Alderney is part of the Balliwick of Guernsey, and at 3 miles long by 1½ miles wide it's the third largest of the Channel Islands, with a population of 1900. The main settlement is St Anne's, a pleasant village in the middle of the island that's simply referred to as "Town".
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.
By plane: Aurigny 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 or Flybe to other British cities.
1 Alderney Airport (ACI IATA). It's a tiny terminal with "Pantry" cafe. By private plane, refuel here duty free well below UK mainland Avgas prices. Private aviation landing & take-off fee is £12 plus £6 per passenger. Reckon £8 for a taxi to town.
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.
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.
Walk, it's such a small island, or hire a bike. There isn't a scheduled bus service, but in summer there are tours around the place by minibus or taxi.
By train: in just about the last place in the British Isles that you could imagine having trains. And it's not just a little old quarry track, but a standard gauge passenger train between Braye Harbour and Mannez on the northeast tip, with London Underground coaches hauled by an 0-4-0 diesel shunter. It runs weekends Apr-Sept, usually leaving Braye at 14:30 and 15:30. It doesn't go through town, but you might use it to reach the lighthouse.
- 1 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.
- Town is a pleasant place to stroll, presided over by its imposing church.
- 2 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.
- Other forts: 13 were built in Victorian times against the French, and others added in wartime. Working clockwise from Fort Clonque there are visible remains of:
- Fort Tourgis is extensive, with the Victorian structure reinforced by the Germans as Stutzpunkt Türkenburg, and partly open to visits within.
- Fort Platte Saline is nowadays used as a gravel store.
- Fort Doyle, close to town, is a tiny fort rebuilt in wartime.
- Fort Grosnez in the harbour is substantial.
- Fort Albert is sturdy, as it was intended as a citadel in case invaders overran the island.
- Bibet Head is a wartime bunker, a bit spooky and smelly, as party animals sometimes use it as a rave space.
- Fort Chateau a L’Etoc is substantial yet out of the way on the north coast - it was intended to command an eastern harbour extension that was never built. It's nowadays private accommodation but sometimes open for events such as the arts festival.
- Fort Corblets is nowadays self-catering accommodation.
- Fort Les Hommeaux Florains is on an islet, the causeway having been swept away. It's utterly dilapidated, looking like a latrine block that's got itself cut off by the tide.
- Fort Quesnard, near the lighthouse on the east tip of Alderney, is now private accommodation.
- "The Odeon" inland is a naval artillery lookout built in World War II, and you'll see how it got its nickname.
- 3 Fort Houmet Herbé is on a little island off the east coast. Even the Germans couldn't think of a military use for this one, so the Victorian structure is unaltered but dilapidated.
- 4 Raz Island is a tidal island approached by a long causeway. "Raz" means tide race, so you don't want to wade across at high water. In 2019 the fort is having a makeover to convert into accommodation and you can't go inside.
- "The Nunnery" is the nickname of the oldest fort, going back to the Roman era of 300 AD.
- Essex Castle on the south coast dates back to Henry VIII and was rebuilt as a barracks.
- Nothing else along the south coast until you complete the circuit back to Fort Clonque.
- 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.
- 5 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.
- Spot wildlife: birds include puffins, oystercatchers, cormorants, black-backed gulls, herring gulls, shags, storm petrels, fulmars, razorbills and guillemots, plus other "birds of passage". Seals and dolphins patrol the waters, while landward curiosities are the blonde hedgehog (a variant of the common or garden Erinaceus europaeus that is found only here and on North Ronaldsay in Orkney) and the chequered Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia), discovered in 1690 by Lady Glanville who was so keen on butterflies that her relatives contested her will claiming that she must be a madwoman. You can't fail to see the thousands of rabbits; elsewhere they may be regarded as vermin, but here their burrows in the sandy terrain are co-opted by ground-nesting birds.
- Beaches: sandy beaches are at Braye, Saye, Arch (because you reach it from Saye via a short tunnel), Corblets (the best for surfing), and Longis. Platte Saline is shingle and has strong currents, unsafe for bathing; Clonque is rocky.
- Boat trips tour April-Oct around Alderney and Burhou, and may venture west to the lighthouse on Les Casquets rocks. Operators include Avante II, Lady Maris II, and Sula of Braye.
- Alderney Week is the first week of August: various events, festivities, parades and silly races. This is the only time the island gets crowded, so you need to book accommodation, transport and evening restaurants in advance. The next is Sa 1 - Su 9 Aug 2020.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 2 Braye Beach Hotel, Braye Street, Braye GY9 3XT, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- 3 Victoria Hotel, Victoria St, St Anne GY9 3UF, ☏ . 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.
Alderney is very safe but it's not Shangri-La. The main hazards are natural: rip tides just offshore, and slippy rocks. The islanders are honest decent folk but that can't be said of all the visitors, so don't leave valuables unattended or unlocked, and beware the occasional damnfool drunk.
You must have personal travel health insurance: like the rest of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Alderney has no reciprocal agreements with the UK National Health Service, EU "EHIC" system, or any other nation. Any local medical treatment must therefore be paid in full.
- By ferry probably back to Guernsey, but there are also connections to Jersey and Normandy.
- Get yourself caught in the notorious Alderney Race, and the next stop for your lilo and desiccated remains could be anywhere between Bournemouth in England and the Azores.