97. Grandes Rocques Bay to St Peter Port

July 2012

This is my last walk around the island of Guernsey. I had originally planned to walk around in 4 days, but I made better progress than expected on the first day, meaning I now only needed 3 days to walk around.

As I was heading to the north coast it was only a slightly longer walk from the campsite to head north for the bus and there I could take a direct bus round to Grandes Rocques Bay (Saline Bay), which is what I did. I got off at the same stop I finished at last time. The day began as a grey and overcast, but dry, day. It was around 9am when I set off.

Saline Bay

At the end of the beach is the rocky headland, Les Grandes Rocques. Rounding this I was now facing north, and a very rocky beach. It looks like there was the remains of some sort of slipway here, but it had clearly not been used for a very long time.

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There was a path around the low cliffs though, so I didn’t have to walk over the rocks. This led me round the small bay with all the shoreline being rocky, but a bit of sand at the back of the beach. This is Le Port Aux Malades and the name Port also hints at more activity in the past. It is a peaceful spot now, though.

The path went on the coastal side of the amusingly named Wayside Cheer hotel and then I rounded the headland of Little Island (which looked like some rocks, rather than an island) and around into the small Port Soif beach.

Port Soif

This beach was sandy, although with some rocks in places at the shoreline, and with a beautiful white sand. Although there were plenty of footprints in the sand I think they were from the previous day, since there was no one about at the beach. Looking back the way I had come I noticed there was now blue sky coming across, which was very welcome. Although the road is close to the back of the beach, a small line of dunes has formed making it feel more rural than it is.

Port Soif

At the far end of the beach was another low rocky headland, with a small car park at the end. Port Soif is a small little cove, with the rocky cliffs at either end almost forming a complete circle.

Between Port Soif and Portinfer

The coast was now flat, so walking was easy and I was making a good pace as I rounded the corner into the next beach, Portinfer. Whilst my walk on the south coast was mostly rocky cliffs, the best beaches are to be found on the north coast and today I was mostly crossing from one beach to another.

Portinfer was a sandy beach at low tide but with a line of pebbles at the high tide line. It was not ideal for paddling though, as the shoreline was mostly small rocks.

Portinfer

I therefore stuck to the coast path which goes right along the back of the beach. At the far end there is another low headland, this one houses a clay pigeon firing range and the coast path goes the coastal side of this. It was not in use today which was just as well as I imagine it must be very noisy to be here when the range is in use, assuming they don’t close the path, that is.

Rounding the corner again I had reached the next beach. This one is Baie des Pequeries and is more developed and pebbly than the previous beach. Houses are right behind the beach here and look rather exposed.

La Passee

The coast path here joined the road, which lacked a pavement, but there was a bit of grass between the road and the beach so I was able to walk on this instead. There was another small rocky headland at the far end, again with a small car park and beyond that another pebble beach. This one is Baie de Pulias, and behind it is a little pond, Pulias Pond, though I am not sure how it comes to be here.

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It was onl a short walk around the corner to come to Les Vardes. This bay is a mixture of sand and pebbles, and there is a long but narrow slipway which seems to provide enough shelter that a few boats are moored up behind it. Once again the houses are close to the beach but here they are protected by a low sea wall.

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Out to sea there are quite a few rocks, which presumably also helps to provide shelter to the boats, but also must make it tricky to get out to the open sea. The coast path briefly joined the road here but I could soon leave the road on a good coast path right behind the beach once more.

Baie de Port Grat

It was an excellent beach, with white sands backed by a thin strip of pebbles and rocks and a shallow calm sea. It was also totally deserted, adding to the appeal. At the far end of the beach I could see one of the Martello towers that dots the coast of Guernsey, this one called Tower No 11 (they seem to count down as you go clockwise around the island). It was a short walk around the beach to reach the Martello Tower.

Rousse Tower

These are far more attractive than the similar defences built by the Germans in World War II and I suspect might well outlast them.

Rounding the corner I was coming into the large bay known as Le Grand Havre. It was quite a picturesque beach, which started at the west end, where I was, as pebbles but becomes sandy further around.

Le Grand Havre

There was again a good easy coast path along the back of the beach with the church tower of Vale church overlooking the far end of the beach.

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It was an easy walk around the beach, and it heads quite a long way inland. There is a little stream flowing out from Vale Pond at the far end of the beach but the road goes over it, so I don’t have to get wet feet. It is a beautiful sandy beach and the houses far enough back to be mostly out of sight.

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At the far end of the beach the coast path continues along a Green Lane, a quiet road with a 15mph speed limit, so the traffic is not a problem. At the far end it comes to a little car park overlooking Amarreurs Harbour, a small little harbour with a few small boats. By now the weather is really improving, with the sun breaking through and a fine view back to the Martello tower at the far end of the beach.

Amarreurs Harbour

Beyond the harbour the beach is known as Ladies Bay. I don’t know if this is historic since I don’t think men are banned now (I hope not, anyway!)

Ladies Bay

It is another gorgeous beach, which looks so much better for the sun being out. There is a good path again along the low grassy cliffs at the back of the beach, now with a golf course on my right. The beach though is stunning. It looks tropical.

Ladies Bay

Part way along is a little rocky islet, un-named on my map. All too soon I am at the far end of the beach but if offers a good view back over the coast I have walked.

Ladies Bay

At the far end of the beach, at a place called Chouet, the beach becomes rocky again and there is another Martello Tower, Tower No 10.

Chouet

There are a lot more sea gulls around this bit of coast, and the reason soon becomes apparant, as I am approaching the island tip (or refuse site, as it is shown on the map). Before that though I pass an isolate car park with a BBC Guernsey car parked in the car park and a sign beyond warning “Danger Oil Filled Quarry No Naked flames”. Oil strikes me as an odd thing to fill a quarry with! The BBC Guernsey is rather strange, as I noted that the local news begins as BBC Spotlight (which covers Devon, Cornwall and West Dorset), but then part way through switches over to BBC Guernsey, it is an odd arrangement, presumably they can’t fill a 30 minute slot with local news, but I am not sure how relevant BBC Spotlight is to the islands.

I continue around the coast around the headland of Chouet, soon passing the Martello tower. Beyond another sign warns of low flying model aircraft and that I am approaching a pistol range. Fortunately there don’t seem to be model planes flying around and the pistol range is not in use. This part of the island certainly seems hazardous.

I’m soon passing the rocky beach of Le Grand Camp. It’s not such a grand place for a camp nowdays, since the island tip is right behind the beach and stinks, and has attracted a lot of gulls too.

Le Grand Camp, Guernsey

The vehicles on the tip are just to my right as the coast path is squeezed in alongside the tip. Despite the smell, it’s quite a pretty bit of coast though.

Le Grand Camp, Guernsey

As I get away from the tip the smell recedes and I round the corner to the lovely Baie de La Jaonneuse. This is a wonderfully unspoilt beach, a contrast to the tip just behind me, but now largely out of ear shot too.

Baie de la Jaonneuse

The sands here are almost pure white making a wonderful contrast with the turquoise sea, which is darker here as  I can see lots of rocks just below the surface.

Baie de la Jaonneuse

Behind the beach is another Martello tower, Tower No 9 (you’d never guess!) There is another rocky little headland to round with a ruined castle marked on the map at the far end, but in truth there is little to see of it. Rounding the corner I am in for a real treat.

I’ve now rounded the corner into Pembroke Bay, and it is absolutely gorgerous. The sea is so calm it is almost a pond, the sea the most wonderful turquoise colour, as it is so shallow and the sand is white.

Pembroke Bay, Guernsey

As you can see it is backed by a low concrete sea wall, I think it was built by the Germans in World War II. I can’t believe the colour of the sea and stop to take some photos and take in the wonderful view. Near the centre of the bay and old World War II fort (I think), which includes an older Martello tower, has been converted to a bright blue painted cafe, and you can also climb onto the roof of the tower, as I do, for a wonderful view.

From the top of the tower, just above my head, flies the Guernsey flag. It makes for a nice photo.

Pembroke Bay, Guernsey

Pembroke Bay, Guernsey

I am in particularly high spirits here as the beach is just so beautiful. One of the problems I had with not travelling into St Peter Port first thing was that I haven’t been able to buy any lunch. So I decided the best thing is to stop at this cafe, where I can have a hot lunch and enjoy the views from the cafe out to the beach. It is a nice cafe and I had a good and reasonably priced lunch there.

So far I have mostly been walking on the cliff path rather than the beach, but I soon change that here, heading down to the beach to walk in the edge of the shallow and pleasantly warm water.

Pembroke Bay, Guernsey

It is stunning here. Looking back you can make out the blue cafe building where I had lunch and another Martello Tower in front of it, there are several along this beach.

L'Ancresse Bay, Guernsey

I soon near the end of the beach, and it’s a real struggle to drag myself away. This beach was unexpectedly wonderful and I have seen it in such good conditions, as all the cloud of the morning has burnt off now.

L'Ancresse Bay, Guernsey

At the end of the beach is another rocky little headland, but I am not sure what it is called. The height gained gives me one last look at this beach – what a stunning beach. It is hard to believe this is the UK (well, sort of), it looks tropical.

L'Ancresse Bay

I pass another Martello Tower (this one no 5) and continue past a pretty little shingle beach, with the next Martello Tower already visible ahead.

The coast north of L'Ancresse Bay

Here I gain a bit more height to give a view over the far end of the little headland where there is the remains of Fort le Marchant. I think some of this is used as a firing range now, given the numbered targets in front of it, but it was free to wander about today, because it wasn’t in use.

Fort le Marchant

I headed out to the very end of the headland to have a look around this interesting fort.

Fort le Marchant

Like most on Guernsey, it is free to wander about and I’m pleased to note the steps up to the roof are not closed off, so I can get onto the roof too. Here there are the remains of the semi-circular tracks on which the guns were mounted, presumably during World War II. I have a view of the coast that awaits, this is Fontenelle Bay, a shingle beach backed by a low grassy hill.

Fontenelle Bay

Looking back, Pembroke Bay is now out of sight.

Fontenelle Bay

I soon leave the fort and take the path along the back of the beach. It is a mixture of rock and sand and at the far end there is another fort, this one Fort Doyle.

Fort Doyle

Once again, it is free to look around and once again, you can climb onto the roof. Looking out to sea I can now make out the island of Herm as I am now turning the corner to begin heading south along the east coast.

From the fort I continued on the beach which is a rocky beach, but here I should have been checking the map, for I have reached a little harbour (Beancetter Marina) and the so I reach the northern edge of the marina entrance and realise I have to walk around the inland side.

So I head just back from the beach to pick up the path around the marina.

Beaucette Marina

Once around the marina quickly disappears from sight as I reach the rocky beach (Hommeril) at the south edge of the marina.

Petils Bay, Guernsey

There is a little rocky area ahead and then I come to Petils Bay. This is marked as shingle on my map, but in fact there is a line of sand near the waters edge. This is good, because there is not a coast path here, so I am able to head down onto the beach and walk along the sand.

Petils Bay, Guernsey

Out to sea is the little island of Houmet Paradis, a rocky little island that looks as if it is almost covered at high tide.

Petils Bay, Guernsey

I wondered, briefly, about trying to wade out to it, but soon decided against it, as I am not sure how deep it will be and if the tide is coming in. It’s another excellent beach and I am the only one here.

Petils Bay, Guernsey

I have to squeeze around a rockyt area, where there is another lake inland, but I make it around. My walk along the beach worked out well because I can then pick up the coastal path again at the southern end, which had followed green lanes slightly back from the beach until now. I continue along the beach soon getting fine views of Herm and Jethou out to sea.

Bordeaux Harbour

Again boats seem to be using the shelter offered by the island to make a bit of a harbour.

Bordeaux Harbour

I’m soon rounding the corner to reach the beach of Bordeaux Harbour. Here there are a few more rocky little islands at the mouth of the harbour. The harbour itself looks shallow and is really just a beach with boats moored up in it, as far as I can see. At the far end I can see the imposing Vale Castle, I imagine it was built to defend this harbour.

Bordeaux Harbour

I followed the road around the back of the harbour, which is initially a quiet road but soon becomes a rather busier road, as I am now nearing St Peter Port. Once around I get good views back over the harbour and over to Herm and Jethou.

Bordeaux Harbour

I’m soon rounding the corner to reach the south edge of the harbour with the colourful boats now resting on the sand, as the tide has been going out (perhaps I should have tried to wade out to Houmet Paradis after all?).

Bordeaux Harbour

Around the corner there is another small rocky beach which is not named on my map.

Bordeaux Harbour

After all the beautiful beaches I have been passing I am now coming to the worst part of my walk around Guernsey, as I approach St Sampson Harbour, where the outlook is distinctly industrial. Fortunately, before I get there I come to Vale Castle. An impressive and large castle and I am impressed that, once again, it is open to the public free of charge and you are free to wander around it.

Vale Castle

As you can see it is up a bit of a hill and it offers me a fine view back over Bordeaux Harbour.

Bordeaux Harbour

The view ahead is not so promising, though. I have managed to cut out most of the industry from view on this photo, though.

St Sampson Harbour

It was an interesting explore of the castle, but I can’t put it off any longer, I have to do the industrial part of the walk. The road is busy and there are many lorries passing by, but at least there is a pavement. I pass warehouses and then reach the edge of the harbour. This is St Sampson Harbour and it is clearly very much a working harbour, with the large cranes on the dock being used to unload goods from the ships that dock here. Being an island, Guernsey is very reliant on goods brought on from overseas.

St Sampson Harbour

The harbour seems to be in two parts, the outer commercial harbour, presumably for the deeper water, whilst further inland is a marina. It is packed full of boats and soon the harbour is backed by shops and houses again, rather than industry. There are flowers planted along the back of the harbour, adding some welcome colour.

St Sampson Harbour

I continue on the road to head east along the south side of the dock, passing another part of the marina. At the end of the south part of the harbour there is what I think is some reclaimed land, part of which has another Martello Tower on it, and I can use it for a last look back over the harbour.

St Sampson Harbour

I’m glad to be round it. Sadly the road onwards continues through industry for a while until I round the corner into Belle Greve Bay. This is the last beach before St Peter Port. The end is in sight as I round the corner, with views of St Peter Port ahead. As I’m nearing the capital the land behind the beach is entirely given over to housing, but it is attractive enough, with many of the buildings white with orange tiled roofs.

Belle Greve Bay

I headed along the beach for much of the way, because the tide was out and the alternative was the pavement beside the now busy road. As I got further south the beach became more rocky, but there was a low sea wall to walk on.

Belle Greve Bay

Soon I abandoned this and took to the pavement beside the road, continuing south. I had a good view along this large bay, which stretches for around 1 mile.

Belle Greve Bay

At the far end of the bay was a little harbour, Le Salerie.

La Salerie

It was now devoid of any water.

La Salerie

Rounding the corner it was suddenly boats as far as the eye can see.

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I followed the road along the back of the large marina, now on familiar ground and soon reached the point where I had started. I was not done yet though, I walked out on the lengthy south arm of the harbour, passing Castle Cornet and looking out to the lighthouse at the end of the harbour arm. Just past it, the fast ferry Condor Express was approaching the islands having crossed from the UK.

St Peter Port

I had dinner in St Peter Port, and then took the bus back to St Peter Port. In the evening I walked up to Vazon Bay to watch the sunset. Cloud was now coming in, so it was not a fantastic sunset, but still a nice way to end the day.

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I really enjoyed this walk. The north coast is a mixture of sand and shingle beaches, but Pemrbroke Bay was a real treat and the scenery and light superb. I could have happily spent the rest of the day there! The area around Fontenelle Bay and Petils Bay was another highlight. Sadly the last couple of  miles were more urban, passing through the industry of St Sampson and the housing of Belle Greve Bay, but St Peter Port is a nice capital and a nice place to end my walk around the island. It is a very beautiful island and I got a good deal of satisfaction looking at the map and knowing I had now been all the way around it! Fortunately this was not the end of my trip either, for I still had the islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney to explore!

Here are the details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Guernsey Buses route 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 from St Peter Port but you could take the 91 if you want a scenic route (both cost £1).

Route 91 : St Peter Port Town Terminus – Trinity Square – Fermain – Sausmarez Manor – Old Mill – St Martins – Airport – Torteval Church – Pleinmont – Fort Grey – L’Eree – Perelle Bay – Vazon Bay – Cobo Bay – Grandes Rocques – Port Soif – La Passee – Les Vardes – Houmet Tavern – L’Islet – Vale (Church) – Pembroke Bay – L’Ancresse – Bordeaux Harbour – The Bridge – Halfway – St Peter Port Town Terminus. The bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday in the winter and 5 times a day on Sundays, but I think it is more frequent in summer.

Route 92St Peter Port Town TerminusHalfway – 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.

Here are the photos from this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

 

 

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