The Isle of Sark
Sark is one of those magical places you want to keep secret because you hate the idea that other people might visit, love it and spread the word. However, this is almost impossible so I’m going to share this not-so-secret magical place.
Sark is one of the Channel Islands. These islands (Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Alderney and Herm) are a Crown possession in the English Channel, close to the Cherbourg peninsula in France.
The history of Sark, like that of the other islands, dates back to the Stone Age. And like the rest of the Channel Islands, it was raided by pirates and bandied about between France and England. In the 16th century, Elizabeth I granted Helier de Carteret the right to colonize Sark to prevent seizure by the French. He became the Seigneur of Sark and until the constitutional reform of 2008, the Seigneur (or Dame), a hereditary position, ruled the island, which was considered the last feudal bastion of Europe. Nowadays, the Seneschal, an unelected position, and the Chief Pleas (Sark’s parliament) together with the Seigneur make up the island’s government.
The only way to reach Sark is by ferry. Don’t bring your car because you cannot use it: Sark is a car-free island. The only permitted methods of transport are tractors, bikes and horse-drawn carriages. And your own two legs, of course.
We took the ferry from Jersey. This was our second attempt at visiting the island. The first time we tried, the ferry crossing was cancelled due to windy conditions. I took motion sickness pills so I was fine but I remember the small ferry being rocked by the waves.
Once we reached harbour, we decided not to take the public transport – a tractor-drawn carriage- and walk up the harbour hill road to the village. Once there, we took a carriage tour of the island, or rather, part of the island. Our driver was a local young woman who lived in England but came at weekends. She told us a lot of stories about the island.
We bought sandwiches and Cornish pasties and set out to explore on our own after the carriage tour. We walked along the causeway to Little Sark, where we ate overlooking the cliffs and the emerald sea. The causeway, called La Coupée, is only wide enough for a tractor to pass and cyclists are advised to dismount. It is said that German prisoners of war put in the hand rails. Before that, children had to crawl across in high winds so as not to be swept out to sea.
Sark is a wonderful place to take walks. The views from the cliffs are astoundingly beautiful. Even inland there are lovely scenes, like Jersey cows grazing, the postman delivering the mail on his bicycle or the 17th and 18th century grey stone houses typical of the Channel Islands.
The Seigneurie is the home of the Seigneur. Although the house itself is not open to the public, people are allowed to wander inside the walled garden. Strewn between flowerbeds are artifacts that reflect the island’s history, like millstones or guns from World War II, when Germany occupied the Channel Islands. One of the distinctive features of the Seigneurie is the dovecote because only the Seigneur is allowed to keep pigeons.
We sailed back to Jersey as the sun set. Besides great memories, we had amazingly delicious chocolates made with unpasteurized milk to remember Sark by.
For more information about Sark, go here.