If you are a regular reader you might remember when I got to Weymouth I wrote up a walk around the Channel Island of Jersey, as ferries used to run from Weymouth to Jersey. If you were particularly paying attention you might remember that I would be writing up my walk around the islands that make up the Bailiwick of Guernsey when I got to Poole, the other ferry terminal.
Unlike Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey is not just one but several islands. These are Guernsey, Alderney, Herm, Sark, Brecqhou and Jethou. The last two of these are private and not accessible to the public, but the other 4 are accessible to the public and that is where I will be going next.
Guernsey and Alderney can be reached from the UK, the former by air and ferry whilst the latter only by air. The other islands you can visit, Herm and Sark can both be reached by ferry from Guernsey.
By walking around the Bailiwick of Guernsey I’m stretching the definition of British Coast somewhat, because there are crown dependencies rather than a part of the UK. This means they have a complex relationship, which I admit I don’t fully understand but they are recognised as “territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible”. Hence I am including them here.
The coast path around the islands forms part of a long distance walk, The Channel Islands Way.
Before I start it is perhaps worth getting a few facts and (hopefully) useful bits of information about Guernsey (and the other islands that are part of the Bailiwick) if you are planning to visit or just curious.
- Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom
- It is outside the EU (it is not an EU Member state). It therefore may not be (I can find conflicting information online) covered by the EU wide health card, so it is advisable to take out travel insurance – there is no National Health Service on the island.
- Condor Ferries operate a passenger and vehicle catamaran (Condor Liberation) from Poole to Guernsey and Jersey (once or twice a day during the summer, a couple of times a week in winter). It serves Guernsey first and takes around 3 hours although it does seem to be very prone to weather or mechanical related cancellations. There is also a freight, car and passenger ferry (Condor Clipper) which sails daily except Sundays from Portsmouth and is very reliable and is rarely cancelled but it is glacially slow, it takes between 7 and 10 hours to reach Guernsey. They do offer cabins however.
- Condor also operate a car and passenger ferry (Condor Rapide) to Jersey and St Malo.
- Manche Iles Express operate two passenger only ferries (Granville and Victor Hugo) from Granville, Carteret and Dielette all on the French coast to Jersey and Guernsey (and sometimes Alderney) as well as some services between Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.
- Guernsey has an airport with flights from many major and minor UK airports. These include London (Gatwick, City and Stansted), Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Exeter. There are also year round flights to Dinard and during the summer there are also flights from Stuttgart and Dusseldorf. Inter-island flights operate to Jersey and Alderney. The main airlines serving Guernsey are Aurigny (the islands flag carrier), Blue Islands (who are soon to become part of Flybe) and Flybe.
- Travel Trident run a ferry between Guernsey and Herm.
- The Sark Shipping Company run a ferry between Guernsey and Sark.
- Aurigny run flights between Guernsey and Alderney. Alderney has no regular ferry service although Bumblebee Boat Cruises run trips between Guernsey and Alderney a couple of times a week in the summer.
- The main language spoken is English, but French is widely spoken and many residents speak both languages.
- Place names are a mixture of French and English names.
- The British pound is the main currency, but Guernsey issues it’s own coins and notes (including a £1 note), which are not legal tender in UK. UK notes and coins are however accepted on Guernsey (as are those from Jersey) and the coins are the same size as the UK, so can easily (if possibly not legally) be used in vending machines, parking meters, etc in the UK. Guernsey bank notes can be changed back to English/Scottish notes at most UK banks (usually free of charge I believe, although your bank might vary).
- The coast path of Guernsey is around 40 miles.
- They drive on the left and signs are generally the same as in the UK, although the roads are often quite narrow. The driving style is a little more French than you may be used to! You are required to display a nationality plate on your vehicle (even if coming from the UK) unless it is registered in Guernsey (the international plate for Guersney is GBG and GBA for Alderney). There is a maximum speed limit of 35mph on Guernsey and Alderney and speed limits are generally 25mph or 35mph. Cars are not permitted on Herm or Sark.
- The major UK hire car companies operate from Guernsey airport and ferry terminal. Car hire is more limited (but possible) in Alderney.
- Guernsey has a comprhensive bus service, centred around St Peter Port. Fares are a flat £1 fee for a single journey (of any length) or there are day, weekly or longer tickets available. There is no bus service on Herm, Sark or Alderney.
- Guersney is within the UK common travel zone, so you do not need a passport to travel to the island from the UK, but your airline or ferry company will likely still require photographic ID of some sort. A passport is required if travelling from France to Guernsey. You might also want to bring a passport to give you the option of a day trip to France.
- Guernsey has it’s own telecoms network, so check with your mobile network for roaming charges. It shares the UK international dialing code (+44).
- Guernsey has it’s own postal system separate from Royal Mail, so you need to buy their stamps if posting anything from Guernsey.
- The island is a low tax economy (but don’t call it a tax haven, you will upset the locals!). There is no VAT and low rates of income tax. In my experience food and drink prices when eating out is comparable or a little more than the UK, but higher value goods are often cheaper due to the lack of VAT.
- As the island is outside the EU, you can buy Duty Free when travelling there from the UK or France.
- Guernsey (along with the other Channel Islands), was invaded and occupied by German forces during World War II. They fortified much of the coast with numerous concrete towers many of which can still be seen today. Alderney was evacuated prior to invasion.
For this trip I had planned 4 days to walk around Guernsey, 1 day to walk around Sark and 2 days (including travel there and back) to walk around Alderney. Although I have written this walk on reaching Poole port, I didn’t actually travel from Poole. Instead I flew from Gatwick airport.
I was camping for this trip as there are campsites on both Guernsey and Alderney. I selected to travel with Aurigny because once I factored in luggage they worked out the cheapest. Indeed as it turns out I needed to take two checked bags (my tent and a holdall) and hand luggage and Aurigny helpfully do not charge per bag but rather based on a total weight of luggage, which worked out very useful.
I took the train to Gatwick Airport via Clapham Junction and soon located the Aurigny checkin desk. I was a bit surprised to be told my tent bag was large and I would have to take it to the “outsize luggage desk” once they had tagged it. I handed it to a bored looking man and wondered if I would ever see it again!
Once checked in and through security I bought some food for lunch, as my flight was at 11:50. In the end we were boarded a bit late because they had to wait for a thunderstorm to clear the south coast. It was a turboprop propeller plane, which felt a little out of place amongst the larger planes at Gatwick and we had to get on via steps rather than a bridge, not ideal because it was still pouring with rain at the time and the steps do not offer any shelter.
It is a short flight and the weather had improved by the time we reached Guernsey. Once into the small terminal I was pleased to see my tent and bag both arrived safely at the baggage reclaim so at least I had somewhere to sleep!
I was staying at the Fauxquets Valley Campsite which is not that far from the airport. I picked up the free (and surprisingly good) map from the terminal and found it on there and decided that rather than faff about trying to work out which bus to catch or find a taxi I would walk, it was not far. I soon regretted that decision as with all my bags it was quite hard work! I was glad to turn off the main road with it’s narrow pavements onto what I thought was the right road to the campsite. It was, but the campsite was further down it than I thought.
It was however a lovely campsite (and I see one AA campsite of the year last year). Split into several small fields surrounded by hedges, it had a log cabin shop where the owners offer breakfast (mostly pastries you order the day before I think). There was even a swimming pool and TV room. The toilets block was clean and well equipped and there was even a small farm on the site. The prices were very reasonable too, so I had found a good site. The only negative, which was entirely my own fault for not researching it properly, is that it was quite a walk to the nearest bus stop along a road with no pavement.
Once I had set my tent up it was still mid afternoon, so I took a walk up to Vazon Bay on the north coast.
It was a lovely walk but there was a limited choice of food. So I took the bus into St Peter Port to get dinner and then another bus back to St Andrews Church, the nearest stop (I think) to the campsite. I was looking forward to starting my coastal walk the next day! Here are a few photos around St Peter Port.