If you really want to escape, Alderney Channel Island is definitely a candidate. It is not easy to access because the only connection is a flight from Guernsey, although it is planned to restart the ferry service. Do not expect bright lights and a big city, but wallow in peace, go for healthy walks and enjoy excellent seafood.
The island is tiny, 4 km long and 1 km wide. As the most northerly channel island, halfway between France and England, it has always been of strategic importance. Its history as a fortress dates back to Roman times, but most of the fortifications were built in the 19th century to prevent attacks by the French.
German invasion in the Second World War
Alderney German Bunker
German Bunker (c) Rupert Parker
When the Germans invaded the Second World War, they displaced the population and replaced it with thousands of forced laborers. They built Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, a network of bunkers, batteries and watchtowers designed to defend the English Channel. Seventy years after the end of the war, most are still intact and are officially recognized as part of the island’s cultural heritage.
Sainte-Anne, the small capital of Alderney, is in reality only a few paved streets steeped in history. The island began to flourish in the early 18th century as a refuge for buccaneers, pirates sponsored by the government. The family Le Mesurier de Guernsey became a hereditary prince and ran the place as a private fief.
St. Anne Alderney
This lasted until the end of the Napoleonic wars, when the free kickoff was stopped and contraband suppressed, and the last, Le Mesurier, returned the island to the crown. In Sainte-Anne, there is an excellent museum which contains not only the beginnings of history but also many artefacts of the German occupation.
The coastal path
I take the coastal path around the island, well signposted and simple day trip. If you wish to explore the fortifications, it is best to spend a few days, the first one west of Sainte-Anne and the second day to the east. The population of Alderney is declining and most live in Sainte-Anne. It is therefore a purely rural exercise.
Beach of Braye
Braye Beach (c) Rupert Parker
Leaving Braye Harbor, I head west to find deserted beaches and reach Fort Tourgis, the largest of the Victorian forts. Most of it is dangerously dilapidated, but the Cambridge battery has been restored and you can see how the original Victorian fortifications were adapted by the Germans. It is planned to create an independent luxury resort, but locals make fun of this idea.
Fort Tourgis Alderney
Fort Clonque lies to the west of the island and is connected to the mainland by a causeway. It now belongs to the Landmark Trust and can be rented. Closer to the airport, I pass the camp of the infamous Sylt camp, one of the slave camps. This was led by the SS and probably saw some of the worst atrocities on the island.
Fort Clonque Alderney
Further south, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the cliffs and creeks before reaching the Fort Tudor Fort Essex walls. Work began in the 1560s, but the castle was never completed. In the Victorian era, it became a fortified barracks and a military hospital and was converted into private homes today.
Further east, towards the lighthouse, on the hill to the left, is a German anti-aircraft watchtower known as the Odeon for its resemblance to the old cinemas. You need to get a key from the tourist office, but you have a fantastic view of the island from the top. As you can imagine, he is surrounded by bunkers and gun positions, all lost in the vegetation.
Alderney Odeon Anti-Aircraft Tower
Alderney Odeon Anti-Aircraft Tower (c) Rupert Parker
After the turn to the lighthouse and back, a stop at Bibette Head is worth the trip. There is a mix of Victorian fortifications and the Second World War with informative signs. The land has been cleared and several bunkers are open. Of course, this huge construction job was a complete waste of time – there was no attack, because Winston Churchill decided it was not worth losing his life for something of military significance. minor.
Bird watching at Burhou Island
Gannet shakes Alderney
Gannet Rocks (c) Rupert Parker
Alderney is also a paradise for bird watchers. It is worth taking the boat to Burhou Island, a protected area for 11 species of breeding birds. Puffins live here between March and July and this is the southernmost point where you can find them. On the rocks, the Etacs and Ortac are home to impressive colonies of gannets, which together make up 2% of the world’s population. And do not forget the eel seals near the Burhou Reef.
The only railroad in the Channel Islands
Alderney train sign
Train sign (c) Rupert Parker
The island has one last surprise: the only railroad in the Channel Islands. It was built in the 1840s to carry stones from the east of the island to the harbor and the Victorian forts. The first official passengers, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, were transported August 8, 1854 in a team of horses. Today, Royal Highness has disappeared, but on summer weekends, London’s historic metro wagons transport tourists from Braye to Mannez within 1 km.