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Kevin Liddiard, from South Australia, discovered the unique history of the Channel Islands on a self guided walk with Sherpa Expeditions. He wrote an account of his trip for Trailwalker Magazine, and shared his story with us.
I’m of the age where I don't wish to walk in high temperatures, with steep climbs, large backpacks, bugs, sweat and general discomfort. To this end, I walked a year ago in Normandy, ending at the site of the WWII D-Day landings. Motivated by this memorable experience, I decided to walk the nearby Channel Islands Coastal Way, again solo, with Sherpa Expeditions' self-guided walking holidays.
In April I took the new Qantas direct flight from Perth to London, then on to St Peters Port, Guernsey. What a delightful town. The Channel Islands, in the English Channel, have a unique history, going back to the Duchy of Normandy, when William the Conqueror bequeathed the islands to the English crown. Today the islands exist as a collection of 'states' under the allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, but independent in many ways, under a political set-up called a Bailiwick.
St Peter's Port, the capital of Guernsey
The first three days of the walk covered the Guernsey coast. A main attraction was the many Loophole Towers, erected as a defence from the French during the American Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. I opted out early on the third day of a 29km walk and took the bus around the island, costing only one pound, and visited the magnificent Castle Cornet. Here you can meet young volunteers dressed in the military uniforms of WWII and witness the noon cannon firing. The castle has its own long history, but for me the highlight of the visit was a live rendition by a talented three-women ensemble, singing In the Mood, There’ll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover and other tearjerkers.
A loophole tower on the Guernsey coast
Next day I took the 25-minute ferry trip to the island of Herm - an easy walk and with a stop at the Mermaid Tavern, a good pub for lunch and a place to wait for the return ferry.
The following day, I took the ferry to Sark. What a delight. There are no cars - travel is on earth roads via foot, tractor, cycle or horse (with or without cart). The main attraction is the narrow passage between Sark and Little Sark, the famous La Coupée. On Sark is another Mermaid pub, an excellent restaurant, and great accommodation.
La Coupee, stretching from Sark to Little Sark
The next day I took the ferry back to Guernsey and a flight to Alderney. While I loved Sark, here was the most memorable of my walks. The island was evacuated in WWII including, I was told, the cattle. The German occupiers built massive fortifications, adding to the British forts of the 1800s. Alderney is the most remote, and wildest, of the Channel Islands and is also well known for its birdlife, notably one of the largest gannet colonies easily observed from the nearby cliffs. I was also lucky to see the quaint puffins.
A German fortification on Sark
I shed a tear when I walked past three posts at the entrance to what was Lager Sylt, a Nazi concentration camp, a dark history that the islanders would rather forget. Suffice to say, the Alderney people were welcoming, helpful and served a good beer at the excellent Georgian House Hotel to celebrate the completion of my walk.
The plaque at the entrance to Lager Sylt
Guernsey Islands: Channel Islands Way is an 8-day, self guided walking tour, with departures from 1 April to 25 October 2019. The trip to Alderney that Kevin took at the end of his holiday is an optional, 2-night extension that carries an additional supplement.
Great Britain, the large island in the North Sea, is surrounded by plenty of smaller isles and islets, which offer unique opportunities to go for a walking or cycling holiday.
Just the fact that you are on an island gives an instant and sheer holiday feeling. On top of that, there is the special journey to reach the island; which often includes a short ferry or boat ride to increase the sensation even more. Island life is usually slow-paced and local people seem more relaxed, hospitable and are often in for a chat. Add to that a constant sea breeze, fresh seafood and stunning ocean vistas and you’ve got yourself the perfect great British island holiday.
Below, we list five of so called British isles that you can choose to discover on several of our cycling and walking holidays.
#1 Isle of Wight
Queen Victoria, despite ruling a quarter of the Earth and being Empress of India, elected to spend her holidays on the Isle of Wight. Here she had a little holiday cottage build called Osborne House - her little pied-à-terre. She painted and sketched the island’s nature, rode horses and went for long walks and swimming.
The island is relatively quick and easily reached from London on a 2-hour train ride plus a ferry or hovercraft trip.
>> Discover the Isle of Wight on foot with the Isle of Wight Coastal Walking holiday
>> Discover the Isle of Wight by bicycle with the Isle of Wight Cycle holiday
Jersey is the biggest island of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey & Jersey who have a separate economic and political life from Great Britain. The island has an ancient history: it was until several thousand years ago attached to mainland France with many Palaeolithic dolmans or burials from that period. It was known about in Roman times and later came under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions. All in all, lots of historical and natural interest for the walker or cyclist.
>> Discover Jersey on foot with the Jersey: the Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Jersey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#3 Isle of Man
According to legend, this British island was once ruled by Manannán who would draw his misty cloak around the island to protect it from invaders. One of the principal folk theories about the origin of the name Mann is that it is named after Manannán. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavi, it is uncertain though whether they conquered the island or not. However, the Manx Gaelic for the island is Ellan Vannin, which just means island of Man.
Learn about Manx history and myths in the Manx Museum in Douglas, your port of arrival.
>> Discover the Isle of Man on foot with the Isle of Man Coastal Path holiday
Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, Guernsey has been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, Guernsey, similarly to Jersey and other islands, is now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union.
Another island that is part of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey. Each of the small islands have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit them all.
>> Discover Guernsey on foot with the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way holiday
>> Discover Guernsey by bicycle with the Channel Islands Cycle holiday
#5 Holy Island
A causeway leads across the sands to Lindisfarne on Holy Island, just off the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Northumberland Coast. Correct timing is essential here as the causeway gets covered by water for almost two quarters of each day. With Sherpa Expeditions you can overnight at this tiny British island, allowing you plenty of time to roam around.
When you have made it to Holy Island, the 16th Century Lindisfarne fortress and the priory ruins are a must-visit. The castle has even featured in films such as Macbeth and Cul-de-Sac, both by Roman Polanski.
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert’s Way holiday in 8 days
>> Discover Holy Island on foot during the St Cuthbert's Way holiday in 10 days
Curious to learn more about some of these British isles? Or if you would like to make an enquiry to discover one of the above-mentioned islands on a cycling or walking holiday, please contact the team at our London office.
Guernsey is a unique place with a stunning coastline. Not legally a part of the UK and in close proximity to Normandy in France, the Channel Island is a mix of both countries and this will show when you leisurely discover the island on foot. Our team member Nathalie visited Guernsey just a couple of weeks ago for a check on the services we deliver and came back with a camera full of stunning images.
Of course, we wanted to share these with you as soon as possible and have therefore compiled this elaborate photo album to give you a bit of an idea what walking in this part of the British Isles, south from England, can also be like.
From a two-celled prison and German WWII bunkers to cosy pubs and the most spectacular trails, scroll down to view some splendid shots.
Stunning Scenery of Guernsey
>> Show me the Guernsey walking holidays
Historical Interest in Guernsey
Where to Eat along the Channel Island Way
>> Discover Guernsey on foot
The Channel Island Way of Life
>> Find out how you can organise your Guernsey walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions
The long-awaited film adaption of the international bestselling novel ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ will premiere in UK cinemas next week, on the 20th April 2018. To celebrate the occasion, we are giving away free copies of the book by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer.
Book on the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way or Jersey: The Channel Island Way walking holiday and receive the novel that the film is based on*
Book before 31 May 2018 on the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way or Jersey: The Channel Island Way walking holidays and travel before 25 October 2018 and we will send you the novel together with your Final Documentation.
Directed by BAFTA-award winning Mike Newell and starring Lily James and Michiel Huisman, the film shines a light on Guernsey’s occupation during World War II. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles that were under German control during the war and evidence of their stay is still widely visible today.
Sherpa Expeditions Manager Tali Emdin explains:
“The Guernsey Occupation, between June 1940 and May 1945, shaped the islands into what they are today. It left a lasting legacy and, to this day, the coastline still bears testament to this time, dotted with well-preserved fortifications built by German soldiers.
History aficionados will find that the island’s heritage, including those five tempestuous years, is depicted in stunning detail through a whole host of museums, which aim to recreate those dark days with gripping exhibits.
The German Military Underground Hospital, the largest construction in the Channel Islands, was built by slave workers during the occupation; the German Occupation Museum features a recreation of an occupation-era street; while La Villette Underground Military Museum is set in a series of tunnels used for U-Boat fuel storage during the occupation”.
If ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ inspires you to discover the unique history of the Channel Islands, activity holiday specialist Sherpa Expeditions can take you there.
>> View all details about Guernsey Islands – The Channel Island Way
>> View all details about Jersey: The Channel Island Way
*Terms & Conditions:
- Book on the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way or Jersey: The Channel Island Way walking holidays departing on or before 25 October 2019 and receive a free copy of the international bestselling novel ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Schaffer.
- Bookings must be received before 31 May 2018.
- Only valid for departures on the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way and Jersey: The Channel Island Way trips on or before 25 October 2018.
- The book will be included in your pre-departure information.
- Only valid for bookings made with Sherpa Expeditions directly, not valid for bookings made through third parties.
- Only valid for these specific trips operated by Sherpa Expeditions.
- Offer applies only once per booking, eg. you will receive one (1) copy of the novel per booking.
- Trips and book are subject to availability.
- Booking Terms & Conditions apply.
- Quote code POTATO at the time of booking.