Alderney

Travel Guide Europe Channel Islands Alderney

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Introduction

Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands. It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency.

Alderney is said to be "the only true Channel Island" since it alone sits in the English Channel, with fierce currents ripping by its shores. It's well north of Guernsey, Jersey and the others which are actually in the Bay of St Malo. Like them, it's a self-governing Crown Dependency, not part of the United Kingdom (and semi-autonomous within the Bailiwick of Guernsey) but ceding defence and international affairs to the UK. In practice it was vice versa, as the Channel Islands defended the UK. The other islands did so by obstructing France, so those were heavily fortified during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Alderney by its position helped to project British naval power into the western Channel. In the mid-19th century, the British panicked that a resurgent France might again challenge them, so they began greatly extending the harbour - only the western half was built, with a very long breakwater. They also built a ring of 13 fortresses around the island that were impressive, expensive, and pretty much useless.

In World War II the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans, who reinforced several fortresses on Alderney and added their own positions. They also established two forced-labour camps, and two concentration camps run by the SS. At least 700 died here. The islanders, who had mostly been evacuated, returned to a shattered landscape. Post-war Alderney was agricultural with tourism on a small scale. It has become a domicile for various cyber-ventures, including online gambling.

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Geography

It is 5 kilometres long and 2.4 kilometres wide. The area is 8 km2 large, making it the third-largest island of the Channel Islands, and the second largest in the Bailiwick. It is around 16 kilometres to the west of La Hague on the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, in France, 30 kilometres to the north-east of Guernsey and almost 100 kilometres from the south coast of the UK. It is the closest of the Channel Islands to both France and the United Kingdom. It is separated from Cap de la Hague by the dangerous Alderney Race. Alderney is similar to the other Channel Islands in having sheer cliffs broken by stretches of sandy beach and dunes. The highest point is on the central plateau of the island at 90 metres.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

Alderney Society Museum, High St. Apr-Oct daily M-F 10:00-12:00 & 14:30-16:30, Sa Su 10:00-14:00. Small volunteer-run museum gives a good overview of island history & life. £3.
Fort Clonque is the best preserved of the many forts and bastions dotted around the coast. Built in the 19th century, it's on a tidal island on the west coast, though the causeway is only covered by the highest tides. Admire the setting and exterior, but you can't go in, as it's now self-catering accommodation (sleeps 13) run by the island's Landmark Trust.
The lighthouse is prominent at Mannez near Fort Quesnard. Summer Sundays there are tours up the structure.
Nazi prison camps on Alderney held some 6000 men but almost their only remnants are the fortifications that those men were forced to build. There were two "volunteer" labour camps, Borkum and Helgoland, and two concentration camps run by the SS, Nordeney and Sylt. There are 397 known graves but at least 700 prisoners died on the island or on ships bringing them here, with two major wreckings. There's a small plaque on the site of Sylt next to the airport, Nordeney is now beneath the island campsite, while Helgoland a little way northwest of town and Borkum near Kiln Farm are lost under brambles.
Prehistoric remains are scrappy, as the megaliths were smashed or re-used as masonry. Roc à L'Epine near Fort Tourgis is a burial chamber from 4000 BC, and near Longis Beach is an Iron Age pottery, circa 500 BC.
Burhou a mile northwest of Alderney is a bird reserve, and landing is not permitted during the nesting season April-July. Outside those months, there's a very basic shack which can be used overnight by birdwatchers. There's no fresh water, and the sea is your en suite.
Dark skies at night, which midsummer is after 22:00. There's not much artificial lighting so if you get away from town and harbour on a clear night then conditions are good for sky-watching.

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Weather

Alderney 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 Plane

Aurigny Air Services fly between Guernsey and Alderney 2-3 times a day taking 15 min, return £50, and a day trip is possible either way. Some flights continue north to Southampton SOU IATA on the English mainland, 40 min, with connections by train to London Waterloo (90 min, frequent) and by train to other British cities.

By Boat

The Little Ferry - and it really is little, 12 passengers max - plies twice a day between Guernsey St Peter Port and Alderney, taking an hour. Day return is £50, bikes & dogs £40.

Manche-Iles Express operate ferries April-Oct from Diélette in Normandy to Jersey, and once a week these continue to Alderney. A day-trip is not possible.

Listen carefully to the ferry operator's instructions for boarding and return, because these vary with the tides and weather. In Guernsey St Peter Port, it's usually the "Inter-Island Quay" down the pier on the right, but at low tide it may be next to the Weighbridge roundabout (the "Cambridge Steps" are no longer used). On Alderney it will be from somewhere in 2 Braye Harbour but with a very long harbour wall to search up and down.

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Getting Around

Alderney is a small island, and in good weather, there's really nowhere that isn't within walking distance. Bicycles can also be hired.

During the summer, there is a regular bus service round the island and even a railway service between Braye and the north of the island.

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Eat

Down at the harbour is Braye Chippy (17:00-20:00, days vary) and Cantina (Tu-Sa 10:00-14:30 & 18:00-21:00). Little Rock Cafe has closed.
In town are Town Frier Chippy (Tu-Su 17:00-21:00), Jack's Brasserie (M-Sa 09:00-17:00), Mai Thai (M Tu 18:00-22:30, W-Su 12:00-14:00 & 18:00-22:00), Bumps (M-Sa 11:00-14:00 & 18:00-23:00, Su 11:00-14:00), Nellie Gray's (Indian, daily 18:00-23:00), Le Pesked (daily 10:00-22:00), Mel's Tearoom (M Tu Th-Sa 10:00-16:00) and Marais Hall (M-Th 14:00-00:00, F-Su 11:00-00:00).
Georgian House on Victoria St in town has four rooms, B&B double £120, but is primarily a gastropub. The bar is open daily 10:00-00:00, and the restaurant serves food 12:00-14:30 and 18:00-21:00.
Out of town is The Old Barn (Tu-Su 10:00-18:00), east near Longis Beach by the turn-off for Essex Castle.

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Drink

At the harbour are The Moorings (Su-Th 09:00-22:30, F Sa 09:00-00:30) and Divers Inn (daily 10:00-01:00).
In town is the Campania (daily 12:00-01:00).

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Sleep

Camping: the island's only site is 1 Saye Beach on the northeast coast, £10 ppn. They also hire tents, sleeping bags and other kit.
Braye Beach Hotel, Braye Street, Braye GY9 3XT, ☏ +44 1481 824300, toll-free: +44 800 280 0550, ✉ holiday@brayebeach.com. The most luxurious hotel in Alderney, 4-stars. Under new management in 2019 mostly for the better. Two things for them still to fix: don't charge "sea view" rates for rooms that just look onto a grubby restaurant roof, and explain to the cooks what a vegan is. But overall good standard and value for money. Has a little salon cinema for retro movies. B&B double £170.
Harbour Lights Hotel nearby on Newton Road is also run by Braye Beach Hotel, contact via them.
Victoria Hotel, Victoria St, St Anne GY9 3UF, ☏ +44 1481 822471. A small family-run hotel in the conservation area, clean and comfy. No evening meals, take dinner at Georgian House adjacent. B&B double £125.
B&Bs include Simerock Guest House, St Anne's, Farm Court and Bonjour.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 11:45 on Dec 23, 20 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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