I’ve already spoken at length about the beauty of Guernsey and the way in which it surprised me constantly, and Sark turned out to follow suit. I was travelling in the Channel Islands with my good friend Julie from A Lady in London, and our excursions were organised by Visit Guernsey.
Early in the morning, we caught our ferry from St Peter Port. During the high season, ferries are more frequent, but we only had one time slot available, and we were determined not to miss it.
We got on board the ferry and, from there, it was a steady one-hour journey to Sark. As mentioned before, Guernsey is a bailiwick consisting of itself and various smaller islands, and we passed some of these on our ferry journey. Thickly coated with bright-green vegetation and surrounded by Caribbean-blue water, I wished that we could make a stop at all of these islands.
Nonetheless, all of these thoughts evaporated as we steered in towards Sark.
With a white lighthouse acting as a beacon into the tiny port, the rising cliffs covered with purple flowers completed the thought that had popped into my head: we were going to be walking into a postcard.
Apart from being a ridiculously picturesque place, Sark is unique in many ways. With a history dating back to the Roman times, I think many people would still judge the island as being slightly outdated.
For one, it’s one of the few places in the world where cars are wholly banned. Only tractors and horse-drawn carriages are allowed. Secondly, only 600 people call this island home. Once we were greeted by Sark Tourism, we were told that there were some Sark inhabitants who had never left the island at all!
|Sark’s high street.|
Other quirks exist, such as the fact that the island has a dialect specific to its inhabitants, called Sercquiais, and also that Sark has almost zero air pollution.
Once on the island, we saw that the road leading away from the port into the high street was rather steep, so we decided to do what the locals did – take the toast rack. This has got nothing to do with breakfast; the toast rack involves a trailer latched onto a tractor. For a minimal fee, you take a seat and let the tractor do the hard work for you.
Sark’s high street may induce instant shock for the city slickers coming to its shores. One of the issues may be the fact that there is no real street to speak of, with just a neat, dirt track standing in its place. There are small shops and cafes lining the main, short thoroughfare.
It was here that we located Avenue Cycle Hire, where we got our trusty metal steeds for the day. Since the island is small (measuring just under 5.5 square kilometres in total) and cars are forbidden, bicycles and walking are the only real options for exploring the island.
The first recommendation we received was to make our way down to Dixcart Bay. Slightly muddy from recent rainfall, the trail eventually narrowed to the point where we had to temporarily ditch the bikes. The walk is not a long one, yet it took us through some beautiful forests, generously populated with plantlife. Everywhere we looked seemed to be filled with colourful flowers in bloom.
The path eventually widened, and we reached the bay. The viewpoint above the beach afforded us a panorama of the surrounding sea.
The Dixcart trail is one of the many walking tracks located on the island; combined with additional adventurous activities like kayaking and coasteering, the island is a favourite for outdoor addicts.
Having worked up an appetite, we headed over to the Stocks Hotel, where a two-course lunch awaited us.
As we had discovered on Guernsey, the area is known for its spectacular, locally sourced seafood. There are strict rules for obtaining marine life, where scallops have to be hand-dived, with a limit to how many can be taken at a time.
It comes as no real surprise then that Stocks Hotel’s scallop starter, served with blood sausage, was one of the best dishes I’d eaten for a long time; the same impression was left by my crab and lobster linguine. Even though I was full at the end, I would have gladly inhaled another edition of either plate – the food was perfection.
After enjoying a glass of the homemade nettle wine, which is made on-site at the hotel, we were given a tour of the grounds by Paul, the owner of Stocks. It really is a beautiful venue, with some of the buildings dating back to the 18th Century, all contained within a quiet valley of Sark.
Ready to work off the lunch, we jumped back on the bikes and started on our cycling adventure to the island’s most famous sight. As we rode along the dirt roads, we passed houses, the odd church and large fields filled with sheep. It felt like we were a million miles away from busy, hopelessly urban London, our homebase.
We realised that we had arrived at La Coupee when we noticed the signage telling us to abandon the bikes once more. We strolled over a small hill, and, before us, was an incredible landscape.
La Coupee is an isthmus that connects Great Sark with Little Sark; since this narrow ridge is all that joins the two, the view is undeniably dramatic. The history of the bridge is a little morbid, as the structure was built by prisoners-of-war under the German occupation during World War Two. This grisly bit of context aside, it remained my favourite stop of the day, and I admit that I got a little camera-crazy trying to capture it all.
With the time of our departing ferry drawing closer, we, with difficulty, pulled ourselves away from La Coupee, and headed towards La Seigneurie Gardens.
Nothing on Sark feels terribly far away, and we arrived at the gardens after a short ride. La Seigneurie is home to several 17th Century buildings, with the drawcard being its extravagant gardens.
With gorgeous rose varieties, a maze (which we totally tried out) and many other flowers on display, we could have easily spent a whole afternoon exploring La Seigneurie.
|Julie tests out the sun clock, which was surprisingly completely accurate!|
|The stunning La Seigneurie Gardens.|
Before long, it was time to bid farewell to the island we had only really begun discovering. We returned our bicycles and jumped on the toast rack, the last one running for that day.
As the tractor delivered us safely back at the port, I think both of unanimously decided that we would return to Sark one day. That very first impression of the island resembling a postcard never really diminished; if anything, everything I saw that day just reaffirmed and amplified that Sark is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations I’ve visited thus far.
Sark, I can’t wait to return to your shores!