100. Herm

July 2013

Herm was the fourth of the Channel Islands I walked around and it was a case of third time lucky! The first time I visited Herm was in 1998 on a family holiday. We had set off under clear blue skies and with a fine day forecast from Guernsey, but as we approached Herm, a sea mist began to roll in. We did manage to walk all the way around Herm, but we didn’t see it at it’s best, because the sea mist lasted all day, restricting views and making it about 5 degrees colder than it otherwise was.

When I travelled over to the islands for a week, I hadn’t originally planned another visit to Herm, but because I took less time than expected to walk around Guernsey I had a day spare and decided to return to Herm. That day was rather spoiled because it poured with rain all day, and as a result I got very wet.

So my third trip is the one I am writing about it, and it wasn’t in fact one I had planned to do initially. Condor Ferries, the ferry company that provides the only ferry service to the Channel Islands from the UK used to offer day trips every day through the summer months to Guernsey and regular day trips to Jersey and Herm, according to the old leaflet I found at home (dated 2012). The fastest crossing from Weymouth to Guernsey took just 2 hours, so was quite feasible for a day trip. These were good value too, at £30 return and since the islands are outside the EU provided a good opportunity to buy some duty free, too.

Sadly, the service has been in decline for many years. By 2013, it had reduced to a single crossing each day from Weymouth to Guernsey then on to Jersey and a single crossing each day from Poole to Guernsey and on to Jersey. This means the opportunities for day trips had reduced to just Guernsey and unless you were prepared to travel between Poole and Weymouth it meant 6 hours of ferry travel and one hour of required “check in” time for 3.5 hours on Guernsey, which is not such an attractive deal. The service has declined still further since then with just a single fast boat in operation last year and it is now down to a maximum of a single crossing each day.

For a period in 2013, Condor were still operating two boats (Condor Vitesse and Condor Express). However large cracks in the harbour wall at Weymouth had caused the ferry port to close for repairs and so for a while Condor were operating both vessels out of Poole, providing once again the opportunity for a longer day trip to Guernsey. It was an opportunity I decided to take advantage of and used it to return to Herm. I booked a day trip to Guernsey for £30.

I was travelling from near Christchurch so drove down to Poole port, where I was booked on the 08:30 sailing. Although a weekday, traffic was light as I needed to be there by 8am. Helpfully there is a car park at the port so it is quite convenient. We left on time, on board the Condor Express. I was also lucky, in that this time the weather was fine. I was hoping it would last!

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Although a high speed ferry, the speed limit within Poole harbour is very low but I quite like this because it gives you a good opportunity to enjoy the views over the beautiful harbour. Soon we had reached beautiful Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust which was looking quiet at this time in the morning.

Brownsea Island

A few minutes later, we reached the mouth of the harbour, passing the chain ferry slipway.

Poole Harbour

Onwards we went, passing the wonderful Shell Bay, at the start of the South West Coast path.

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As we headed out to sea there were lovely views of the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks near Swanage.

Swanage

Soon Swanage itself was visible around the corner.

Swanage

As we headed further out to sea, the boat soon picked up speed and the Dorset coast receded into the distance. I headed back inside for a while but to be honest I was not too impressed with the seat I had been allocated around a table in the middle of the boat, with no easy view outside, so I soon returned to sit out on the deck.

The crossing was smooth and pleasant although once away from Dorset there was not a lot to see other than sea and then odd boat. However after around 2 hours or so we were passing close to the island of Alderney, which oddly Condor don’t serve. A little early, and we were coming into Guernsey harbour.

St Peter Port

St Peter Port

Herm can be reached by ferry from Guernsey (only), operated by Travel Trident. It is a very good service running up to hourly in the peak summer months and is at least daily all year around and a return crossing currently costs £13. I was lucky that we had arrived in Guernsey a bit early and in fact as I got there the 11:15 boat to Herm was still loading up but was already a couple of minutes late. I asked if I could get on and pay for a ticket on the boat, but I was told that this wasn’t possible and I had to go to the kiosk at the landward end of the harbour to buy a ticket, which meant I would miss this boat. So I had to catch the next one, but this was the one I had expected to catch anyway so it was not a problem and gave me time to get lunch in Guernsey.

The next boat departed on time and it took around half an hour to reach Herm. Herm is a small island, being 1.5 miles tall and less than half a mile wide. It has a population of 60, although this is swelled in the summer months since there is a hotel, campsite and some holidays cottages on the island too.

The leaflet provides a basic map and there is a coast path right around the island. I was dropped at the low tide drop off point, Rosiere Steps, on the west coast of the island.

Herm island

The view out into the bay was quite something.

Herm island

Numerous rocky islets and rocks are just off the coast of Herm and the sea is shallow, having a wonderful turquoise colour. It looks like a tropical island and I soon found this is not so far from the truth, at least on a day like this. Guernsey can be seen in the distance.

I started by turning right and following the coast around the south of the island. The south of the island is fairly rugged and rocky, whilst the north is flat with a beautiful sandy beach all around it backed by dunes.

The coast path climbed away from the little road from the ferry steps and soon gave me a wonderful view over the neighbouring island of Jethou. Sadly this is private, so I was not able to visit it.

Jethou

Looking back, the boat I had arrived on was now returning to Guernsey. You can see that navigating these waters is a challenge with all the rocks that are around.

Herm Island

The coast path headed up a flight of steps to gain height but once up, was more undulating than really hilly. The island is small, so it didn’t take me long to reach the south western corner of the island.

Herm Island

I rounded the corner and looking back, Jethou was now disappearing from view.

Herm Island

The south coast is rugged and rocky, but not especially steep and it only took a few minutes before I was about to turn the corner and head up the east coast of the island.

Herm Island

Looking out to sea from here I could see neighbouring Sark, which still looked quite distant. Heading up the east coast there was soon a pebble beach with a little rocky islet just off the end, connected at all but high tide. This is called Putrainez.

The south east coast of Herm Island

Just a short distance ahead was another rocky little island and here the cliff path dropped down almost to sea level and the sea here is so shallow, it is really stunning. This little island is called Caquorobert.

The south east coast of Herm Island

Rounding the corner I could now make out the fine sandy beach that rounds all of the north coast of the island, a stretch I was particularly looking forward to.

Herm Island

The coast path ahead now made it’s way along roughly half way up the cliffs, so I didn’t have to climb all the way back up, and passed another pebble beach.

Herm Island

I was soon approaching the smaller of the two beaches on the north coast, Belvoir Bay.

Belvoir Bay, Herm Island

Looking at the view it was hard to believe I was still in the UK, it really was as good as it looks, the shallow sea was warm, the air too was warm with was just a gentle breeze and the water was crystal clear.

The path headed around the back of the beach which has a small kiosk and cafe with some seats overlooking the beach. I stopped here for an ice cream and headed down onto the beach for a paddle.

Belvoir Bay, Herm Island

It was a nice relax on the beach but I didn’t stop for long, because I was keen to see the rest of the island. It was now only a short walk around the low cliffs to the next beach, Shell Beach. This is so called because of the number of shells that wash up and the sand here is actually fairly coarse sand made of shells broken into tiny pieces.

What a wonderful view I had ahead of me.

Shell beach

The path was easy and I took very many photos along this stretch, the sea was such a wonderful colour.

Shell beach

I was soon level with the beach which had a small cafe and kiosk at the south end but otherwise was just backed by dunes stretching off to the northern tip of the island.

Shell beach

It is such a beautiful beach with pristine white sands, a turquoise sea and also interesting views out to sea, with the numerous rocky islets off Herm and the larger island of Sark on the horizon.

Shell beach

I stopped to sit on the beach for half an hour or so, padding in the warm shallow sea. It was lovely and very relaxing. It was soon time to drag myself away and head north up the beach where the beach was soon deserted, not that it had been crowded before.

The north east corner of the island became a little rocky and I could spot a boat making it’s way over to Guernsey in the distance.

Shell beach

For a change of scene I decided to head up into the dunes and the extra height gained revealed quite how many rocks there are off the coast here.

Shell Beach, Herm

The north coast was very quiet and the beach just perfect, a wonderful white sand and pretty dunes behind.

Herm Island north coast

The north of the island had low sandy cliffs although it is easy to head down over the sand back to the beach I decided to stick to the grassy cliff tops now because the tide was coming in so there was only really soft sand to walk on, which is hard going.

The view inland was initially grass covered sand but there were some interesting rocky little hills just behind.

Herm heath

The north coast of the island is a bit wider than the south but the easy walking meant it did not take long for me to round the corner with a view back to the harbour and Jethou again.

Herm Harbour and beach

The beach was briefly rocky on the north western corner so I was glad I had stuck to the path rather than tried to walk along the beach.

Shell Beach, Herm

Soon I reached the little town (or hamlet) where the majority of buildings on Herm can be found and there was a fine viewpoint here giving a view back along the Shell Beach that makes up much of the north of the island.

Herm harbour beach

It is a pretty place with the houses well maintained and brightly painted. I think these buildings are houses for the residents whilst just behind is the island hotel. The residents don’t have a long commute to work!

Herm village

I continued on the road (such as it is) with the well kept White House Hotel just behind, the hotel for the island. It does look a very nice place to stay, I must make a trip back and stay here sometime.

I continued on the road past the harbour and back to the steps where the boat had dropped me earlier, my circuit of the island now complete.

View to Rosaire Steps

I still had an hour or so before my return ferry, so I explored some of the inland parts of the island. Here is the main “square” just behind the harbour.

Herm Island

I headed up to the highest point on the island which made for a nice view of the glistening waters between Herm and Guernsey.

Herm

The view north was equally impressive over the unspoilt beach and dunes.

The north coast of Herm

There is another complex of houses near the middle of the island, sheltered by trees and many of these are now holiday cottages and not open, although you can go inside the little chapel you can see the roof of.

Herm village

I also found a viewpoint with a good view over the harbour and the campsite which is largely hidden from view on the coastal path behind a hedge.

Herm Harbour

On reaching the east coast of the island I turned right and made a last circuit of the rugged south coast of the island before returning to the harbour for my return boat at 5pm. It was a pleasant and calm crossing back over to Guernsey giving good views of neighbouring Jethou.

Departing from Herm

My boat home was not leaving until 20:25 (although I had to check in half an hour before that), so I had nearly 2 hours free in Guernsey after my trip around the island, enough time to get a meal, which is what I did.

St Peter Port looked especially beautiful in the late evening sunshine.

St Peter Port harbour

Soon the sun was getting low in the sky, casting an attractive golden glow over Castle Cornet at the southern end of the harbour.

Castle Cornet

Sadly for me the day had to end and I soon had to head back to the harbour and the ferry back to Poole. We departed a little early which was nice and soon headed slowly out of the harbour as the sun was just beginning to set.

Departing Guernsey

As we headed out away from the harbour the boat soon picked up speed, kicking out an impressive wash behind it.

Departing Guernsey

Guernsey soon receded into the distance but there was still plenty of interest, with a lot of rocks around. Soon there were distant views over to the island of Alderney.

Alderney

Soon that too disappeared too, but it was a warm calm evening and I sat up on deck until the sun sank below the horizon. It is nice to watch the sun setting over the open sea. But once it had gone down it started to become a bit chilly, so I headed below back to my reserved seat. It was a little before 11pm when we reached Poole and it was nice to see the welcome lights of Poole and Swanage as we approached. I’ve not often done a ferry crossing after dark so it was nice to see all the lights of the various ships in the distance which would otherwise be hard to spot.

This was a wonderful day out and I absolutely loved Herm. It is such a beautiful island it is like a tropical paradise, with the beautiful white sands and turquoise sea backed by palm trees. Having been to Herm before I knew I would enjoy it, but not having had such good weather before I was amazed at just how beautiful it is. It greatly exceeded my expectations. If you get the opportunity I highly recommend a visit.

Whilst on the island I also bought a copy of the book “Herm, Our Island Home“. It is the story of the family that run the island on a lease from the States of Guernsey and the various trials and tribulations they had to go through. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and it was quite moving to read about the hard work the family put in to make it work and turn Herm into the popular tourist destination it is today whilst dealing with all the difficulties that island life brings. This was particularly the case during World War II. If you can get a copy (new copies are available on the island, but no one else seems to have any) I strongly recommend it.

To reach the island, Travel Trident operate regular boats from Guernsey harbour.

Here are the photos I took on this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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