Minor British Institutions: Lundy Island

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The Independent Online

It may surprise you to learn that an Islamic flag once flew over this tiny fragment of the British Isles. Lundy Island's compactness has made it an attractive target for all sorts over the centuries, and 300 years ago it was Barbary pirates who seized possession of this 445 hectare eddy in the Bristol Channel.

After the pirates left, it was owned by a succession of wealthy families before finally winding up with the National Trust. Some 18 people live on it now.

Long a quasi-independent fiefdom, Lundy never made it as a proper quasi-independent tax haven like the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. This has left it distinctly underdeveloped, its main charm for the 20,000 who visit every year.

Famous for its puffins, non-native rats have eliminated all but a few pairs. Similarly, an epidemic of rhododendrons has pushed the Lundy cabbage off its patch. Get there via MS Oldenburg, which sails from Bideford and Ilfracombe, weather permitting: £56 return.