There are no cities on Alderney. The island is 3 miles long by 1.5 wide (5 km by 2.5 km).
The main concentration of houses and shops is in the centre of the island in the town of St Anne - often referred to simply as 'Town'. The Parish of St Anne's includes the whole of the Island.
Although the Auregniais (Alderney Norman-French) language eventually died out in the early part of the 20th century, the signs leading to Town are bilingual, reading 'Town/La Ville', presumably to assist visiting French yachtsmen and day-trippers.
The parish of St Anne is served by a magnificent, almost cathedral-like parish church in the centre of Town.
Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Islands, and the most northerly. It is often said that Alderney is the only Channel Island since it is the only one that is actually in the English Channel/La Manche. (Guernsey, Jersey and the smaller islands are actually in the Bay of St Malo)
Like the other islands Alderney is a self-governing Crown Dependency. It has its own parliament, the 10 member States of Aldeney which sits 10 times a year. Alderney is also part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey which in modern terms is effectively a customs union including Guernsey and Sark (but not Jersey). In addition, because of an agreement made between Alderney, the UK and Guernsey after the Second World War, Guernsey takes responsibility for providing a number of public services on Alderney (e.g. health, education, the airport, etc.) These 'transferred services' as they are known, are provided by Guernsey in return for the right to collect direct and indirect taxes in Alderney at the same rate as in Guernsey.
Due to its location in the English Channel and its proximity to the French port of Cherbourg, it has often been seen to be strategically important, despite the treacherous waters that surround it. In the 19th century, a large breakwater - the longest in the British Isles - was built at Braye in order to form a harbour sheltered from the Swinge tidal race. Although it was never completed, its spectacular remains form the modern harbour. During World War II the island was occupied by German forces, including the SS, and four forced labour camps were built. Although not an extermination camp in the same sense as something like Dachau or Buchenwald, very many forced labourers, particularly from Eastern Europe, were worked to death, and there is a memorial to them near to Saye (pronounced 'Soy') which is a must-see.
The uninhabited islet of Burhou, off the northwest end of the island, is an important nesting area for seabirds. The former farmer's cottage on Burhou can be rented from the Government, and is used for 'get away from it all' holidays by a number of Alderney residents.
To the south of the islands, separating Alderney from the Cherbourg peninsula, is the Alderney Race (Raz), notorious for is extremely strong currents and rough seas. Despite the hazards presented by Alderney's rocky coastline and the hazards of the Swinge and Race, Braye harbour is a popular destination for yachtsmen and in summer the harbour is full of boats of all kinds, from small RIBs to multimillion pound luxury yachts.
- Aurigny Air Services offer several direct flights every day from Southampton and from Guernsey. Other airports (in the United Kingdom plus Dinard and Grenoble in France) are served via Guernsey.
- Light aircraft are also frequent visitors with duty free and VAT free fuel available at well below the cost of fuel in the UK. Landing fees are about £15 if fuel is uplifted.
- Manche-Iles Express operate summer ferry services from Diélette in France.
- Bumblebee Boat Cruises offers a regular service from Guernsey to Alderney [dead link].
It can be useful to know that smaller boats such as those operated by Bumblebee depart from different locations in the harbours of St Peter Port (Guernsey) and Braye (Alderney) depending on the tide, so it can be worth checking with the ferry operator (who may also call to let passengers know) and to allow some extra time to hunt down the point of departure.
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.
- 1 Fort Clonque. A 19th-century coastal fortress, operated by Landmark Trust.
- 2 Alderney Society Museum.
Alderney celebrates Alderney Week at the beginning of August every year. On the one hand, this provides an extensive programme of events and festivities, but at the same time can make it difficult to book accommodation and almost impossible to make evening restaurant reservations unless done well in advance.
There is a nice range of restaurants, from cafes to smart top notch food.
There are no "chains" of fast food, no McDonalds, no Burger King, Pizza Hut etc. Everything is locally owned.
- 1 Braye Beach Hotel, Braye Street, Braye, GY9 3XT, ☎ , toll-free: (from the UK), e-mail: email@example.com. The most luxurious hotel in Alderney, 4-stars.
- 2 The Victoria Hotel, Victoria St, St Anne, GY9 3UF, ☎ . A small family-run hotel set in the conservation area.
Alderney is probably one of the safest destinations you can visit. Crime is rare and the little crime is fairly minor. People generally leave doors unlocked and often leave vehicles unsecured with the keys in the ignition. However, do not emulate the locals in this regard. If you have a hire car and it is 'borrowed', you will find you will not be insured when it is discovered in a damaged state on one of the unmade roads having been used to get to a German bunker for an after-hours party. This seems to happen to at least one unlucky local every year. Every summer, the police remind people to lock cars and remove their keys for that reason.
Public order offences are not as rare as the locals would have you believe. Unlike the UK, which has liberalised its drinking laws, Alderney observes strict licensing hours, which, although formerly the longest in the British Isles, are now probably the shortest. In the winter, no alcohol may be served after midnight, and all premises must close by 12.30. In the summer, these hours are extended by half-an-hour.
Alderney, like the UK, Ireland, Jersey and Guernsey, has now banned smoking in public places. Sark remains the only Channel Island with a pub where smoking is permitted.