This was my first day of my walk around Guernsey. I had breakfast at the campsite because it was Sunday and the buses did not start running that early. In fact I decided to take advantage of this fact by making a visit to the Little Chapel before catching the bus. I hoped that by visiting early on a Sunday I would avoid the crowds (as I did), because it really is very little!
It is possibly the smallest chapel in the world in fact according to Visit Guernsey. It is a beautiful chapel entirely covered in broken china and shells and the same theme continues inside. Not surprisingly it is a popular place to visit and a regular stop on the numerous coach tours around the island. So I was very pleased to have the place to myself to explore.
I had a look around inside too where despite the tiny size there are a couple of rooms.
It was a lovely place to see and I was very glad I took the time to visit it. I was also rather pleased that just as I had finished and headed down the road the first coach of the day was just pulling into the car park, because it meant I had timed it perfectly.
I then headed down the road to catch the bus into St Peter Port, the capital of the island. St Peter Port is a pretty town located on the watefront, with a large marina in front of the town. This is also the main port, as the ferries all arrive here. I was surprised to find that Sunday trading laws in Guernsey are rather different than the UK and although the High Street was full of shops I recognised, such as Marks and Spencer and Boots, they were all closed all day on Sunday, which was a problem, as I needed to get lunch. In the end the only place I could find open was a little convenience store (called Checkers Express) on the sea front. It was eerily quiet.
Having managed to buy food for lunch I was now on the harbour front and decided to begin my walk by heading clockwise around the island. I soon passed the visitor information centre on the sea front.
This was a couple of weeks before the London 2012 Olympics (we are now not that far off the Rio 2016 games, of course) and the Olympic Flame was about to do the tour of the UK. Happily this also included the Channel Islands and a board at the top of the building was excitedly counting down the days until the flame reached Guernsey – 7 days away, though I had left the island before it arrived.
I continued along the water front. The main road in Guernsey runs along the edge of the harbour, so there is quite a lot of traffic, but there is at least a pavement on both sides.
The large marina dominates the view out to sea, as it includes a fairly significant area of reclaimed land. Like Jersey, there is a castle just out in the bay. This was once an island but extension of the harbour arms means that it is now joined to the town, although it is still nearly a half a mile walk!
I headed out onto one of these arms for a view back over the town.
The main shopping street is one street back from the harbour, so it seems many of the buildings turn their back a bit on the harbour.
The harbour is used for the main boat mooring on the island and there are certainly a lot of boats. A reflection perhaps of the fact this is a fairly isolated island community, and a wealthy one. The harbour is also used as the main car park (or rather, the harbour walls are).
Next to the harbour is a small beach, with sand at low tide, Havelet Bay.
The promenade continues around this and at high tide, there isn’t really much of a beach, but it is still nice to have a beach (albeit a tidal one) so close to the town centre. At the end of this beach I passed a beach cafe and continued on the now quiet road (as the main road has turned off inland). I continued on the pavement beside the road (or in places, the road itself), passing one of those tidal swimming pools on the left. Just beyond this is the Le Valette Underground Military Museum, presumably in an old World War II bunker. Guernsey, like Jersey, was occupied during World War II by the Germans and so times must have been particularly hard for the islanders. It also resulted in many concrete bunkers and fortifications being built around the coast of the island.
By now I had got far enough around the coast to get a good view back over the main castle, Castle Cornet. This used to be an island but is now joined to the island by the extended harbour arms. It is well worth a visit and although I didn’t visit it on this occasion, I did on a later day on this trip.
Out to sea, there was a cruise ship and an attractive tall ship, whilst out in the bay I could see the coast of the nearby island of Herm.
I continued around the harbour passing more of those swimming pools and at the end coming to the aquarium and a path leading up to a restored fort.
This gave me a good view ahead over the coast to Soldiers Bay.
The height gained also gave me a view back along the coast I had been walking so far.
The fort, Clarence Battery, was freely accessible to the public and quite an interesting place to look around too.
I was now on the coast path proper, following a path around the outer edge of the fort and through woodland, soon emerging onto a quiet residential road. I followed this heading south and the path then heads into the wooded cliff tops. Guernsey is quite densely populated although much of the population lives in St Peter Port, and I was now reaching the end of the town. I got occasional glimpses through the trees of the coast I had walked and there was now a fine view back to Clarence Battery.
This was a really enjoyable part of the walk, heading through treees, but close enough to the coast I could see it through the gaps in the trees. As I reached Fermain Point I was treated to a wonderful view over the lovely beach at Fermain Bay.
Although it may not be obvious from the photo, this is a shingle beach but the water is beautifully clear (as is the case all the way around Guernsey). The path headed down through the woodland to the small cafe and Martello Tower behind the beach.
I headed down onto the beach for a refreshing paddle and a quick snack.
The Martello Tower is one of many around the island, as the coast of the island has been heavily fortified not just by the Germans but in the past too, as the ring of Martello Towers around the island demonstrate.
Ahead the cliffs were now high and rocky, as the coast was now becoming more rugged. After a nice rest it was time to leave the beach and take the initially fairly steep coast path out of the bay. This headed out onto a little headland at the south edge of the beach giving me a last look back at this lovely beach.
The coast path now dropped to a lower level, near the base of the cliffs and I took the path out right to the end of the next little low headland. This gave a good view of the still wooded coast ahead, now rather more rural.
It headed past what seems to be another tiny little harbour just before Marble Bay.
I could follow a low level path just around the corner from this tiny harbour in the little beach at Marble Bay. I think at low tide this might have some sand, but there was just a tiny bit at the far end of the beach, as the tide was quite high.
The path now began to climb again and headed briefly through woodland as I was now approaching the south eastern most corner of the island, Jerbourg Point.
This is the view back towards Marble Bay.
Soon the path opened up onto the grassy area at the top of Jerbourg Point. Suddenly there were people again but it was very beautiful. There is a network of paths here and I headed down to the far end of the point, where there is a small little lighthouse located in a rather isolated position right at the very end. This bit actually has a different name, St Martin’s Point.
Of course, by coming right to the end of the point, I soon had to climb back up as the path climbed out onto Jerbourg Point itself. The height gained though gave me a good view down to the little lighthouse, although it also gave me a view out to sea, where the clear blue skies I had enjoyed so far were turning rather more grey.
It was quite a tiring walk up, but worth it for the view. At the end of Jerbourg Point there are some rock stacks, known as Pea Stacks which I could see ahead along with a well camouflaged German concrete bunker the top of which you might just be able to make out.
From here the Pea Stacks don’t look that impressive. But the path gets closer and took me right out to Jerbourg Point where the view was rather better, the jagged rocks being very beautiful. It was a spectacular view that felt slightly reminiscent of the Lizard in Cornwall to me.
I stopped here for a while to enjoy the remarkable view and listen to the sounds of the sea crashing over the rocks below me. It was wonderful. When I had enough, I returned to the coast path which now heads through gorse and bracken to approach a lovely beach, Moulin Huet Bay. At low tide there is a lot of sand here, but as it was near high tide there was not so much to see. The beautiful turquoise colour of the parts of the sea catching the sun give a clue that the water is very shallow, however.
I continued heading closer to the bay to reveal just a tiny patch of sandy beach.
Like Jersey, Guernsey has a vast tidal range and as such many of the beaches are very small at high tide, but as the sea retreats, reveal large sandy beaches. I remember this beach well for more than 10 years before on a family holiday we visited nearby Sausmarez Manor on a very wet day, but as we had finished the rain stopped, so we decided to take a quick coastal walk. The forecast was for rain most of the day, but as we approached this beach, the sun broke through and the sky soon cleared to blue, making for a lovely afternoon under clear sunny skies, on this beautiful and largely deserted beach. I have fond memories of it.
Therefore I decided to head down to it. I was impressed to see that the original stairs I had walked down to the beach before had been damaged, presumably in a cliff fall. Rather than block access to the beach, as so many Councils now do in the UK, new stairs had been constructed at no doubt considerable cost, it is good to see.
After a sit on the beach for lunch I returned up the large number of stairs. By the time I was around the bay and looking back to it, the tide had already gone out enough to reveal far more sand.
The tide certainly moves quickly on Guernsey. The coast path westwards hugged the cliff tops and is a really good path.
I was soon far enough around to get a good view bacl over the Pea Stacks.
Ahead the map suggested the beach of Le Vier Port and Le Petit Port joined up at low tide and were sandy, but the tide was obviously still too far in, since it was rocky and shingle.
There was a small valley ahead, which the path heading inland to get around, avoiding the need to lose too much height. At the western end of Moulin Huet Bay though the path does descend down another steep valley, then heads up the other side. I headed down to the beach here but it was very rocky.
It was a steep climb back up and I was getting a bit tired now. The coast path here was again excellent sticking right to the cliff top, passing a few small rocky headlands and giving a view ahead of the rugged south coast of the island.
Sadly the sun had gone by now, and the coast was starting to get a bit misty. But thankfully the weather did not deteriorate any further during the day, so at least it stayed dry. Rounding the corner I was soon greeted with another fine view, this time Saints Bay.
I like the Martello Tower half way up the cliffs at the back of the beach and you can see the onward coast path, roughly half way down the cliffs, it is a very fine walk.
Before I get there though there is another steep wooded valley to descend. It was beautiful though descending into the lush woodland of this small and peaceful valley. Needles to say before I headed onwards along the coast path I headed down to the beach.
The stream that had created that steep valley flowed into a little man-made waterfall onto the beach. There didn’t seem to be that much water but it’s so impressive how a little stream can, over many many years cut such a deep valley in this hard granite rock. Nature is impressive.
The path onwards was in fact a minor road which headed out to a small and isolated harbour, Saints Harbour according to the free map I was using.
The boats moored here are small and I suspect mostly used for fishing and indeed the rocks above the harbour were also proving popular with fisherman. Once at the end of the harbour and bay it was a steep climb back up to the cliff tops at the headland of Icart.
This gave me a now rather gloomy look back over Moulin Heut Bay where I had been earlier.
The coast path ahead was very undulating and headed out to the end of the headland at Icart. The view ahead was breathtaking. What a stunning coast!
This is the series of rocky bays all marked as Petit Bot Bay on my map, I think they might be joined at low tide but the tide was still far enough in it made a series of sandy coves between the rocks.
I passed the car park at Icart and then followed the excellent path around the first of these little bay, La Bette. I also got a good view back to Icart.
The path dropped down to a lower level, passing through the gorse and bracken. This took me to the second beach, Le Jaonnet. There was also a path down to this beach but it was very steep and with time getting on I decided to give it a miss.
That said I didn’t feel that tired. My initial plan had been to finish this walk at Petit Bot Bay and follow paths up towards the airport where I could catch a bus back to the town. As it was I decided to continue for a while. It was only 3:30pm and I was very much enjoying the walk.
Rounding the second part of the bay the path continued on the rocky cliff tops which made for a fairly easy and very beautiful walk, soon rewarding me with a good view back where I had come.
The weather was beginning to improve again now, the mist that had started to come was clearing and the sun showing hints of breaking through. It was a great bit of coast and once more the path stuck right to the cliff tops. It did not take me long to reach the next cliff top where I could look over the last beach in this bay, Petit Bot Bay.
Here I stopped to chat to a lady coming the other way who also very much enjoying her walk and heading to Fermain Bay. She asked me if I would take her picture. Of course I did. She then asked me if I wanted her to take a photo of me. So here we are.
I continued along the coast path and this time the path descended right down to the beach, so I had no excuse for not visiting it. There was a car park and toilet here so hence it was proving rather more popular than the other beaches I had passed so far.
I had another paddle in the sea – wonderfully refreshing! It was, as I expected, a steep climb out of the bay around St Clairs Battery and back along the edge of the cliff tops. Time for one last look back at the lovely Petit Bot Bay.
Once up the path was not to steep and kept along the cliff tops so I could enjoy these views all the way. There was another small valley to get around but this time the path went around the inland edge of it. It did not take long to reach another rocky little bay, Le Gouffre. The path descended a bit here but did not go right down into the bay. Dropping back down I could see right along the cliff face of the coast I had been walking, all indented with little caves. I wondered if smuggling was such a big thing here as it was on the south west coast of England – there are lots of caves to hide contraband!
The coast is getting really rugged now and the little headland at Le Gouffre has sharp pointy cliffs all along it’s top edge.
The coast path now headed around the corner into the little valley of Le Gourffre, passing a couple of cottages and then headed back through woodland to the cliff tops. After the climb out of the valley I emerged from the trees back onto the cliff top with a view to the watch tower at La Coribere. This is another German fortification.
Before that though there was another valley to get around and this time the path heads quite far inland to a track and then back to the coast. The cliffs around here are so steep they show evidence of landslips.
It is another spectacularly rugged stretch of coast.
The path went right out to the World War II bunker, which looked rather sinister on the cliff top. I am sure there must have been a temptation (and probably a desire) to rip these structures down at the end of World War II. They are very ugly and a constant reminder of the terrible time the islanders endured during the conflict. Yet I find I am quite glad they do remain. Ugly though they are they are an important part of the islands history.
I could see really far ahead from the tower too, seeing much of the south west of the island, so you can certainly see why the invading forces picked this as the location.
Once past the tower the coast path continued right on the cliff top in an area called La Corbiere. There was another valley to get around here, leading down to the shingle beach at Havre de Bon Repos. I didn’t head down to it but instead stuck to the main cliff path. There was another valley ahead, Clifton Valley where the path went mostly around the back, but did descend into the upper part of the valley. I soon reached another rocky beach, this one Les Ecrilleurs.
It was a beautiful stretch of coast, but it was now nearing 6pm. I had gone quite a bit further than I had planned to today because I was enjoying the walk so much. So I decided to follow the path ahead to the next bay, Le Creux Mahie, where a path was marked as heading inland to the road at Torteval. Checking the bus timetable this should work out quite well. This path very soon joined a road and took me out onto the main road by a petrol station (closed up for the day) and a telephone box, but not a lot else. I was in the parish of Torteval here but it doesn’t really have a town. Fortunately I did not have to walk far for a bus stop, since there was one outside the petrol station. In Guernsey, as in Jersey too most bus stops are not marked with a flag as they are in the UK, instead they generally just print “Bus” in the road. It is a simple system but it works quite well. I only had 10 minutes or so to wait for a bus which soon took me back to St Peter Port.
Here I had a nice relaxing meal in a pub overlooking the harbour, glad to be able to rest my legs. Whilst I had not felt that tired through most of the walk, the distance I had covered, and the terrain, was now making itself felt. I was quite stiff when it was time to leave and take the bus back to St Andrews Church. From there I had a 10 – 15 minutes walk along one of the Green Lanes back to the campsite. I slept well that night.
This is a really fantastic coastal walk and a great introduction to Guernsey, because the scenery is stunning. The path is very well maintained and signed, the beaches you pass are very unspoilt and a nice mix of sandy and shingle beaches, mixed in with some small harbours, rocky cliffs and interesting fortifications. Much of the walk is also fairly close to the main road, so you can cut inland and take a bus back if you are tired. All in all, I had a fantastic day.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.
Guernsey Buses routes 91 and 92 run a circular route around most of the islands coast. The 91 goes clockwise, the 92 anti-clockwise. It is quicker to take the 92 but you could take the 91 if you want a scenic route (both cost £1). The nearest timing point to where I ended is Torteval church. In addition route 93 also links Torteval with St Peter Port.
Route 92 : St Peter Port Town Terminus – Halfway – The Bridge – Bordeaux Harbour – L’Ancresse – Pembroke Bay – Vale Church – L’Islet – Les Vardes – La Passee – Port Soif – Grandes Rocques – Cobo Bay – Vazon Bay – Perelle Bay – L’Eree – Fort Grey – Pleinmont – Torteval Church – Les Landes – Airport – St Martins Village – Sausmarez Manor – Fermain – St Peter Port Town Terminus. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and once every two hours on a Sunday although I think this might increase in the summer. It takes about half an hour to reach St Peter Port. You can take the 91 in the opposite direction, which runs to the same frequency but takes around 1 hour, because it is a longer way around.
Route 93 : L’Eree – Fort Grey – Pleinmont – Torteval Church – Les Landes – Airport – St Martins Village – Sausmarez Manor – Fermain – Trinity Square – St Peter Port (Town Terminus). This route runs once every two hours seven days a week and takes around 30 minutes to reach St Peter Port.