All information in this blog post is correct as of the publishing date, 08.01.21.
When most people book Guernsey holidays, they do so with a view to visiting a quiet, idyllic destination where they and their loved ones can truly get away from it all and revel in the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. And, whilst Guernsey certainly does offer everything you would expect from an island paradise – golden beaches, sumptuous food and incredible wildlife – what you may not have known that it is far from the most remote island you could visit during your stay.
The islands of Alderney, Sark and Herm are all part of what’s known as the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a Crown dependency which is considered British but is entirely self-governed. The main island may be small by most of our standards but, compared to its neighbours, Guernsey is something of a metropolis! In this article, we’ll introduce you to these three beautiful smaller islands, all of which are just a short ferry ride away from the ‘mainland’ of Guernsey, and what you can do on a day trip there.
The largest of the three islands in our guide, Alderney still only has a surface area of about three square miles and is home to just over 2,000 permanent residents.
How to get there
There are several private ferry companies who run regular trips between Guernsey and Alderney, although most provide more frequent services in the spring and summer months. One provider, the Little Ferry Company, only started operating in 2018 but their trial service proved so popular that it has recently been extended into this summer; sailing twice a day, seven days a week, the little ferry only carries 12 passengers but you can book a ticket (if space is still available) up to half an hour before sailing.
Ferry trips to Alderney from Guernsey take about an hour but, if you’re really in a rush to get there, you could even fly between the two islands’ small airports, which will cost more but only take about 20 minutes!
Things to do
As you’d expect with anywhere in the Channel Islands, much of Alderney’s appeal lies in its coastal beauty. As well as a range of beautiful beaches that are perfect for families and surfing enthusiasts alike, the historic Mannez Lighthouse on the north-east coast is also well worth a visit. Built over 100 years ago and still in operation today, the building can be explored every day in the summer – tickets cost a mere £4 (or just £3 for children) – and a climb to the top will provide you with some truly extraordinary views.
One example of Alderney’s slightly quirky nature is evident in one of its other attractions: the Alderney Railway. The only railway in the whole of the Channel Islands, this very special line will have a particular appeal to anyone who is visiting from the UK capital, as the only trains that run on it are two reclaimed London Underground carriages!
Alderney’s annual festival, Alderney Week, plays host to the biggest annual carnival in the Channel Islands. A myriad of music, entertainment, sports, events and prizes that culminates in the famous Alderney torchlight procession.
Like all the Channel Islands, Alderney is rich and diverse when it comes to its wildlife. Along with the species you may already have suspected to find there (such as puffins, gannets and other seabirds), there is one particularly fascinating animal that is almost unique to the island.
In the 1960s, two exceptionally rare blonde hedgehogs were released into the wild in Alderney and, as it turned out, would go on to create quite a legacy! In the decades that followed, the usually elusive blonde hedgehog began to thrive on Alderney, and it is now estimated that around a quarter of all hedgehogs found here are of this variety. You may need to have a particularly keen eye to spot one during your visit, but the wait is sure to be worth it for anyone who does.
Sark is one of the only places in the world where cars are not allowed on the roads, which should give you a fair idea of the island’s laid-back atmosphere! Sark has a surface area of just over two miles and houses around 500 year-round residents.
How to get there
You will be pleased to hear that, thanks to the long-established service operated by the Sark Shipping Company, ferries to this island from Guernsey are even more frequent than they are to Alderney.
Although there is no airport on Sark, the frequency of ferry sailings means that there is really no need for one. During the summer season, the 55-minute journey between the islands takes place up to five times a day, with a limited service still operating even in the dark winter months.
Things to do
With its car-less roads and beautiful scenery, it will not surprise you to know that Sark is best suited to those who enjoy soaking up peace and tranquillity whilst they’re away – if you’re looking for a busy and vibrant night out, Sark probably isn’t for you!
If, however, you quite like the idea of reclining in leisure by day as a horse-drawn carriage ferries you around the island before spending your evening gazing up at the stunning night sky (regarded as among the clearest in the world, thanks to the extremely low levels of light pollution on the island), then a visit is very much recommended.
Possibly the most eagerly anticipated event on the Sark calendar, is the annual Sheep Racing Festival which is half every year in July.
Just like its neighbours, Sark also has plenty to offer when it comes to wildlife, with the island regularly welcoming a diverse range of seabirds to its rocky shores. Sark’s biggest claim to fame in this respect is that it is home to the largest colony of guillemots in the whole of the Channel Islands.
If, however, you are more into your flora than fauna, then Sark will also prove to be the perfect destination. A true paradise for lovers of wildflowers, the island hosts a quite dazzling array of species in the spring and summer that will be enough to make even the most hardened city dweller want to give it all up and relocate!
Perhaps the most beautiful and unspoilt Channel Island of all, Herm has a total surface area of under a mile and an estimated population of as few as 60 people.
How to get there
Given its blissfully remote nature, it is unsurprising that the only way to reach Herm is by ferry. There is currently only one passenger ferry that takes people from Guernsey to Herm – the Travel Trident – but you can rely on it to be safe, comfortable, fast (journeys only take 20 minutes!) and extremely regular; two-way journeys take place multiple times every day during the warmer months, whilst a limited service operates between November and March.
Things to do
Herm’s economy is largely dependent on the many visitors who travel there from Guernsey every year, so the island’s residents have made every effort to make a day out in Herm as exciting, informative and memorable as possible.
From relaxing in the sun-trap courtyard of the Mermaid Tavern to taking a guided tour of the island’s many expertly landscaped gardens or trying your hand at kayaking, there is no end to what intrepid visitors of all tastes can get stuck into here.
Possibly the best part of Herm though, is Shell Beach. This beautiful white sandy beach is surrounded by turquoise waters and sits proudly as the gem in Herm’s crown. For more information and inspiration on beaches in the Islands of Guernsey, check out our Guernsey Beach Guide!
Like all the other Channel Islands, planning a visit to Herm if only to see its spectacular array of wildlife is always worthwhile.
As well as all the puffins, guillemots and oystercatchers you would probably expect to see, you may be more surprised to learn that Herm is also a haven for many fascinating – and some rare – inland birds. Take a walk around the island and you could be lucky enough to see anything from long-eared owls to cuckoos!