Escape to an Island Lost in Time

Off the coast of England is a wild place of your childhood dreams

Escape to an Island Lost in Time

Off the coast of England is a wild place of your childhood dreams

Jenny’s Cove is on the west coast of Lundy and is a favorite haunt for puffins.

Escape to an Island Lost in Time



The Cloud Appreciation Society recently traveled to Lundy, an island that seems untouched by the 21st century. Almost no cars, no electrical grid, but lots of old buildings, rugged scenery and roaming animals – even wild ponies.

Filed: July 25, 2019, 12 p.m. GMT

Director General of the Ordnance Survey, UK, 1968

Lundy Island, 11 miles off the coast of southwest England, is a Land That Time (or at least the 21st century) Forgot. There are no paved roads, the electricity comes from a generator, and cellular signal is often a mirage. It’s a place for simple pleasures, like walking along rugged cliffs that once sheltered pirates, getting acquainted with lambs and wild ponies, and generally feeling like the Famous Five characters in an Enid Blyton novel.

Take a virtual walk around the island – it’s only about three miles long and a little more than half a mile wide – and breathe in the fresh air.

Members of the Cloud Appreciation Society caught the MS Oldenburg to Lundy.

MS Oldenburg

For most people, the only way to arrive on Lundy is aboard the MS Oldenburg, the island’s 61-year-old ferry and supply ship. “The Oldenburg is a graceful motor vessel of over 300 tons, built on traditional lines with interior wood paneling and brass fittings,” says the Landmark Trust, which manages the properties on the island. “On fine days there is plenty of space on deck and if you are lucky you may be treated to the company of a playful pod of dolphins who often delight in following the ship.”

The sun sets behind The Old Light lighthouse during the Cloud Appreciation Society’s gathering in Lundy.

The Old Light

When it was built 200 years ago, the Old Light was the tallest lighthouse in the country, says Michael Williams, the honorary secretary of the Lundy Field Society and a librarian at Cambridge University. Sadly, its height was its downfall: When low fog descended on the island, which was often, the beam was too high to be seen. In 1897, two new lighthouses were built on Lundy and this one was switched off for good.

The Marisco Tavern is charmingly cluttered with seafaring ephemera – and is the only place on the island to get a drink.

Marisco Tavern

The pub, named after one of the previous owners of the island, is the center of life on Lundy. “There is no juke-box, no fruit machine and no television, nothing to distract from the age-old pleasures of human communication,” the Landmark Trust says. “The ban on the use of modern electronic devices such as mobile phones, smartphones and laptop computers is rigorously enforced.”

St Helen’s Church was built by a member of a family that once owned the island: the appropriately named Rev. Hudson Heaven.

St. Helen’s Church

For more than 80 years, the Heaven family owned the island. Perhaps it is appropriate that one of the members of the celestially named family, the Rev. Hudson Heaven, built the sole church on Lundy, St. Helen’s. When the church was consecrated in 1897, the population of the island was around 60 and was often swelled by visiting seamen, according to the St. Helen’s Centre Appeal, which helped raise funds for its recent restoration. The group says: “It is built using granite from the island and other materials brought in from Ilfracombe. Lundy became known as the ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’”

A young pony moves through a buttercup-strewn field during the Cloud Appreciation Society’s gathering on Lundy.

Semi-feral ponies

In 1928, the then-owner of the island introduced a herd of 50 ponies to the island in an attempt to establish a new breed of pony. “This herd mainly consisted of New Forest ponies, a breed which were readily available from the local area, however, Welsh Mountain ponies were also used to give the breed ‘style and height.’ The Lundy pony is now an officially recognised breed, with a herd of approximately twenty ponies being kept on the island,” the Landmark Trust says. “The ponies are a semi-feral herd, meaning that aside from veterinary care and hoof-trimming they receive little attention.”

Patches of Cirrostratus clouds float high in the sky, and Cumulus appear to march over the top of Lundy’s castle.

The Castle

According to the Lundy Field Society’s Michael Williams, the current castle on the island was not the original one built by Henry III in the 13th century. Instead, it was more likely built in the 17th century by Thomas Bushell, who held it for the Royalist cause during the Civil War. It was the last of the Royalist strongholds to fall to the enemy, he said. It fell into disrepair and was restored by the Landmark Trust in the 1970s.

There are about 300 farmed sheep on the island, like this one promenading before the Old Light lighthouse.

Sheep (domestic and otherwise)

The island’s farmed sheep are a mixture of the Texel and Cheviot breeds, which are hardy enough to survive in the harsh Lundy environment. In addition, the island is home to herds of dark-fleeced Soay sheep, a very old breed that was introduced to Lundy in 1942. Today, they roam wild on the island.

You can still buy puffin stamps in the village store on Lundy. Many of the older ones are quite rare and collectible.

Sources: The Landmark Trust, The National Trust, St. Helen’s Centre Appeal.

Lundy Postal Service

Here’s a bit of postal history on the island from the Landmark Trust: “In 1928, the General Post Office concluded its interests on Lundy and closed their sub-post office on the island. Martin Coles Harman – whose family were the last private family to own the island – initially carried the mail free of charge until, to defray increasing costs and increase revenue for the island, he introduced the Lundy stamps.” Many of the stamps are now quite rare and collectible.

Lundy Island

Photos by Phil Noble

Graphics: Maryanne Murray

Photo editing: Simon Newman

Art direction: Troy Dunkley

Edited by Kari Howard