This walking tour around the islands of Guernsey is the longer half of The Channel Island Way, an unofficial 177 km /110 mile trail around the accessible Channel Islands in The English Channel. Originally part of the Duchy of Normandy, William the Conqueror bequeathed the islands to the English crown where they remained even after the mainland parts of the duchy had been absorbed by the French monarchy. Today they exist as a collection of ‘States’ under the U.K, but independent to it in many ways under a political set up called a ‘Bailiwick.’ The islands all have a separate character and could be likened to some of the nicest parts of Cornwall. There are some fantastic long sandy beaches, beautiful undulating cliff paths leading to tiny coves with sparkling rock pools.The cliffs are a riot of colour in spring and early summer with sea pinks and trefoils. Most headlands have a fort of various sizes, mainly dating back to the 1600s-1860s. Huge fort constructions were also created by the Nazis during their occupation of the islands in World War II and reopening and exploring some of these has been a point of renewed interest by Guernsey Historians. The islands are firmly established on bird migratory routes.
MODERATE – GRADE 3
This is a self guided walk with average daily stages of around 5-6 hours (not including rests or visits to the castles enroute). The trip is graded moderate as the paths are fairly well defined. There are many ups and downs as you would expect in a coastal region, and walking poles are definitely a good idea. A good level of fitness is required and the trip is considered suitable for experienced walkers. Map reading skills are essential and you may need to use a compass at times in order to check the path. As with all of our trips it is important that you are well prepared. We suggest that you undertake regular exercise – swimming, cycling, and jogging, two to three times a week for at least three months prior to your departure.
Fly or ferry to Guernsey, St. Peter Port. The Island’s capital is a bustling, friendly place with a row of attractive harbours and marinas set under a steeply terraced townscape with some remarkably well preserved buildings especially from the 1700 and 1800s. Visit Castle Cornet the 800 year old fortress, the restored Victorian Gardens, the house where Victor Hugo stayed, or just relax along the promenade with its array of pubs and restaurants. At certain high points in the town you can see Herm, Sark, Alderney and the coast of Normandy.
Accommodation: A seaside B&B close to the start of the walk, with good access from town. Ensuite rooms. It is possible to upgrade to hotels close by.
Starting from the ‘Liberation Memorial’ marking the end of the German occupation, head south out of town along the coast road passing some tidal bathing pools before the way follows a climbing path through the artillery positions of Victorian Fort George. More gently you wind through what in late April – May are beautiful bluebell woods, dropping down to attractive Fermain Bay where you could have a swim or refreshments at the café. The Path becomes rougher, undulating around headlands, including St. Martins, Jerbourg and Icart Points and a gorgeous series of bays. There are views across to several sea stacks called the ‘Pea Stacks’ and you occasionally pass Nazi strong-points. Just when you are ready for an afternoon tea you reach Moulin Huet Bay with its tea room. In the coves below, Renoir did a series of paintings. The undulations finally take you down to ‘Petit Bot Bay’ a pretty shingle beach. The coastal walk finishes here, but the accommodation is another 25 minutes walk inland in the parish of St. Martin.
Accommodation: We use a popular country pub with good standard ensuite rooms. The pub has a great menu and sometimes folk music. Just down the road, there is the possibility of an upgrade to another pub hotel.
Continue along the undulating path which involves numerous steps in places. Passing the pretty National Trust land and seascapes near to ‘Le Gouffre’ and then along a particularly wild and rocky coastline dotted with occasional watch towers. Heading westerly, some huge fortifications come into view - reinforced concrete direction finding towers used by the Nazis to direct their artillery at allied shipping. You will come across a restored trench system with a 22 cm artillery piece in its pit. There are views inland to Torteval Church which was used as a ‘Seamark’ so that pre radar, sailors could locate themselves and then out to sea there is Hanois lighthouse which protects shipping from the dangerous reefs. Leaving the cliffs walking into Portelet Harbour, you can enjoy your first extensive sweeps of sand and possible swimming around the bay. It may be worth visiting the interesting ‘Cup and Saucer’ fortress of Fort Grey which is now a shipwreck museum. From here it is another long sandy beach up to L’Eree headland passing Lihou Island and another trench and tower system to reach your accommodation near Perelle Bay. Note that due to limited accommodation it may be necessary to bus or walk on 6 km (1.5 hours) to the hotel at Cobo Bay thus reducing tomorrow’s walk.
Accommodation: We use a beautiful former farm with parts dating back to the 1300s in quiet Les Rouvets near Perelle Bay. This is a beautiful home with attractive gardens. Rooms are available in the old building or in the annexe on site. Ensuite or private separate bathroom. Otherwise you will stay at the well regarded hotel in Cobo Bay. The hotel has a beautiful location with possible sunset views and a great bar restaurant that spills outside onto a terrace warm days - Ensuite rooms (supplement applicable).
This is a different day to the first two, it is a long walk, but unlike the others it is relatively flat allowing you to cover distance faster as you circumnavigate the bays and promontories to ultimately complete your walk around Guernsey. The route leaves Perelle and enters Vazon Bay, a beautiful sandy beach that you could follow for a couple of kms if the tide is out. The bay is popular with surfers. You then come to huge Fort Hommet, an interesting site with a huge Nazis searchlight and battery station built within a Victorian Fort and pre Victorian Martello tower. There is another long stretch of sandy beach at Cobo Bay before passing some smaller bays and walking around the Rousse Headland into Le Grande Havre. Until the early 1800s, this marked the point of a separate island now filled in so that you can continue your walk with dry feet. The route heads round Chouet headland passing gorgeous ‘Baie de la Jaonneuse’ and then extensive ‘Pembroke Bay’ with its antitank wall. Passing more forts of differing eras, the path becomes more remote before heading south again, reaching the café at picturesque Bordeaux Harbour before the last few kms into St. Peter Port.
If you wish to shorten the distance with use of your map, you can bypass some of the peninsular forts saving approximately 5 km. If you prefer, you could end the walk on the coastal road and take an hourly bus into St. Peter Port.
Accommodation: Return to your first nights accommodation and spending two nights in a seaside B&B, with good access from town. Ensuite rooms. It is possible to upgrade to hotels close by.
Herm is a gem of an island, no big forts, just an isle with a short cliff top walk followed by long sections on sandy bays and grassy commons, passing a couple of beach cafés. It is a 25 minute hop across on the ferry and the walk is short giving you enough time for a swim, or an extended lunch at the popular ‘Mermaid Tavern’. You may see puffins at ‘Puffin Bay’ and sometimes seals hang out on the northern beaches. You can also walk up the spinal road and take the woodland walk to the buildings around the St.Tugual’s chapel. Afternoon ferry back to Guernsey. You may choose to stay at the 'White House Hotel' in Herm, in this case you will need to take your own luggage onto the ferry and request with Sherpa Expeditions.
Pack your things in the morning to take on the ferry to Sark. This is a larger boat than for Herm and you can book the crossings online. The ferry takes 45-50 minutes.
Sark is in its own time-warp. It is a very special island, there are no cars, only tractors and horse carts and no street lighting. Due to this and its island position, the International Dark-Sky Association designated Sark as Europe's first Dark Sky Community and the first Dark Sky Island in the world (2011).This recognises that Sark is sufficiently clear of light pollution to allow naked-eye astronomy. It also means that you should bring a good torch! Sark has a quasi-feudal system of government under a Seigneur although they have recently tried to make it more democratic.This harks back to the late mediaeval period when a number of original families were ‘planted ‘on the island. Some of their houses still remain. Due to the nature of the island, geography and history of landownership, there is no continuous path right the way around it. Here the Channel Island Way does a kind of figure of eight. The walk takes you across a chasm via ‘La Coupee’ a dramatic walk way to Little Sark that will one day be breached by the sea. On little Sark drop down to the site of the silver mines at Port Gorey, enjoy a cream tea at ‘La Sablonnerie’ then walk round the wild coast up at the northern end of the island. You may have enough time to visit the gardens of ‘La Seigneurie’ before finding your overnight accommodation.
Sark seems bigger than it is and we really recommend that you have a second night here, just to see more and to get a feel for the island.
Accommodation: We use B&B / Guest houses. Typically a small working farm near the centre of the island in a very quiet location. Not all rooms are ensuite. You could upgrade to the luxurious ‘Stocks Hotel.’
In the morning take the ferry back from Sark to Guernsey, you can opt to end the tour here or continue to Alderney. Make your own way to the airport.
2 NIGHT ALDERNEY EXTENSION: Supplement applies
DAY 7: We recommend a mid-afternoon flight to Alderney in the ‘Trislander’ aircraft. These have very big windows and you will get great views of the islands on this 15 minute flight. Catch a taxi to your accommodation in St. Anne for two nights. Settle in and look around the town or perhaps walk down to the harbour at Braye for a seafood dinner.
Alderney, home of purple post boxes and blonde hedgehogs, is the most remote and perhaps wildest of the accessible islands on the 'Way'. It has some of the best wildlife.The coastal path is beautiful with some great cliff walks and a few sandy bays and coves for good measure. There is also the dark history of the island, the damage done to it by the Nazis in World War II, and the legacy of the concentration and labour camps which although small by continental standards, are perhaps not commemorated as well as they could be.
DAY 8: From St.Anne, walk around Alderney; 22km / 13.65 miles, 5.5 hours
The walk takes you out to some dramatic locations before a descent and steep ascent to a point where you overlook ‘Les Etacs’ and the vast Gannet colony. Continue passing German artillery positions to bypass the causeway to Fort Conque on its island. This is a private site but just round the headland you arrive at Fort Tourgis. Continue past Crabby Bay to the harbour at Braye which has the longest sea wall in the UK. It’s an attractive spot with fishing boats and cafes. A stretch across sandy Braye Bay brings you to Fort Albert, a huge Victorian fort designed to protect what was soon to be an obsolete, uncompleted naval harbour at Braye. Some interesting Nazi trenches and posts down towards the sea if you look for them. The trail bends southerly around the island, passing coves and a lighthouse arriving at Longis Bay, site of a bird watching centre and a mediaeval structure called ‘The Nunnery’ which has a history going back to Roman times. Climb back up the cliffs via Essex Castle to complete the island loop.
DAY 9: Arrangements end after breakfast.
Accommodation: Two nights in St.Anne we use a couple of sister hotels across the cobbled road from each other with pleasant ensuite rooms. One doubles as a local pub.
Excellent addition to the Sherpa portfolio. Enjoyed the coastal scenery, friendliness of everyone we met. Excellent local food. Military hardware from all centuries.
R & F Kempston, Surrey, UK, 18 Sep 2017
Per Person, Twin Share