99. Sark

July 2012

Having walked around Guernsey it was now time to visit another island, this time Sark, one I had not been to before and was looking forward to very much. Legally it is also unique with it’s law based on Norman law and it’s own parliament, seperate from Guernsey. It is also one of the few places in the world where cars are banned. The island is around 2 square miles in size and has a population of around 600.

Sark can be reached daily from Guernsey by ferry with the Sark Shipping Company, the route I used. Day trips are possible year round (though not daily in the winter) and daily in the summer with up to 4 return trips in the summer months. It takes around 45 minutes from Guernsey and an adult return is £28.50 (quite pricey, I thought).

You can also get to Sark from Granville on the French coast and Jersey with the French company Manche Iles Express. They run roughly 10 trips a month usually starting from Granville, sailing to Jersey and on to Sark, although the times usually allow for a day trip to be made from either Granville or Jersey. In addition they also sail from Carteret on the French coast to Jersey and Sark. Crossings from Jersey to Sark take around 1 hour 10 minutes. Check their timetable (in French) for times of the various routes.

Finally you can also visit Sark from Alderney. The Lady Maris II runs on Thursdays only from Alderney departing at 9am and arriving at Sark by 10:15am (and then on to Guernsey), returning from Sark at 17:00 to arrive back in Alderney at 18:30. For details and to book see the Alderney Gift Box website.

I started the day on Guernsey and took the bus into St Peter Port and then walked to the ferry terminal for the boat over to Sark. I didn’t have to make an early start as my ferry was not until 10am. It was busy at St Peter Port, with my boat in the harbour as well as the Condor Rapide and the Victor Hugo, making for a busy environment.

The Victor Hugo and Condor Rapide

We were soon heading out of the harbour getting fine views of Guernsey and St Peter Port.

St Peter Port

Heading out into the bay we passed by Herm and then on to pass the private islands of Brecqhou. This is owned by the Barclay Brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph who are not especially popular with the islanders of Sark.

Brecqhou

Beyond that we were approaching Sark.

Sark

We had to round much of the island to reach the mooring at Creux Harbour on the east coast of the island. I had already picked up a handy map at the Guernsey Visitor information centre so knew where we were going to land. Nearing the harbour we passed the lighthouse (not open to the public).

Sark

There were views of the spectacular coast as we headed to past Maseline Harbour where more boats are moored up.

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As we reached the small but sheltered Creux Harbour I was surprised to see that the access to the rest of the island was through a tunnel! Soon I was on dry land, admiring the view out of the harbour. A horse and cart was waiting to offer a tour of the island, but I wanted to walk and take in some of the paths a horse can’t get to.

Sark

The main path heads up to the town centre, such as it is and this was the way everyone was headed, but a footpath led off this up the cliffs to the right where I could briefly walk along the coast. Sadly, Sark does not have a coast path all the way around it, but there are a few footpaths that either head out to the coast (dead-end) or briefly along the coast, so I would take in as many of these as I could. The first though, was a proper coast path heading north around the back of Maseline Harbour.

Maseline Harbour, Sark

Already the scenery was wonderful although despite being called a harbour it looked quite exposed with only a small harbour wall at the south to protect the boats. Another surprise was that Sark is very hilly! The path was quite hard work as can be seen by the height I had already gained from the harbour, now far below me.

The harbour at Sark

Ahead I had a view of the headland with the lighthouse on it, although the lighthouse itself was out of sight.

Maseline Harbour, Sark

At the north edge of Maseline Harbour my path along the coast ended and I had to head back along one of the roads to the town centre. As Sark has no cars the majority of roads are really dirt tracks, although they are quite heavily used by horses and carts and tractors. Soon I came to a signpost at a junction of roads, giving directions to various points of interest although the distances were all specified in times.

I decided not to head down to the lighthouse because it was a dead-end path which was only slightly north of where I had just been and the lighthouse is closed to the public. So I followed a path north from the road to the lighthouse which headed over fields and then joined one of the main tracks heading north on the island. This was a dusty earth road, with a horse and cart making it’s way north along it towing a trailer full of tourists. It was not the most interesting of scenery, so I went into route march mode a bit here and overtook them, much to the amusement of some of the tourists! I soon passed Maison Pommier, a fancy restaurant near the north of the island. I debated stopping, but it looked quite posh and expensive so I decided to continue. The track turned left and then headed north over Eperquerie Common. This is a large and wild area, with a network of paths, including along the coast!

The east coast of Sark

The scenery looking back was wonderful. The coast of Sark, or at least the east coast, is very green presumably because it is quiet sheltered.

The east coast of Sark

The path onwards was now a nice easy grassy path heading gently downhill to the northern tip of the island.

Eperquerie, Sark

Nearing the northern end of the island I could look back for a fine view along the east coast of the island to a shingle beach.

Eperquerie, Sark

The path now became very narrow heading past a deep gully on my left, which might one day separate this narrow headland to become another island.

Sark

There were some stones forming what might have been the end of a building here, but the rest was long since ruined. This bit of coast was rocky, wild and wonderful. As I had wondered, the east coast of Sark was sheltered and hence very green, but looking south west I could see that the coast ahead was much more rugged.

Sark

I now followed another good grassy path south over the western edge of the common and back to the main track heading to the north of the island. At the end I could look back over this wild northern coast.

Eperquerie, Sark

The view ahead too, was impressive with some roky islands and the larger island of Brecqhou ahead.

View south to Brecqhou from Sark

I headed south along the track, this time getting out of the way of a tractor. I had discovered that whilst cars are banned on the island tractors are not, and it does rather seem that many of the residents simply drive around on a tractor rather than a car. It did not really seem in keeping with the car free billing the island gets. I could soon turn right of this track to an area named Window in the Rock.

I passed the Maison Rouge Gallery but it was closed and the building looked to be deserted now,  a shame.

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The building was quite American looking, I thought. I turned west and the coast here headed into a pretty valley.

View south to Brecqhou from Sark

I was curious to see whaat the Window in the Rock was. Well it is a window in the rock! By that I mean a gap (almost a cave) cut in the rock through which you get a wonderful view north to the almost sheer cliffs.

View from the Window in the Rock, Sark

Copious warning signs existed to warn of the dangers to children (and careless adults) but it was a lovely spot. Below at the base of the cliffs there was also a small rock arch, this one natural, cut into the cliffs by the waves. You can see it in this photo.

View from the Window in the Rock, Sark

To my left, a long way below was a rocky beach.

View from the Window in the Rock, Sark

As it turned out there was a path down to this rocky beach, down an awful lot of stairs. But not having been down to sea level since I left the harbour I was keen to get down there to explore this beach.

The west coast of Sark

It was a very peaceful spot and it would have made a lovely place for lunch – if I had any with me (a bit of an oversight there). So reluctantly I didn’t linger that long and headed back up the steps.

The west coast of Sark

The sea gulls were flying and squaking overhead, the waves were crashing into the rocks, it was a wonderful display of nature. Better still the weather was beginning to brighten up and I could look back at views of almost all the north west of the island.

The west coast of Sark

I followed the path that headed a bit inland to another road and followed this inland past the La Moinerie Hotel. I had a look up the drive of the hotel and it looked very nice indeed, but I did not fancy a long lunch because I had too much exploring of Sark I wanted to do!

Sark

Sadly the hotel was closed at the end of the season in 2014 and remains closed today. The Barlcay Brothers that own the hotel cited a drop in visitor numbers and the lack of a customs post on the island, which means boats from France cannot go direct but must stop at one of the islands first. Tourism on Sark does seem to be struggling.

I continued on past the island hall and church and what looked very much like an old windmill tower, but without the sails. The town centre such as it is a curious mixture of buildings, many of them wooden and quite temporary looking. Most are tourism related. I got a baguette from the Boulangerie and found a seat outside to eat it.

I passed what must surely rank as the prettiest branch of Natwest?

Sark

Sadly it too has since closed, in February last year, leaving just the HSBC to serve the island.

Sark

Lunch consumed, I returned north along the main street passed the church and then turned left along the road passing the chapel and Hotel Petit Champ. This hotel has also since closed.

At the end of the track just past the hotel a path heads out onto Gouliot Headland, a beautiful rugged part of the coast.

Gouliot Headland, Sark

I was pleased to see a path headed down to the beach here too, so of course I had to take it!

Gouliot Headland, Sark

The beach was pebbles with a few rocks and small caves in the cliffs. I was surprised to see the rather nice looking house overlooking the beach was all boarded up.

Gouliot Headland, Sark

I stopped for a nice rest and a quick paddle on the beach, but concious of the time I realised I did not have long to linger if I wanted to get around the rest of the island. Of course once down, I had to come back up and it was a long way back up and I was quite hot by the top. Once at the top I headed out to the end of the headland with fine views over to Brecqhou.

Brecqhou

There was a bit of a coast path along this part of the island, and very impressive it was too with numerous rocky outcrops and inlets for the sea. Lovely.

Gouliot Headland

I continued enjoying the view south as the coast looked to be a little gentler again, perhaps sheltered a bit by Brecqhou.

Gouliot Headland

At the top of the cliffs ahead can be seen the Pilcher Monument. It looks a bit like a war memorial but is actually a memorial to Mr J Pilcher who died in a storm in 1868 whilst trying to sail from Sark to Guernsey. A reminder of the power of the seas.

The path I was following soon joined the track out to the monument, so I took the track to it’s end to the monument. I was more impressed with the views of Brecqhou and the nearby islands of Herm in the distance.

Brecqhou from the Pilcher Monument, Sark

Time was getting on now so I followed the main path south past a house and onto La Coupee. This is the track that links Little Sark with the main island. Little Sark is almost an island, but still just about joined, so this track is built over the gully between the two islands.

La Coupée

It is a lovely path but it has sheer drops either side, so care is needed to navigate it. It looks beautiful but only 2 weeks previously to my visit a Swiss tourist was killed on it and 8 others injured when a horse charged and the carriage overturned. It is beautiful, though.

The steps on the right lead down to the beach at Le Grande Greve. There are many steps and the sign warns they are maintained by volunteers and very steep. I would have liked to go down but by now it was clear if I did I would not have time to take in Little Sark properly.

At the end of La Coupee I could look back over this beautiful beach and did feel it a shame I ran out of time to get down there, as it is the only sandy beach on the island.

Le Grande Greve

Mind you, looking back at those steps, I was soon rather grateful that I hadn’t tried. It was not so much the steepness that bothered me, but the steep drop right next to them!

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I soon came to the little square which makes up the main community of Little Sark. It was such a peaceful location.

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From here I could follow a dead-end path north to Fontaine Bay, but I wanted to see it, so I did just that.

Fontaine Bay

I am not sure if there is a beach at low tide, but there wasn’t at the time. Heading back south I could then pick up another path around Port Gorey. This is a rugged bit of coast which was very beautiful with once again Herm and the other islands visible in the distance over the many rocks.

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The path continued south on the coast here and I passed some old towers which are the remains of old mines – I gather there was once a silver mine on Sark, so perhaps this is the remains of it? Sadly the coast path soon ended and I had to return to the track leading out to Little Sark. By now it was nearly 5pm and my boat left at 6, so I did not have much time left.

Once over La Coupee again I could turn right on another path that went along the south of Sark. This passed Dixcart Bay which looks to be another nice sheltered beach with some sand too. There is a path down to it, but I didn’t not have time to go down there.

Dixcart Bay

The path then joined the road and I took the path through the pretty Dixcart Valley and then headed along the back of Derible Bay. It was so beautiful here with the lower evening sun giving a warm glow and the beautiful turquoise colour of the shallow water.

Derrible Bay

It was difficult to drag myself away, but I had to. So I followed the path which headed inland to another road and then turned right to follow this track to it’s end, which continued as another footpath above Creux Harbour.

Sark Harbour

The white horses on the sea indicate the strong currents around those rocks – you clearly have to know what you are doing to navigate a boat around here. This path headed down towards the harbour but was still on the cliff tops, which gave a nice view back over the harbour.

Sark Harbour

I could then turn left and follow steps down to the main track up from the harbour. I noticed on my return that Sark is also a dark skies island, meaning it is excellent for astronomy given the lack of man-made light at night.

I then headed down to the harbour, with just enough time to get an ice cream before the kiosk closed for the day. A lovely end!

Sark Harbour

I took the ferry back and was chatting to another coastal walker on the way back, who was staying at the other campsite on Guernsey. He remarked how much he had enjoyed it too, although he did make the same observation about the number of tractors on the island!

I really enjoyed Sark. I was initially a bit disappointed about the lack of coastal access but I think the paths that do exist probably get to the most spectacular parts of the coast. I knew that Sark was not known for it’s beaches so it was a pleasant surprise to find a couple of nice sandy beaches and some remote and spectacular rocky ones. It was also a lovely peaceful island which has the feel of somewhere that has changed very little over the years.  It was a lovely day out and a trip I am very glad I made the effort to take, it is a gem of an island.

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

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