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Home away from home: these beautiful UK territories may surprise you

Did you know that there are 14 official British Overseas Territories? They’re all remnants of the British Empire, and the good news is that many of them are ideal holiday destinations. And guess what? You won’t need a visa to visit…

1. Turks and Caicos Islands fly from £532

Photo credit: Thomas Kelley

Made up of 40 low lying volcanic islands, Turks and Caicos is a wildlife hotspot. In the winter months, you can spot humpback whales from the triangular Salt Cay island as they migrate through the Columbus Passage, a deep channel which is ideal for diving. For the opportunity to swim with sea turtles, head to Grace Bay in the west – a 19 km stretch of white sand and blue water. Just remember to keep your distance and allow the turtles to come up to breathe. Compared to the English Channel, sea temperatures are a toasty 24-30ºC and a much more preferable turquoise blue. Then, when you’ve had enough of the pristine beaches (if that’s even possible), pop by Saltmills Plaza for a little bit of culture complete with art galleries, gift shops and restaurants.

Stay: on the beachfront resort of The Sands at Grace Bay. The Caribbean plantation styled hotel is the definition of a tranquil holiday setting. Prices start from £186.

Fly to Turks and Caicos from £532Find hotels in Providenciales

2. Bermuda fly from £538

Photo credit: mldestefano

Home to the biggest population of all the British Overseas Territories, Bermuda has it all – clear blue seas, idyllic beaches and year-round sunshine. The capital, Hamilton, is a friendly hub with pastel-coloured buildings surrounding the harbour. Nearby Horseshoe Bay has incredible pink sand, thanks to a mixture of crushed coral and calcium carbonate, and turquoise water, while Warwick Long Bay hosts the longest beach on the island.

Located in the hurricane belt, you’ll need to book your trip wisely. The hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the biggest storms arriving in August, September and October. Luckily though, as Bermuda is such a small island country, few hurricanes come close to land.

Stay: Aunt Nea’s Inn is a historic guest house located in the World Heritage Site of Saint George. Owners Faith and Carolyn live on site and are always happy to give guests plenty of local recommendations. Rooms are spacious, having been fully refurbished in 2015, and start from £115 a night.

Fly to Bermuda from £538Find hotels in Bermuda

3. Cayman Islands fly from £505

Photo credit: Marc Babin

Tax haven and offshore bank accounts aside, the Cayman Islands are another slice of British paradise. Seven Mile Beach is the place to go for an underwater adventure: strap your scuba diving gear on and explore USS Kittiwake’s five decks of marine life. Once decommissioned, the shipwreck was donated to the Cayman Islands Tourism Association to add to its already world-class scuba diving site. If you’d rather not dive underwater to see the tropical fish, head over to Stingray City, in the North Sound of Grand Cayman, to see a collection of sandbanks in crystal clear water. The sea level at Stingray Sandbar sits around chest height and you’ll soon be surrounded by an abundance of stingrays to swim with and feed to your heart’s content.

If it’s the pirate life you’re after, the islanders celebrate Pirates Week each November with mock pirate invasions, parades, street dancers and fireworks – eye patches and tricorne hats encouraged.

Stay: Comfort Suites is all about location, with only a two-minute walk to Seven Mile Beach and the surrounding restaurants and shops. Each room comes with a small kitchenette and free breakfast. Suites start from £106.

Fly to the Cayman Islands from £505

Find hotels in the Cayman Islands

4. Gibraltar fly from £63

Photo credit: Smoczyslaw

For a British territory slightly closer to home, Gibraltar still benefits from a warmer climate. Dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, the country’s terrain is a haven for wildlife watchers. From September to November, striped, bottlenose and short-beaked common dolphins can be spotted in the waters. The famous giant limestone rock hosts some incredible views over Europe and Africa too. Take the six-minute ride on the cable car to the station atop the Rock and you’ll be greeted with free-roaming monkeys, a nature reserve and views for days. For the daredevils among you, take it one step further and try the newly opened Skywalk – a glass platform 340 metres above sea level projected out over the edge of the cliff.

Stay: centrally located and with views of the iconic Rock, the O’Callaghan Eliott Hotel is minutes away from the shopping and business districts. There’s even a rooftop pool and sun terrace if you need to top up your tan. Rooms start from £158.

Fly to Gibraltar from £63Find hotels in Gibraltar

5. Montserratfly to Antigua from £377

Photo credit: Michael Utech

Nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, Montserrat is a mountainous island known for its lush green landscapes, volcanic black sand beaches and coral reefs. Fly into neighbouring Antigua and take the two-hour ferry to Montserrat. Once on the island, explore the vivid green hues and local history with a trip to the National Museum of Montserrat. There are medicinal, dry and Amerindian botanic gardens to explore plus archaeology sites and a selection of seasonal exhibitions at the museum.

The southern side of the island still has an exclusion zone in place from the 1995 volcanic eruption. The old capital, Plymouth, was left under a pile of volcanic ash and mud – but tours are now running to view the Caribbean’s version of Pompeii.

Stay: SeaView Suite offers spacious rooms in Cudjoehead, towards the northern tip of the island (and away from the volcanic exclusion zone). Prices start from £40 a night.

Fly to Antigua from £377

Find hotels in Montserrat

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All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 29 April 2019.

Visa information correct as of 12 July 2019, obtained from www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. Please always check the latest guidance at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before booking a trip.