A day trip to Herm

Small islands have always held an attraction for me. Perhaps it’s because we live as far inland as possible on this island of ours that we often choose to holiday on an island. And if there happens to be another island nearby that’s even better!  So it’s probably not surprising that on our recent trip to Guernsey we spent a day on Herm, the smallest of the Channel Islands open to the public.

herm coast
The north coast beaches of Herm

Herm island is 3 miles from Guernsey, and reached by a 20 minute crossing on the Trident ferry from St Peter Port.  As soon as you step off the ferry it feels like you’ve been transported to a different era.  Most noticeably, cars and bicycles are not allowed on the island, although there is a tractor luggage service for those staying the night.

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Fisherman’s Beach, Herm

Upon arrival we only just managed to make it past the gift shop, as the kids discovered that it hid a large toy selection with lots of options to spend pocket money on.  After dragging them out, with the promise of a return visit, we headed off along one of the signposted trails.

Our first destination was Shell Beach on the north coast of the island.  As you may guess, it takes it’s name from shells, which are washed up by the Gulf Stream.  Don’t get too excited though, as these are generally fragments of crushed shells rather than large tropical conches!

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View across the common to Shell Beach, Herm

This beach often appears in lists of ‘top beaches to visit’ and it didn’t disappoint.  It was stunning; with white sand, turquoise waters and a rather cold sea breeze – so we ate our picnic hidden in the shelter of the sand dunes.

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Kayaking territory

After lunch the kids spotted kayaks for hire, and persuaded dad to take them out, in turn, on a double kayak. Neither had been kayaking before, but the sea was calm (albeit freezing) and there were plenty of islets to explore and yachts to look at. They both agreed it was the highlight of their entire holiday.  Being a non swimmer, I took advantage of the small beach cafe whilst the kids were kayaking.

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I couldn’t stop taking photos of the beaches….

Further along the coast is another popular beach, Belvoir Bay, which is smaller but in a sheltered position.  We bypassed this on the cliff path as we wanted to walk around the island but it looked just as inviting as Shell Beach. Herm island is only 1 1/2 miles long, and 1/2 mile wide, and in theory takes about 2 hours to walk around.  However, I defy anyone not to get waylaid at one of the beaches!

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Walking the cliff path on Herm

At the aptly named Puffin Bay we were lucky enough to see 5 puffins bobbing in the sea.  Take binoculars as they’re tricky to spot, although once you’ve found them they’re easy to identify.

All too soon it was late afternoon and time for the ferry back to Guernsey.  After another visit to the gift shop, we boarded the ferry, and waved our goodbyes.

herm coastalpath
View from the coastal path

If you’ve enjoyed reading about our day trip to Herm you might also like to read more about our family walks in Guernsey and the beautiful wildflowers which adorn the island in early summer.

Kids view:

The kayaking was awesome!

General info:

  • The boat to Herm runs 5 or 6 times per day during the April-October season.  Check where the return journey is from, as it picks up at a different spot at low tide.
  • Try to visit on a sunny day. It would be a very different experience on a wet or windy day.
  • You can stay overnight on Herm island.  There is a hotel, self-catering cottages and a campsite.

Costs:

The return ferry from Guernsey to Herm costs £11.50 for adults, £5.50 for children and £1 for infants.  There are slightly cheaper fares if you visit on the first ferry of the day.

Kayak rental on Shell Beach costs £10 per hour for a single or £15 per hour for a double seater.

More details: www.herm-island.com

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Campsite review: Fauxquets Valley, Guernsey

We loved this campsite!
Reception and shop at Fauxquets Valley campsite
Reception and shop at Fauxquets Valley campsite

Fauxquets Valley is located in a rural area in central Guernsey. It offers pitches for tents and camper vans, fully equipped tents and a couple of log cabins to rent.  There are a variety of camping areas, with separate areas for large tents or outback camping for those who don’t need an electric hook up.

Despite it being the May Bank Holiday weekend the site was pretty quiet and we were able to choose our own pitch on arrival.  We had mixed weather during our stay, with heavy rain on two nights, but the terraced pitch drained well.

Roland and Teresa, the owners, were friendly and welcoming.  They were permanantly busy but happy to chat and provide recommendations for walks and places to eat. Roland has mapped out some walks in the locality, and can point out a short walk in the valley which is perfect for an evening stroll.
A group of 50+ French children arrived on a school trip a couple of days into our stay. Fortunately they used tents in a separate field and had their own group toilets and showers so we weren’t disturbed.  Although they did commandeer the sockets in the ironing room for their phone chargers – and a coffee machine!
The campsite pool
The campsite pool

Facilities at Fauxquets

The toilets and showers were kept clean. I’m not sure how they’d cope at the height of the season as there were only three showers for ladies, three for men and a disabled shower but we had no problems during our stay. There is a playground for young children, a large field for ball games, an outdoor swimming pool, a TV room and a games room. We didn’t brave the pool as it was a cool week but we did hear shouts and splashes from more hardy souls.  The TV room was very small but to be fair, you don’t generally come camping to sit and watch the box!
The shop offers the usual camping and food basics, as well as newspapers, postcards, hot drinks and pre-ordered bakery goods.  It was open in the morning and late afternoon during our stay but all day during high season.  There’s a small sunny terrace outside, with free wifi, and a covered seating area with conservatory style furniture.
A wood fired pizza van operates a couple of times a week. We enjoyed an excellent goats cheese and red onion pizza (£6) with our Greek pasta salad one night.
Help yourself to herbs
Help yourself to herbs
The best part of the campsite though was the small area of farm animals – piglets, lambs, chickens etc. The piglets were very cute and the source of the sausages and other pork products on sale in the shop!
Piggy
We completed a variety of family walks in Guernsey and we also popped over the beautiful island of Herm for a day trip. Highly recommended if you get the chance!

More info:

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Enjoying the wild flowers in Guernsey

One of my lasting memories of our trip to Guernsey are the wild flowers along the verges and adorning the cliff paths.

Sea thrift, Guernsey
Sea thrift, Guernsey

Whilst the bluebells were just going over the colours of the later spring flowers brightened our walks. The cliffs were covered in swathes of pink sea thrift and yellow gorse bushes.

Gorse and sea campion, Guernsey
Gorse and sea campion, Guernsey

I tried, unsuccessfully, to take photos of the butterflies too.  Speckled wood  butterflies were in abundance but proved too fluttery for me to capture with my camera!

Flowers along the southern coasts of Guernsey
Flowers along the southern coasts of Guernsey

The verges alongside the roads are left to grow long in spring, benefitting the insects and birds. So different to the sterilised roadsides at home!

Stinking onions, Guernsey
Stinking onions

You can read more about our family walks in Guernsey and our day trip to the beautiful island of Herm; they’re a great opportunity to see many of these flowers.

Alexanders, Guernsey
Alexanders
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Down and up the Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire.

Caen Hill Locks
Caen Hill Locks

I was disheartened recently when I mentioned to my youngest how lovely the weather was going to be at the weekend, and he replied “Oh no, that means we’ll have to go for a walk!”

It was a true assumption though as we like to get out into the countryside as much as possible. I just hope the kids grow to love the outdoors as much as we do.

On a recent sunny weekend we decided to visit the Caen Hill locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. The set of locks are an incredible feat of engineering. First opened in 1810 they were built to carry the canal 237 feet up Caen Hill. There are 29 locks in total, over 2 miles, although the picture you see most often is of the 16 locks stretching up the hill.  The canal became derelict after the Second World War but was restored and officially reopened in 1990. Many of the locks are dedicated to those who helped with the restoration.

We parked at the wharf in Devizes and followed the signs to the locks along the towpath.  The first half mile or so is through parts of the town but it soon heads into open countryside. The canal was pretty quiet with just a few owners out spring cleaning their boats.

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The Caen Hill cafe marks the top of the hill and is a perfectly located refreshment stop. The cafe is in the old lock keepers cottage, and the tables in the front garden have views down the canal. We enjoyed a cup of coffee, whilst the kids took advantage of the sunny weather and chose ice creams. Suitably refreshed we continued downhill.  Whilst the cafe had been busy, the canal itself was rather lacking in boats.  Boats can take up to 6 hours to travel through the set of locks, but it was slightly disappointing to only spot one boat negotiating them during our visit.

I live in hope that my children are now of the right age that I don’t have to worry about them falling off the edge of the canal into the lock. Whilst my daughter has inherited my sensible gene, my son is of a much more random nature – act first, think later (maybe). So it’s a little hard to relax when he’s running and messing around by the edge off the canal. Suffice to say it was just me being paranoid and the walk passed without incident.

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View back up Caen Hill locks

Shortly after reaching the bottom of the hill we crossed over one of the locks and headed back up the hill which runs alongside (but away from the locks). This takes you closer to the large pools which provide the water to operate the locks.  These were home to a variety of ducks, and some nesting swans which signs warn against getting too close to.

It was at this point that we realised our mistake of stopping at the cafe on the way down rather than up. The ice cream incentive  to finish a walk doesn’t work this way round! Fortunately the hill isn’t really that big or long and we were soon back on the flat and heading into Devizes.

Kids view:

The walk wasn’t very exciting, but the ice cream was really yummy!

General info:

  • The towpath is accessible, although pushing a wheelchair or buggy back up the hill might take some effort!
  • There’s another car park at the Caen Hill cafe if you don’t want to walk from the centre of Devizes.

Costs:

The car parking charges were reasonable.  We extended our stay with a wander around Devizes, the parking cost for our visit was around £4.

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