The Channel Island Way Walking Holidays
CHANNEL ISLANDS HIKING
The Channel Islands were formed as a result of post glacial sea level changes a few thousand years ago. Not only are they geological remnants of mainland France, but they represent the remnants of the medieval Dukedom of Normandy that held sway in both France and England. Known for scenic cliffs and beaches, small towns oozing old world charm, and coastal defences dating from the Palaeolithic period through to the Second World War, the Channel Islands have been a favourite holiday destination for active adventurers. After a long and turbulent history, among others Jersey and Guernsey islands are now a British crown dependency, albeit not part of the UK or of the European Union. However, the UK Government is constitutionally responsible for their defence and international representation.
Today, the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey have their own economic and political life. Because the Channel Islands geographically are so close to each other, unavoidably they also have similar features. On your walks, you will discover that the main islands of Guernsey and Jersey are quite similar in many respects. There are beautiful coastlines consisting of rocky cliffs punctuated by sections of beach, some of them very long! Jersey has more cliff walking than Guernsey, but southern Guernsey also has a long section of wild cliffs and headlands. Each of the small islands however have their own character and customs and this is very clear when you visit Sark and Alderney on one of the Channel Island walking holidays.
Jersey is the biggest island, followed by Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, and then a few other uninhabited or partially inhabited islands like Jethou and Brecqhou.
Did you know? Former governor of Jersey Island, Sir George Carteret, was granted lands in the ‘New World’ in 1664 which he named New Jersey…
CHANNEL ISLAND WAY
The Channel Island Way is a beautiful confection of walks spread over five of the Channel Islands: Guernsey, Jersey, Herm, Sark and Alderney. The route, although not especially waymarked, was originally concocted over drinks at a Jersey walks festival and The Channel Island Way was opened in 2011. The 110 miles (178km) take for the most part the coastal paths, beaches and roads around each of the isles - although there are some deviations inland at certain points.
The walking is generally really beautiful and as the geology is essentially granite and gneiss, The Channel Island Way bears a passing resemblance to walking the Cornish coastal path.
We have split this beloved Channel Islands hiking trail into two halves, which you can choose to walk as a separate Jersey or Guernsey walk, or combine together. Both Channel Islands hiking holidays can be linked either way by getting the ferry or a short flight between the islands.
BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR A CHANNEL ISLAND HOLIDAY
From April through to the end of October the climate in the Channel Islands is generally mild and precipitation varies between 40-55mm a month. St. Helier on Jersey is often quoted as the sunniest place in the British Isles. Of course, especially on walking holidays in the Channel Islands you will have temperatures affected by sea breezes and rain could fall at any time on your Channel Islands holiday, so pack accordingly.
The summer months should offer some of the best weather and so attract the most visitors between July and August or September. You can have some balmy days up to the late 20°C (68°F), but really hot weather is usually tempered, once again, by the island location and coastal breezes.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CHANNEL ISLANDS HIKING TRIPS
Appreciate the variety of the Guernsey and Jersey Channel Islands that is not only all about cows. Discover for example purple mailboxes and yellow hedgehogs in Alderney and the variety of Herm on a 2-hour stroll around the island. There are so many interesting sights on the islands, that it was a tough process for us to bring you below five highlights of Channel Island hiking.
St Brelade's Church
On your Jersey walks, you’ll find one of the twelve ancient parish churches in the island. The Victorian church is unique in the Channel Islands as it has one of the very few surviving medieval chapels: the Fisherman's Chapel. You can find the chapel sited directly next to the main church building in which you can marvel at the unusual cave-like appearance to the interior.
A superlative viewpoint and historical site on Jersey. Mont Orguiel has guarded the east coast since the 13th century. The castle was first mentioned in 1212 and was the primary defence of Jersey until the development of gunpowder, which then rendered the castle ultimately indefensible.
St Peter Port
The capital of Guernsey Island is a quirky marine town with some ornate shops and a range of pubs and restaurants. There are restored gardens, tidal bathing pools and the La Vallette Military Museum. The latter one is found in a tunnel built by the Nazis during WWII as a refuelling supply for a U-boat pen. Nearby St Peter Port you can rove round the famous Bluebell Woods, vibrant in blue hues in April and May.
On the Guernsey walks you will come across loads of military defences and one of the most impressive is Batterie Dolman Gun Pit
. This was the command post for a large coastal battery established from 1941. The remaining French-built WWI era, 10 tonnes, 22cm gun was restored by Guernsey Armouries in 1997 and you may find the site being open to the public on some Sundays in summer.
Alderney is coming to prominence as an important bird watching site because of migration routes. In season, birdwatchers get some terrific and varied sightings. You may see cranes, warblers and even ospreys. The main birding attraction are the sea stacks of Les Etacs, overlooked by the coastal path. In 1940, a single pair of Northern Gannets nested on Les Etacs. The colony grew, partly through lack of disturbance from any fishing activity during WWII and by 2011 there were 5765 pairs of diving gannets.
FOOD AND DRINK ON YOUR CHANNEL ISLANDS HIKING TRIPS
Jersey is famous for potatoes (heard of Jersey Royals before?) and all the Channel Islands are good for early vegetables such as tomatoes. Jersey and Guernsey are known for their respective breeds of cattle producing a rich milk and golden butter. Alderney specialised in livestock rearing. Seafood is popular and there is an active crab and lobster fishery. Local wines have been produced on the islands including Sark, while 'Liberation Ale' is a popular brew unique to the Channel Islands.
The Tennerfest Food Festival is a yearly event taking place across the islands around October to mid-November. The popular food festival has been going on for 20 years now allowing each island to showcase their food and restaurants. Participating restaurants would offer three courses between £10-20.
OTHER REASONS TO GO ON A CHANNEL ISLANDS HIKING HOLIDAY
Apart from the fabulous walking opportunities, there are plenty of other reasons to take a Channel Islands holiday. Beach lovers will appreciate the beach walking and there is an abundant of swimming opportunities. Or consider for example Cobo Bay on the Guernsey Channel Island, a beautiful long beach with excellent sunset potential for a lovely low tide Guernsey walk.
One of the other attractions to the Channel Islands are their festivals. May is the month for the Alderney performing Arts and Wildlife week and Alderney Week in August is The Channel Islands’ biggest annual carnival and community festival. Then Jersey has a walking festival usually in May when also the Channel Islands Heritage Festival takes place. This is a five-week celebration of the history of the Channel Islands. The festival usually finishes on May 9th, the day that liberation from the German Occupation in 1945 is remembered. Special events take place across the islands’ numerous historical attractions celebrating a long and fascinating past. And there is of course the annual food festival in October-November that we mentioned before.
Holidays in the Guernsey Channel Islands would not be complete without the circuit of Alderney, a 15 minute small plane ride. We can go on and on giving you reasons to celebrate your holiday in the Channel Islands: Jersey Zoo, Gerald Durrell's famous rare breeds zoo; Jersey’s vibrant capital with its restored Victorian covered market; car-free Sark; and the first Dark Sky Island in the world (2011) – bring a torch when you visit!
GETTING TO JERSEY & GUERNSEY AND AWAY
There are a good range of flights from various places in the UK to Guernsey and Jersey. Guernsey has its own airline called Aurigny, which has departures from London Gatwick and smaller southern airports or even Grenoble and Dinard in France. Other airlines that service the Channel Islands are Flybe, Easyjet, Jet2, AerLingus and British Airways.
Ferries also sail between UK mainland Poole and Portsmouth and St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey and St Helier on Jersey. Or if you’re arriving from mainland Europe, there are ferries to both islands from several ports in north-west France.
More information on Channel Islands holidays
If you like to find out about practical information on what a Channel Islands hiking holiday includes, check out this Q&A on Guernsey or watch this short video on Guernsey. We made you a shortlist of 5 popular things to do in Guernsey and the Guernsey Food Festival is one of our favourites on the Channel Islands, read more about it here.
Walking Holidays Along The Channel Island Way