Herm

Please note: this post is part of a series. Click here to read from the beginning.

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As I mentioned in my earlier post from Jersey, I really wanted to visit at least one of the smaller Channel Islands on my trip. Only 20 minutes on the ferry from Guernsey, where I stayed for the second part of my trip, Herm is the perfect day excursion to experience another side to Channel Island life. Boats run daily, and tickets can be bought from the Trident kiosk between the Weighbridge Clock Tower and the harbour.

Peter Wood, a retired army major, arrived in Herm in 1949 and set about transforming it into his idea of paradise. As the island’s tenant he owned the hotel, pub, shops and cattle. His successors have continued his work since he passed away in 1998. Their lease expires in 2050.

Rules are strict in Herm. You are not allowed to play radio in the open, there are no cars on the island (although the locals do use quad bikes to transport cargo) and, apart from for the children who live there, cycling is forbidden. However, as the island is only 500 acres in size, and you can walk around the whole thing in less than two hours, the transport restrictions at least shouldn’t bother you.

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Unless you’re happy staying in the Harbour Port, home to the tavern and a handful of eating options, Herm is only for the active. Although there are varying grades of difficulty to the multitude of paths that crisscross the island, to see anything worthwhile you will have to walk up steep hills and along cliff paths. Turquoise signs tell you how many minutes it takes to reach the sites.Β DSC_0194

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I decided to turn left at the port and circumnavigate the island, sticking to the coastal path as much as possible and then finally cut across the middle to the main village. With that route I could cover pretty much everything to see on the island.

The first site of interest is the small, two-person cemetery that was created when the cholera epidemic of 1832 claimed two victims travelling on a passing ship. Further along the path, I found Robert’s Cross and the remains of a prehistoric tomb.

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All the scenery on Herm is exceptionally beautiful, but the northeast coast makes it hard to believe you are still in the British Isles. On a sunny day, which I was lucky to have, stepping on to Shell Beach is like stepping into another, tropical world. Indeed, this beach has the highest incidence of sunburn in the Channel Islands. The name Shell Beach comes from the many varieties of shells that gravitate here from all over the world. If you want to know more about the shells you find, the beach cafe sells guide books. The much smaller, but still beautiful, Belvoir Bay is another popular sunbathing spot.

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From Belvoir Bay, a lot of people take the path inland through the main village where the islanders live. I stuck to the coastal path back round to the port and explored the much quieter south of the island. The landscape is totally different on this part of the island. The cliff top paths can be quite treacherous in places, and it was so quiet I could hardly believe I’d just been on a beach packed with sunbathers. I saw hardly any other walkers on this stretch of the coast, I could see why the local puffins choose to live there.

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Once back in the port, I was pretty tired. But I couldn’t come to Herm without seeing everything, so I braced myself for one last hill to the main village. There are only 10 families that live on Herm, so it’s small even by regular village standards. The little cluster of houses is a fascinating insight into what it must be like to live in such a small community. Halfway up the hill to the village, someone had the great idea of developing an area of woodland that makes a much more scenic route than the main path. It at least helped to distract me from the steep hill.

Info

Ferry from Guernsey to Herm: Β£13.50 return

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Life’s a Beach in West Wales

It would be criminal to go to West Wales and not visit at least one of the stunning beaches. On my recent trip there with my friend and her family, we thought we’d squeeze every last drop out of the British summer that we could and head to Saundersfoot for a couple of hours. When it comes to the West Walian coastline, I think the pictures speak for themselves.

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Churchdoors and Skrinkle Bay

A lot of places in Wales are given beautiful, poetic sounding names in Welsh that usually translate as something quite mundane in English. Others, however, are given very English sounding names.

During my week in Anglesey, I’d driven around with my bodyboard in the back of my car in the hope that I would be able to find a decent surf beach. One of my hosts for the week, Ela, told me that the best place to try was Rhosneigr. I went there to find it filled with kite surfers. Although the surf looked good, I didn’t fancy risking trying to boadyboard amongst the kite lines. Different sports are usually kept to different areas on the beach, but here it seemed that anyone could go pretty much anywhere they wanted. I asked one of the kite-surfers for advice, and he told me that he’s spotted some more surfer-friendly beaches further down the coast towards Newborough. On my next free afternoon, I headed that way to find no surf, no other surfers in sight, and really long walks to reach the beaches. I was given a couple more false leads in Anglesey before I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be bodyboarding that week.

On my return to South Wales, I drove down the West coast of the country. There still wasn’t a wave in sight. By 6pm I was close to Tenby, feeling tired, definitely hungry and more than a little fed-up. I considered driving straight back to Cardiff. I knew that if I did, though, I’d feel defeated. I didn’t have to be back in Cardiff for another 24 hours, and I felt I had more exploring to do.

Having given up on my search for surf for that day, I ambled along the coast for a bit and came upon Skrinle Bay. The approach to the area doesn’t do much for it’s sales pitch, and the campsite there is very basic ( and right next to an Airforce base, which may put a lot of people off). Just a short (although very steep) walk down the cliff, though, and it’s like you’ve entered a fantasy land the likes of which are only described in childrens books.

The path from the campsite takes you to Churchdoors, a small bay with a beautiful sandy beach. There’s a sign as you approach the steps to the beach that tells you not to attempt to access Skrinkle Bay from here, as you may get stranded. I had insider knowledge from the lady at the campsite, though, and she told me that when the tide is half-way in you can get to Skrinkle through a passageway in the rocks. You do have to keep one eye on the sea, though, as the tide does come in very fast in South Wales and there is a real danger that you could get stranded, or worse, trapped in the passageway between the two beaches.

Looking down the steps to Churchdoors. You can see the rock formation that the bay got it's name from on the left.
Looking down the steps to Churchdoors. You can see the rock formation that the bay got it’s name from on the left.
The 'secret' passageway through to Skrinkle Bay. In a couple of hours, this would be under water.
The ‘secret’ passageway through to Skrinkle Bay. In a couple of hours, this would be under water.
Skirnkle Bay was definitely worth the effort.
Skirnkle Bay was definitely worth the effort.
The route back…
...before tackling the stairs back up to the campsite!
…before tackling the stairs back up to the campsite!

Travel theme: Beaches

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Beaches. Click here to see the other entries.

Well, I’ve certainly visited a few beaches in my life. Here areΒ some of my favourites:

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I couldn’t write a post about beaches without including a photo of the local beach where I grew up in Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire.

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Port Eynon on the incredibly beautiful Gower in South Wales.

Xi Beach

I took this photo on Kefalonia. It wasn’t the best beach on the island, but I loved the colours of the parasols against the red sand.

Myrtos Beach

The famous Myrtos Beach, subject of many a Greek postcard.

White Rocks

The dramatic White Rocks, also in Kefalonia. Sadly, the waves were washing the sand away right before our eyes. Unless they’ve imported some more since I took this photo about six years ago, this beach has probably disappeared by now.

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And finally, sunset over Whitesands in West Wales.