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Sark

Photo © Mireille C

Travel Guide Europe Channel Islands Sark

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Introduction

Sark is a small island in the Channel Islands in the southwestern English Channel, off the coast of Normandy, France. It is a royal fief, which forms part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, with its own set of laws based on Norman law and its own parliament. It has a population of about 600. Sark (including the nearby island of Brecqhou) has an area of 5.44 km2. Sark is one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned from roads and only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles are allowed. In 2011, Sark was designated as a Dark Sky Community and the first Dark Sky Island in the world.

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Geography

Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark, located at about 49° 25' N x 2° 22' W, and Little Sark to the south. They are connected by a narrow isthmus called La Coupée which is 90 metres long and has a drop of 100 metres on each side. There is a narrow concrete road covering the entirety of the isthmus, built in 1945 by German prisoners of war under the direction of the Royal Engineers. Due to its isolation, the inhabitants of Little Sark had their own distinct form of Sercquiais, the native Norman dialect of the island.

The highest point on Sark is 114 metres above sea-level. A windmill, dated 1571, is found there, the sails of which were removed during World War I. This high point is named Le Moulin, after the windmill. The location is also the highest point in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Off the south end of Little Sark are the Venus Pool and the Adonis Pool, both natural swimming pools whose waters are refreshed at high tide.

Sark also exercises jurisdiction over the island of Brecqhou, only a few hundred feet west of Greater Sark. It is a private island, but it has recently been opened to some visitors. Since 1993, Brecqhou has been owned by Sir David Barclay, one of the Barclay brothers who are co-owners of The Daily Telegraph.

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Sights and Activities

  • La Coupée (between Little Sark and Big Sark) - Cross the narrow isthmus to Little Sark across a high concrete causeway only nine feet wide with steep cliffs and a long drop on each side! Until the road was rebuilt, widened and handrails installed by German POWs after the Second World War, many horses were too scared to cross from Little Sark to Great Sark.

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Weather

Sark has a typical maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. Temperatures in summer average around 20 °C during the day or a bit less. Winters are generally above zero with a few degrees below zero sometimes at night. Variations in temperatures, both between summer and winter as well as between days in the seasons, are low. Rain is possible year round, though autumn and winter is a bit wetter compared to the late spring and summer season.

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Getting There

By Boat

Sark can be reached by a 45 minute ferry ride from Saint Peter Port in Guernsey. There are usually two or more sailings in each direction per day, while in the height of summer this rises to as much as five sailings each way. Expect to pay around £22 return per adult. The services are run by Isle of Sark Shipping

Summer ferries from St. Helier on Jersey (£40.50 day return per adult) and Granville and Carteret in France (€58.50 return per adult, boats stop in St. Helier but you don't have to get off) also operate by Manche Iles Express.

A 12-passenger boat, the Lady Maris II, operates regular services to Alderney.

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Getting Around

Sark does not allow motor vehicles, apart from agricultural tractors, but as it's only around three square miles in size walking around isn't so exhausting. Harbour hill is quite steep, so it may be worth paying the £1 fare to take a "toastrack" (one of two specially constructed passenger trailers towed by one of the 31 ubiquitous tractors) up. If your baggage is labelled (including hotel name), the hotels and ferry companies organise a "carter" (their dedicated driver of a tractor and trailer) to deliver your bags on arrival and departure.

The other means of transport available are horse-drawn vans. They usually depart from the top of Harbour Hill. They cost about £20 for an hour's drive around Sark, or £15 for a single trip to Little Sark. Prices are per person. The driver will also act as tour guide, and some will speak French.

There are also a couple of cycle-hire shops on Sark. Note that you may want to book before you arrive on the island, particularly in the summer. Also, cycling is illegal on La Coupée and down Harbour Hill. Finally, horses always have right of way on Sark, be careful as they can be surprisingly quiet, even when drawing a cart, so you may not hear it arrive.

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Drink

They are a few cafes and two pubs on the islands. The pubs are not allowed to open on Sundays and alcohol can only be served in cafes on Sundays with purchase of a meal.

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Sleep

The Sark Tourist Office (see below for link) provides full listings of all accommodation options on Sark.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 15:25 on Jan 25, 15 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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