Five family walks on Guernsey

Guernsey is great for family walks and picnics. The terrain is relatively gentle and you can vary walks along the coastline with those inland along green lanes. Visit in early summer and you’ll be treated to fabulous wildflower displays.

The walks below were enjoyed by our family, with the aid of a Perry’s map of Guernsey and lots of cake.

Picnic before heading over to Lihou Island
Picnic before heading over to Lihou Island

1. Lihou Island

Getting to this island is half the adventure!  Lihou island, off the west coast of Guernsey, is accessed by a causeway at low tide.  You’ll need to time your visit carefully and check the causeway opening times beforehand.  As low tide approaches groups of people gather ready to make the crossing.  Rock pools are revealed either side of the walkway, and the first walkers tentatively make their way over.  Some parts of the track remain wet and covered with seaweed so sensible footwear is a must.

Walk over to Lihou Island
Walk over to Lihou Island

The island is pretty small, and takes no more than an hour to walk around.  Although there is a house on the island (which is available to rent) there are no toilet or other facilities for visitors.

Lihou is an important nature site and during nesting season you must respect the fenced off areas.  If you’re lucky you’ll see lots of gulls with fluffy chicks, but be aware they’re protective parents. We saw a couple of people being dive bombed by the birds!

2. Icart Point to Petit Bot

Near Icart Point, Guernsey
Near Icart Point, Guernsey

Probably my favourite walk of the week, this route has fantastic coastal views and colourful cliffside flowers.  It’s a straightforward trail but there are a few ups and downs along the way.

We parked at Icart point, where we started the day with a drink at the cafe, before following the cliff path right towards Petit Bot. It’s possible to climb down the beach ladder at Le Jaonnet Bay (low tide only) but we bypassed this and continued straight on to Petit Bot. There are toilet facilities and another cafe at Petit Bot.

After basking in the sun for a while on the pebbly beach, we walked back to Icart Point along the same path.  You can concoct an alternative route along inland paths if you wish, but we had no great desire to leave the coast.  Allow for 2 hours walking, plus cafe and beach stops.

3. St Saviour reservoir

Whilst the most spectacular walks are along the coast, this inland walk around St Saviour’s reservoir is a gentle alternative and a relaxing way to spend an hour or so.

The 2 mile route, known as the Millenium Walk,  follows the edge of the reservoir for most of the way, with a short quiet road section towards the end.  You can pick up a leaflet with a map and points of interest from the Tourist Office in St Peter Port.

4. Jerbourg point to Fermain Bay

St Martins Point, near Jerbourg
St Martins Point, near Jerbourg

This is another cliff walk with great views of the coast and neighbouring islands.  Park in the car park next to Hotel Jerbourg and take the track down from the eastern corner.  Follow this all the way to Fermain Bay, ignoring the paths leading off the main route. There are a couple of diversions off, but continue following the signs to Fermain.

It takes about 45 minutes to walk to Fermain Bay.  We coincided our walk with the arrival of a huge cruise ship to Guernsey, which the kids enjoyed watching.  There’s a great viewpoint not long before you reach the bay, with seats if you’re in need of a rest.

We ate lunch in the cafe overlooking the beach. It was a great spot but we didn’t linger as bad weather was heading our way. We returned via a much quicker inland path back (for which you’ll need a map) or you can retrace your route.

5. Portelet to the Fairy Ring

This is a short walk, with the advantage that it’s on tarmac so is also suitable for kids on scooters or bikes.  It takes you out to the Fairy Ring, a sunken ring in the ground with a raised central area.  The kids can sit in here and pretend they’re eating lunch with fairies.  There’s an information board next to the Fairy Ring with the actual history, but if your kids are similar to ours they’ll probably prefer their own made up stories.

If you enjoy walking on Guernsey you’ll probably love Herm Island. Read more about our day trip to Herm.

Top tips for walking with kids

Before children we used to spend much of our free time walking. We were members of a local club, and every month we’d head to the mountains, exploring Snowdonia or the Lake District. We knew things would change when the kids came along but naively assumed that after a few years they’d be accompanying us on our trips.

boots

How little we knew! As our children have grown, they’ve developed their own likes and dislikes. Walking has never featured strongly on the ‘like’ list, but as I’m keen for the children get out and enjoy the countryside, we’ve worked out ways to keep the whole family happy. Our top tips for walking with children are below, if you have any other suggestions please do leave a comment.

1. Food works wonders

Pack a picnic, take plenty of water and snacks and finish your walk at a tea room. This last suggestion is for my benefit, rather than the kids, but everyone deserves a slice of cake after a walk!

2. Choose child friendly routes

Woods and streams offer paddling, tree climbing, den building, log balancing and stick collecting fun. Long treks through featureless fields or along the edge of main roads should be avoided.

3. Incorporate a challenge

Try geocaching, practise map reading skills or have a race up a hill. Any distraction away from the act of walking works well for us.

4. Know your limits

You’ll know how far your kids can walk, and how fast (or slow) they’re likely to be. On average, adults walk around 3 miles per hour on flat ground but this will reduce substantially if you’re walking with a toddler! Similarly, if you’re heading out into mountainous or moorland areas ensure you are confident in your map reading and route finding abilities.

5. Take a camera

I always enjoy seeing the photographs my daughter takes. Whereas I’m the one taking classic landscape photos she’ll be snapping away at a bug, or more usually, herself whilst pulling a funny face.

6. Plan an expedition

As the children have got older, we’ve been on a couple of  ‘expeditions’ with them and both times they’ve gained a great sense of achievement. We walked up Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales) a couple of years ago.

snowdonia
Misty view from Snowdon

Last year we took them to Black Sail Youth Hostel in the Lake District for an overnight visit, made more exciting because it’s only accessible by foot.

7. Escape routes

When planning your walk, work out how you could shorten it if the weather takes a turn for the worse, or it ends up being too difficult or long for the children.

8. Let the kids plan the walk

I can still vividly remember route planning for my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. Whilst our kids aren’t at the stage yet of planning full scale walks, they’re certainly old enough to learn how to use maps, and help with decisions on route choices.

9. Get friendly with nature

Take an I-spy or Usborne nature spotters book with you and see what wildlife you can find. If there are no obvious large animals or birds to identify, look at flowers, mosses or small bugs instead. The Woodland Trust Nature Detectives website is also a fabulous resource with lots of suggestions for activities in the great outdoors.

10.  Get the gear

Plan for the weather and conditions you’ll be walking in. All in one waterproof suits and wellies are great for young children out for a walk in the woods. If you’re taking older kids into more remote areas they’ll need decent waterproofs and walking boots. Remember hats and gloves too!

11. Walk with friends

Your kids will be too busy playing and talking to the other kids to notice that they’re walking as well. As a bonus you’ll also get to spend time with friends.

And lastly…..

12. Don’t mention you’re going for a walk

Just about any other terminology is preferable. If we tell our kids we’re going for a walk they’ll often groan. Tell them you’re going on an adventure instead.

Down and up the Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire.

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.

locks1

Caen Hill cafe

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.

locks3
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!
  • The car parking charges were reasonable.  We extended our stay with a wander around Devizes, the parking cost for our visit was around £4. There’s another car park at the Caen Hill cafe if you don’t want to walk from the centre of Devizes.
  • Further details can be found on the Caen Hill Locks web page.