John Donne may have got it right on the island philosophy. But with tech’s incessant clang and clatter, being an island entire of oneself is an increasingly appealing proposition. Screens lose their appeal with empty beaches to roam, glassy lagoons to wallow in and breakfasts to draw out with friends under the dappled morning light. If fully switching off now requires more extreme measures, renting a full island or island villa with a private beach is the way to go. No relentless dinner planning in town, no bucket lists from friends to tick off, just that thrilling realisation that you’re cast adrift and relaxed enough to clock the sloshing evening water on the rocks, the lizard that darts between the shade of stones, or the rustle of olive trees as a warm breeze lifts. We’ve scoured the most beguiling of isles and islets for villas and hideaways where R&R is obligatory.
A wooded island in Brittany
You don’t have to head to the Mediterranean for island bliss. In fact, the islands dotting the North and East coast of France have a fairytale quality to them: greener, softer, more Brothers’ Grimm than Slim Aarons. As part of the Bréhat archipelago, this 40-acre island sits at the mouth of the Trieux in Brittany’s Côtes d’Amor, with all its rhythms dictated by the tides, the soft pink light and the wind. Indeed, the seawall built during World War II vanishes in high tides, cutting the island off from the mainland. Views over the village of Loguivy, the Talbert Furrow and the surrounding greenery can be marvelled at from the six double bedrooms, while overexcited children bounce between beds in the attic dorm. Days here are spent hunting for shells along the beach, wandering through the woods and snoozing on the lawns after cheese-and-charcuterie lunches.
£1,391 per night, book here
A nostalgic villa on Panarea
Of all Sicily’s deliciously drowsy Aeolian islands, Panarea is the smartest. Not in a chichi St Tropez sense, but loyal (and discerning) yachty tribes who return year-after-year have spruced up its rough edges while keeping things low key and lovely. Tenuta Frantoio is the perfect expression of this dynamic – seemingly homespun and woven into the island’s rock and rough edges, yet inside, a deftly choreographed picture of good taste. Interiors nod to Sicily’s golden age, albeit whatever wrought iron beds, Moorish tiles and hefty mahogany dressers they could fling on a boat bound for this volcanic recluse. Each room is imbued with this sense of nostalgia and the house inhales a Tyrannian breeze as readily as the veranda slices the fierce Sicilian light through its cane roof. Afternoons can be lose somewhere in the seafronted gardens, alongside the panoramic plunge pool or beyond the garden gate where a path leads to the blonde beach of Cala Zimmari.
From £5,770 per week, book here
A stylish beach house in Paxos
The wooden steps snaking down from Paxos Beach House’s little garden gate to its secluded cove can only have sprung from the mind of a novelist. As guests crunch down the path, the Mediterranean light flickering the salty air luring them further on, kayaks resting against the rocks soon come into sight – itching for a jaunt out into the blue. The creamy-hued villa is ensconced in pine wood and herb-filled gardens, with an immense sense of privacy and twinkling views of the Ionian Sea from its hillside perch. When not finessing serves on the floodlit tennis courts or plunging into the infinity pool, guests can hop on the motorboat with a skipper to explore the coast of Paxos and nearby Antipaxos under their own steam. The price may be a little spicy, but when shared between several people or families, and with bespoke breakfasts, lunches and suppers prepared every day (saving on precious sunbathing time), it’s surely worth every penny.
From £20,000 per week, book here
A lighthouse villa on its own Adriatic island
Sleeping up to 8, Villa Lighthouse Ligero sits on its own sun-drenched, rocky island, with easy access to the main island of Vis. Turquoise water ring-fences the island, there’s a hot tub to stew in as the stars show off in an unpolluted sky, and the pure, unfiltered light here douses everything in gold. Despite its cast-adrift appeal, the island is crisscrossed by little paths for walking off lunches and a speedboat with a skipper can easily be organised to explore the surrounding islands and Adriatic coastline. Inside, interiors reflect the surrounding rocky landscape and blues, with soaring ceilings and an open fire for cooler nights. Guests can nod off to the sound of waves flopping over the island’s smooth, rocky edges as a salty breeze spilling in through the shutters, which by morning, open to a sequined Mediterranean or Vis’ green hills.
Sleeps: 8 + 2
From £884 per night, book here
A lonely farmhouse in the Venetian lagoon
Unbeknownst to many, Venice’s archipelago hosts some glorious beaches and truly solitary islands – worlds away from the swarms of tourists pounding the stone slabs of St Mark’s Square. These flat masses of land scatter a lagoon teeming with wildlife, where the sun casts its pink shadow from early evening onwards, and cobalt blue boats occasionally break the peace, casting twinkling ripples into the reeds. Valle Falconera is one of them – a private island close to Cavallino-Treporti, whose traditional farmhouse is brimming with rustic character and surrounded by pretty gardens and woodland. A warm wood-panelled interior reminiscent of a chalet sleeps up to 16, and a long farmhouse table encourages those wine-fuelled dinners that drag on into the early hours. Look out for the pink flamingos roaming the lagoon for food.
From £211 per night, book here
A hillside castaway on wild Alicudi
Suspended over the surreal blue of the Tyrrhenian, this Aeolian Villa lies several sun-and-salt bleached steps above Alicudi’s pocket-sized port. Reflecting the island’s elusive, wild character, Casanelblu is an unpretentious, rustic refuse where lunches are eaten under the shade of a cannizzo and all rooms overlook a long terrace, like theatre seats for the vast mass of blue and Alicudi’s volcanic neighbours in the distance. An al fresco shower comes with a surreal view of nearby Filicudi, and throughout the day, the house inhales the warm sea air and fills all four bedrooms with sharp, flickering light. Drifting some 17 miles west from any semblance of a shop, wheels or cortisol, this sleepy isle’s unsullied charm is well worth exploring, via wild-heather and canary-yellow cactus on hikes – rewarded with volcanic beaches lapped by translucent warm water.
From £113 per night, book here
A pocket of Cycladic solitude in Paros
For a slice of Cycladic bliss, Villa Cyan on sun-bleached edges of Paros sleeps 6 and gazes over a white scatter of cubic houses – that, in the haze of summer, blend into rock, sea and sky. Lined by Instagrammable striped loungers and bamboo parasols, a pool winks seductively in the afternoon sun, luring guests from their-white-on-white, elemental-themed rooms onto the terrace. The walled nature of the villa keeps things cast-away and Aegean-focused, despite its position on a hill above Naoussa village, with its string of restaurants and cafes. Kolimpithres beach (and its staggering rock formations) is only a few minutes away and nearby Paros Park is a gorse, juniper and wild olive tree playground for hikers.
From £2000 per week, book here
A few steps to a secluded Corsican beach
Positioned along Corsica’s drowsy south coast, a mere sandal shuffle from a quiet, unspoilt bay, A Renta is all about its location. For a week or two, a balmy, crystal-clear corner of the Mediterranean is your back garden – and where most days are spent, when not lured back by wafts from whoever’s manning the barbecue. The villa has its own stand up paddle boards for early evening pootles, as the water shifts to a sultry glitter and the cicada chorus begins to lift. Guests can organise boat trips through The Thinking Traveller, explore Corsican viticulture, dating back to the Pheonicians, at local vineyards or embark on scenic hikes along the island’s lesser known edges. Or, they can stay put, gazing over lazy breakfasts, corse trees and gorse to a calming bay – one capable of subsuming any city-fuelled cortisol in a matter of days.
From £3,240 per week, book here