which is made up of an archipelago of six inhabited islands.

Renowned for its tropical gardens and exotic flowers grown for export, the Scilly Isles is also home to spectacular marine wildlife. Martin swims with the seals off the island of St Martin’s.

Martin ends his island adventure with a scary visit to Bishop’s Rock, the final outpost of the British Isles, and listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest island in the world with a building on it – a lighthouse. The only way to land is by helicopter on the heli pad on top of the lighthouse, which is 160 feet above sea level. While the view is spectacular, Martin’s fear of heights makes it an unnerving experience.

Sunday, 17 May 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM ITV1