Sark is the fourth smallest of the Channel Islands and lies in the English Channel just off the coast of Normandy, six miles from Guernsey and twenty miles from Jersey.
The island is the smallest independent state in the Commonwealth, with its own parliament, Chief Pleas, and its own laws. It also has the distinction of being awarded by the Dark Sky Association as the very first ‘Dark Sky Island’. Sark has exceptional beauty and unrivalled peace and quiet.
Sark is a large rock rising from the sea, its serenity protected by 200 foot cliffs topped by rolling fields known as cotils. The granite cliffs are home to many species of sea birds and the cotils are covered in carpets of flowers in the spring. They change, blue with bluebells, pink with thrift and white with daisies as the spring sunlight lures the plants out in steady procession. As summer approaches the red campion, buttercups, scabious and white campion take over to keep the colour in the fields. The butterflies, untroubled by pesticides, flutter from flower to flower; a birdwatcher’s delight.
It is not only the flowers and dramatic scenery that makes Sark unique. There are no cars allowed to pollute the air and ear. The usual means of transport is bicycle or horse and carriage. There is tractor-drawn transport up the steep Harbour Hill, but tractors may not carry passengers beyond the dropping point at the top of the hill. Visitors may walk, or cycle, but most day visitors choose to take a sight-seeing horse and carriage trip where they can take advantage of being able to see over the high banks which line the unmade roads and the driver will know some of the island’s history and can answer most questions. Seats on carriage tours of Sark may be booked from Guernsey or Jersey, as part of a package tour, but there are plenty of free seats for those who make their own travel arrangements. Just ask the drivers lined up in the carriage park at the top of the hill, and they will either include you in their tour, or direct you to a carriage with free seats.
Many day visitors return to stay longer in the hotels and guest houses on the island. Some return again and again. Long term visitors all have their own favourite parts of Sark. Fishermen enjoy fishing off the rocks at L’Eperquerie, at the northern end of the island, although some come to Sark to go out from the old harbour – the Creux Harbour – with local fishermen.
Painters enjoy the sweeping views of the coast from Les Banquettes, La Coupee or any of the many headlands which look out on to the bays, the stretches of sand and rocks and the translucent sea.
Walkers enjoy the cliff paths which give the same magnificent vistas combined with gentle exercise. They can climb down to the beaches to paddle, swim, build castles and investigate some of the caves tunnelling into the cliffs. Divers visit to explore underwater, where clear seas make it easy to see the tremendous variety of marine life.
After a day in really fresh air, visitors and locals alike will find a restaurant for an evening meal. Sark is lucky, having local fish, lamb, pork, beef and vegetables to provide a basis for the very good chefs who work in the hotels in the summer. The island butter is legendary, being a rich yellow, as is the local cream.
Going out for a meal on a summer evening is quite an experience. Some hire a carriage, but many walk, enjoying air scented with honeysuckle and the deep quiet. After dinner the walk home is often under a canopy of stars. There are no street lights on Sark and so the full glory of the Milky Way, the Plough and the North Star are plain to see. On moonlit nights the sea glitters.
Sark is a truly magical place, quite unlike anywhere else and well worth a visit.
For more information please contact the Sark Tourism Office – telephone 01481 832345, fax 01481 832483, or visit the web site www.sark.co.uk for how to get here, where to stay and the latest news.