A small boat pulls up alongside a stone jetty. It bobs up and down in the waves, as suitcases and passengers are precariously unloaded. A walk up a sloping grassy hill looms above them and they start regretting all the unnecessary items they packed in their heavy cases. Seagulls call and carelessly soar above the boat. They have no such things to weigh them down.
This is the island of Sark: one of the smaller members of the Channel Island family, closer to the French coast than the British, and long considered Europe’s last Feudal state. Living in ignorant bliss on the mainland, it was not until I was taken there on a family holiday that I became aware of Sark’s existence. But it quickly became one of my favourite places.
It is a tucked away little place, requiring a flight or a ferry trip to Guernsey before you can get a connecting 45 minute journey, on a smaller boat, to Sark. Sark is made up of two islands, Greater and Little Sark, and only has about 600 residents. The main source of income for locals is the tourist industry, with many cafes opening in local gardens during the summer months. The Island has a post office, a general store and one school, a volunteer special constable. The island also gained a gold coat of paint for their post box, after Carl Hester won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics. There isn’t a great deal to do on the island, apart from cycling and hiking, so it is the perfect place to go to relax and have a retreat from the rest of the world.
One of the things I loved the most about Sark was the fact that there are no cars allowed. Locals are allowed Tractors, horse drawn vehicles and some elderly members of the community have battery powered buggies. But if you are visiting, and for most people who live there, the main form of transportation is the bicycle. You find yourself transported back in time as you cycle down dusty tracks, past farmers’ fields and pretty cottages and gardens.
Sark has a fascinating but heartbreaking wartime history, as it was under German occupation during the Second World War. The small museum on the island tells a little of the story. If you want to get immersed in the history I’d highly recommend reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Whilst the novel is set in Guernsey rather than Sark, it casts a vivid narrative of wartime island life.
The island doesn’t receive as many visitors today, as it did during the height of its popularity. But after some very sunny summers there, I would highly recommend Sark as a holiday destination. I hope that the island manages to retain its quaint old fashioned charms and haven-like character for many generations to come.
Images courtesy of the author.