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Walking the island of Sark: The ultimate Wanderlust guide

The smallest of the four 'main' Channel Islands, Sark, is ideal for walking. Explore it's dramatic coastline and rich history with the best trails and ways to get around the island...

A cave on the island of Sark (Shutterstock)

Sark is a small island determined to stand out. Nestled in the English Channel, the Royal Fief of Sark has been home to monks, pirates and militia. It's completely car free, the world’s first dark sky island, and has only embraced democracy since 2008.

Here are the best walking routes, showcasing its incredible landscape…

Little Sark

A silver mine on Little Sark (Dreamstime)

A silver mine on Little Sark (Dreamstime)

The island of Sark can be divided in two. The north of the island, home to the village and most of the community, is separated from the southern peninsula, Little Sark, by a narrow isthmus. Little Sark is home to a hamlet, a guest house and some of the island’s most secluded coastal pools. If Sark is a quiet island, shielded from the hustle and bustle of 21st century life, Little Sark is a refuge from the metropolis that is Sark.

Start at La Sabonnerie Restaurant and Tea Room. Leave the hamlet to the west and head south. Follow the path down to the coast and trace the headland eastward to begin a clockwise circle.

This route will position you alongside Little Sark’s coastline; expect jagged cliff edges overlooking inlets filed with half-submerged rocks. Continue along the coast to pass the island’s old silver mines and reach the southern tip, where you can look out at Port Gorey.

Clamber down (carefully) to the Venus Pool and enjoy a soothing dip in the island’s best hidden swimming spot. This sheltered basin is only accessible four hours a day due to the tide; it’s worth timing your walk to coincide with low tide for a natural hot-ish tub experience.

From the Venus Pool you can loop back to the centre of Little Sark, where La Sablonnerie Hotel awaits, or continue along the east side of the island.

La Coupée

La Coupée (Shutterstock)

La Coupée (Shutterstock)

You wouldn’t be walking in Sark if you didn’t cross La Coupée: the railed pathway that sits atop Sark’s isthmus. The concrete path snakes along the narrow cliff edge, veering first left, then right and undulating with the rock beneath.

The island falls away on either side, giving to sheer 300m drops to the coast below. Those who suffer from vertigo may want to forgo this attraction, but be warned, there is no other terranean link to Little Sark.

Legend has it that, before the path was built by German Prisoners of War in 1945, children used to crawl along the isthmus so not to be blown off by strong winds. Today, the handrails will protect you from the most severe gales, but do look out for horses and carts.

The span of a cart’s wheels is almost the entire width of the slim path, not to mention that their drivers often attack the isthmus at some pace in an attempt to speed over the uphill sections. Make sure the coast is clear before you start to cross.

A lot of walks around Sark will involve La Coupée, including this one. This particular route will see you travel from the east coast of the mainland, along to the west coast via Little Sark.

Begin at Creux Harbour, keep the coast on your left and keep walking until you get to the Pilcher monument on the west side. On this slightly longer trail you’ll pass bays, caves, pools and cross La Coupée in both directions. It is the best (and only) way to see the southern half of the coastline.

The mainland

La Seigneurie Gardens (Shutterstock)

La Seigneurie Gardens (Shutterstock)

The northern part of the island is home to most of Sark’s attractions. This walk, following country lanes and coastal paths, will take you across the island, from the Maseline Harbour, north along the coast to the lighthouse and then across the body of the island to the west coast.

This route is a varied blend of coastal walkways and inland paths. Rest assured when walking Sark’s country lanes that you will not encounter any traffic – other than the odd tractor. Cars are strictly forbidden on the island. Locals get around by bicycle, tractor or horse and cart. 

Crossing the centre of the island, you’ll pass the Seigneurie, a historical residence and monument to the island’s recent feudal past.

Continue on to the west coast of the island to the Port Du Moulin. This beautiful stretch of coast showcases all that Sark has to offer, ashen stone beaches, dramatic cliff formations, gorse, heather and views of Brecqhou Island. Be sure to visit the Widow in the Rock, a squarish tunnel framing a fantastic seascape.

The northern cape

View of Sark's east coast (Dreamstime)

View of Sark's east coast (Dreamstime)

In the 16th century, the monastic communities that inhabited Sark abandoned it, and the island quickly became a hotbed of pirate activity.

Queen Elizabeth I granted the Fief of Sark to a man named Helier De Carteret, on the condition that he kept forty armed men on the island to deter pirates. These men were given parcels of land that correspond to the deeds held by residents today. 

Throughout the centuries, Sark’s residents vigilantly guarded the isle. By walking the northern cape, you can explore Sark’s historical defences. 

Begin at the visitor centre and follow the town north. You’ll pass the idyllic Saint Peter’s Church, the fire station and the Chief Pleas rooms (the parliamentary offices). Cross L’Eperquerie Common, a heathland once used by the island’s monks to dry fish and eels.

Follow either of the winding paths that lead to the northernmost point of the island - take the other on your return. The ocean will creep into your periphery and eventually all of the remaining headland will stretch out in front of you.

Here you’ll find the remains of a Georgian cannon, along with the Channel Islands' only mantlet. This semi-circular defence was used in the mid 19th century to conduct target practice. The mantlet would have shielded an artillery sergeant from stray bullets as he waved a large red flag, signalling the riflemen to shoot. From the shielded position, the sergeant could determine which marksmen had hit their targets.

Continue north to the Buddhist carving. The rock lies close to the island’s northernmost point and was decorated by a Tibetan monk in 1999. The monk traversed the island in search of the perfect place to make his mark. He chose this west-facing stone with panoramic views of the channel. Admittedly, it’s not a bad spot.

Can you walk Sark in one day?

The lighthouse on Sark (Shutterstock)

The lighthouse on Sark (Shutterstock)

The big question. Can you walk Sark in a single day? The answer: yes, it's very possible. 

This anti-clockwise loop is essentially an amalgam of the other walks in this list. Creux Harbour is the starting point, convenient for those only visiting for the day. 

From Creux Harbour, you’ll head into the village, past the tourist centre and up towards the northern cape. You’ll make a short loop around the northern headland, visiting the armaments, and head back down south via an alternative route, making a diversion to visit the Port Du Moulin and the Window in the rock.

After re-joining the path, you’ll cross La Coupée and make a brief loop around Little Sark, stopping at the Venus Pool. Finally, make your way back across La Coupee, follow the south-east coast and work your way back to the harbour to complete the circuit.

The route highlights all of Sark’s attractions, it’s community, history, armaments, pools, countryside and coastline. It’s also just shy of 10 miles, and sees a maximum elevation of 337ft, an easy feat for an experienced hiker.

While the island can be traversed in a single day, that’s not to say it necessarily should be. If you have the time, it’s worth spending a night in Sark, to take in all the island has to offer.

Read more on Sark and the Channel Islands:

A time warp weekend in Sark

11 highlights of the Channel Islands Heritage Festival

6 excellent weekend break ideas in the Channel Islands

Short break in Guernsey

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