Your guide to getting to the 8 inhabited Channel Islands
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From all scenic viewpoints along the Guernsey Coastal Path, a 38-mile walking trail that meanders from beachfront to cliffside and back again, the English Channel looks towards the surrounding oblong, rocky forms in the near distance, the Channel Islands.
It’s magical — you’ll see rock samphire, a variety of sea fennel and gorse and shrubs with yellow flowers growing wild along the cliffs. In St Peter Port, narrow streets with quiet shops and vibrant flower boxes are linked by ancient keyhole-narrow alleyways and stairwells called venelles.
If you’ve never visited this beautiful cluster of islands, perhaps it’s time. The good news is, getting to the two largest Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey has never been easier. And once there, getting to the smaller and less-inhabited islands of Sark, Alderney, Lihou and Herm is easily doable by ferry or private boat.
Getting to Guernsey by air
The only direct flight from Guernsey (GCI) to London is from Gatwick (LGW) and is operated by Aurigny — the “flag carrier” of Guernsey. The service, which restarts on 19 October, is operated three times daily by an Embraer 195.
There are morning, afternoon and evening departures — perfect for both business and leisure travellers.
Return fares from the capital to Guernsey aren’t cheap for a flight of less than an hour — the cheapest we’re seeing at the time of writing is £148.
Until the coronavirus pandemic arrived and tore apart the airline industry, taking Flybe down with it, the U.K.-based regional airline operated daily flights from Guernsey to Heathrow (LHR) as well as several other airports across the U.K.
Aurigny also operates regularly scheduled services to Jersey (JER) and Alderney (ACI) in the Channel Islands and Birmingham (BHX), Bristol (BRS), East Midlands (EMA), Exeter (EXT), Manchester (MAN) and Southampton (SOU). There are also seasonal return flights to Leeds Bradford (LBA) on 23 and 28 December, likely special flights for those returning home or visiting family over Christmas.
Visit Guernsey has an excellent compilation of air and sea options here.
Getting to Jersey by air
Guernsey is 27 square miles in size, and Jersey is a bit larger, at 45 square miles. The islands have overlapping histories, and at certain moments in history, have held different allegiances. Activities like coasteering, hiking, cycling, tracking 3,500-year-old remnants of Neolithic civilisation, immersing in World War II (and previous) history and exploring local beaches are commonplace when visiting both. You’ll also find ample opportunities for sailing, fishing and golf.
Jersey is by far more connected by air to the rest of the U.K. than Guernsey. A total of four airlines operate scheduled flights to 12 airports up and down the U.K.
Blue Islands, also a registered airline of the Channel Islands, flies to Birmingham (BHX), Bristol (BRS) East Midlands (EMA), Exeter (EXT), Southampton (SOU) and Guernsey (GCI).
British Airways used to fly the route from Gatwick (LGW) to Jersey, but due to the pandemic, has changed to Heathrow and looks set to continue that way for the foreseeable future.
Despite EasyJet closing three bases across the U.K. recently, its presence remains in Jersey (JER). It operates year-round flights to Glasgow (GLA), Liverpool (LPL) and Manchester (MAN) plus seasonal flights to Belfast (BFS) and Luton (LTN).
And finally, Jet2 operates seasonal summer flights to Jersey from Leeds Bradford (LBA).
Jersey’s Tourist Information Centre has compiled links for air and sea travel here.
Arrival by water
Condor Ferries operates service to both Guernsey and Jersey from Poole and Portsmouth in England, Saint-Malo in France and between Guernsey and Jersey. Manche Isles Express offers passenger-only service to Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and Alderney during the summer months from Dilette, Carteret and Granville, in Normandy, France. Unfortunately, all Manche Isles Express services are currently suspended due to coronavirus.
The smallest Channel Islands, Jethou and Brecqhou, are privately owned. But Sark, Herm, Alderney and Lihou each have unique natural environments where you can enjoy daily scenic walks on rocky cliffs and dry dirt footpaths, isolated beachfronts, historic sites and total immersion in the varied maritime ecosystems of the islands.
From St Peter Port in Guernsey, you can catch the ferry to Sark, which has a population of about 500. You can ferry with Isle of Sark Shipping Ltd.
Once there, explore the two-mile island on foot, bicycle or by horse and carriage, which can be booked upon disembarkation from the ferry. Aside from tractors, these horse and carriages are the only permissible modes of transport on Sark.
Some important stops to make once you cross the coupee, a narrow footpath along a natural isthmus between Big Sark and Little Sark, are La Sablonnerie hotel for tea in the gardens or impossibly fresh lobster, as well as Caragh Chocolates, which are handmade and filled with Sark cream.
Also visit La Seugnerie gardens and maze, which features a wealth of geologic highlights, including Sark Henge. Sark is recognised by the International Dark Sky Association. So, spending the night — whether in an inn or campsite — will yield stargazing rewards.
Travel Trident offers daily service via a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port in Guernsey to Herm, which is located three miles away. Though just a mile in size, Herm has two expansive stretches of beachfront. Bring a picnic and squeeze in time for a cliffside walk, replete with wildflowers. Keep an eye out for puffins, Atlantic seals, Risso’s dolphins and minke whales. The famed Herm Oysters has its main site on Fisherman’s Beach.
Alderney is the northernmost and third-largest Channel Island — 1.5 miles wide and three miles long. The Little Ferry Company offers services from Guernsey and Aurigny flies to Alderney — a comprehensive air and sea strategy for getting to Alderney can be found here. Accommodation along the beach ranges from a luxury hotel to the Saye Beach Campsite.
Lihou is a tidal island off the west coast of Guernsey, accessible only via a causeway during low tide, and for just a few hours each day. Because of that, be sure to check the tide table before beginning your adventure. Also, a Ramsar site (a wetland site designated to be of international importance) Lihou has an unimaginable amount of biodiversity, with gullies of clean, nutrient-rich water, 33 types of lichen, more than 214 types of seaweed and a wealth of sea creatures like winkles, limpets, sea anemones and more.
Between new airline routes and frequent ferry services, it’s easier than ever to get to the Channel Islands. And if you’re thinking of a trip, don’t just focus on the two largest islands of Guernsey and Jersey. Try your luck with island hopping, but be sure to check the ferry schedules beforehand.
Additional reporting by Daniel Ross
Featured photo by David Clapp/Getty
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