After reading a beautiful little book called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, my two daughters and I chose to spend the summer holiday in the Channel Islands. Nothing inspires travel quite like a good book. In the English Channel, off the coast of Brittany, are the islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm.
One day, while roaming about in Guernsey’s diminutive capital, St Peter Port, we decided on the spur of the moment, to hop on the Trident Ferry to Herm, the smallest of the Channel Islands open to the public. By sea is the only way to get there, and unless you have a private vessel, this ferry from St Peter Port is the only option.
The 20-minute crossing was pleasant, taking us past the island of Jethou, once connected to Herm by a strip of land. On Herm, you either disembark at the pretty little harbour or at the Rosiere steps, depending on the tide. We docked at the steps, then walked about 10 minutes along a coastal path to the island centre. Like Sark, Herm is wonderfully car free (and bicycle free), but we occasionally had to step aside for small tractors hauling travellers’ luggage.
The island sports one hotel, one restaurant, one shop and one school – for all the 8 resident children. Home to approximately 50 people, Herm is a working community, entirely dependant on tourism. Working on the island is a requirement for residency. No commuting to work in Guernsey or other nearby islands, despite the short distance and frequent ferry connections. The Trident has five daily departures in the low season, and eight in summer.
About 1 ½ miles long and less than ½ mile wide, you can easily stroll around the perimeter of the island in a few hours; a gorgeous walk along pretty beaches. The village, located on top of a steep hill, is home to most of the island’s residents. Comprising the 1100-year-old St Tugual’s Church and a tiny cluster of stone houses around a little piazza, the village looked rustic and charming. We stayed up there for a very long time, taking in the fabulous ocean view. Although my 8-year-old was more interested in the cows scattered around in the fields. They seemed to have a good life, staying outdoors all year. The temperature is on average 5 degrees higher than mainland Britain.
Back down towards the harbour, we had a peek inside the village shop (surprisingly well-stocked), also set around a little square. You’d be forgiven for thinking you might be in the Mediterranean; which is no wonder, as the square was built by Italians.
After our walk and a delicious lunch in the courtyard of the Mermaid Tavern, my kids decided they didn’t want to leave the island. Ever! We had all fallen hopelessly in love with Herm. I can easily see myself living on the island for a while. The off-season would surely be magical; an exciting place to hide out while writing a book, say. Very inspiring!
The White House Hotel looked lovely, with spacious, light-filled public rooms and open fire places. Although the self-catering log cottages would probably be better to get a proper feel for island life. Neither the hotel rooms nor the cottages have TVs, telephones or even clocks. (Now, if I could only switch off that mobile phone.)
The last ferry back to St Peter Port left a little before 6 p.m. I really didn’t want to get on it. There’s something about remaining when the last boat leaves, isn’t there? Next time…
Written by Anne-Sophie Redisch for EuropeUpClose.com