Sark (French: Sercq; Sercquiais: Sèr or Cerq) is one of the small Channel Islands of Guernsey. Sark is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which in turn is a dependency of the British Crown. It has a population of 600 and an area of 2.1 square miles (5.44 square kilometres). It is the world's first Dark Sky Island.
There is no airport on Sark, but there is one on Guernsey . Visitors to Sark have to either use a ferry or have access to a sailing boat.
Sark can be reached by a 45 minute ferry ride from Saint Peter Port in Guernsey. There are usually two or more sailings in each direction per day, while in the height of summer this rises to as much as five sailings each way. Expect to pay around £22 return per adult. The services are run by Isle of Sark Shipping.
Summer ferries from St. Helier on Jersey (£40.50 day return per adult) and Granville and Carteret in France (€58.50 return per adult, boats stop in St. Helier but you don't have to get off) also operate by Manche Iles Express.
There are public yellow buoy moorings at Havre Gosselin on the west coast and at La Grève de la Ville bay on the east coast, and also anchorages in various bays around the Island. Creux Harbour has toilet facilities and has space for a few boats which are able to dry out, but Maseline Harbour has no visitors' moorings and neither does Les Laches, outside the Creux Harbour. Maseline Harbour jetty is in constant use by ferries, and so it is not possible to remain alongside it.
Sark does not allow motor vehicles, apart from agricultural tractors, but as it's only around three square miles in size walking around isn't so exhausting. Harbour hill is quite steep, so it may be worth paying the £1 fare to take a "toastrack" (one of two specially constructed passenger trailers towed by one of the 31 ubiquitous tractors) up. If your baggage is labelled (including hotel name), the hotels and ferry companies organise a "carter" (their dedicated driver of a tractor and trailer) to deliver your bags on arrival and departure.
The other means of transport available are horse-drawn vans. They usually depart from the top of Harbour Hill. They cost about £20 for an hour's drive around Sark, or £15 for a single trip to Little Sark. Prices are per person. The driver will also act as tour guide, and some will speak French.
There are also a couple of cycle-hire shops on Sark. Note that you may want to book before you arrive on the island, particularly in the summer. Also, cycling is illegal on La Coupée and down Harbour Hill. Finally, horses always have right of way on Sark, be careful as they can be surprisingly quiet, even when drawing a cart, so you may not hear it arrive. Also, the driver's control of a horse is not absolute.
- A to B Cycles, email@example.com, +44 1481 832844. Situated on Mermaid lane. Wide range of cycles, reasonable prices and friendly service. Discounts for advance bookings.
- Avenue Cycle Hire, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 1481 832102. Situated on the Avenue. Cycles from £7 a day. Tandems from £18 a day. Cheaper for longer periods.
- Sark Cycles, +44 7781 454375. Top of Harbour Hill.
Finally, some hotels and guest houses have cycles to hire or lend to their guests.
Sark is technically part of the Bailwick of Guernsey and, as such, is not a part of the UK, although it relies on it for defence and foreign relations. It participates in the Common Travel Area but not the EU. Some things differ from the UK (banknotes, stamps, immigration requirements). Sark has its own laws and legislature (Chief Pleas or les chefs plaids).
Sark is often said to be Europe's last remaining feudal fiefdom. This was true, the Seigneur is still lord of the manor and the Duke of Normandy's personal liegeman, but thanks to incessant, insistent and expensive litigation by the Barclay twins, the final sitting of the last Tenement Owners and Deputies attending a Feudal Chief Pleas was in October 2008. (The first sitting of the democratically elected Conseillers of Chief Pleas was in January 2009).
Language and culture
Sark has its own dialect of the Norman language, Sarkese, Sercquiais or Sark-French (Lé Sèrtchais in the original), which is closely related to the language of Jersey, Jèrriais. In practice though, the visitor will only encounter it in place names. French is also relatively widely spoken. For historical reasons, French was until very recently the language used for legal matters, and still is sometimes used in official matters, as the Bailwick still follows some aspects of Norman law.
- La Coupée (between Little Sark and Big Sark). Cross the narrow isthmus to Little Sark across a high concrete causeway only nine feet wide with steep cliffs and a long drop on each side! Until the road was rebuilt, widened and handrails installed by German POWs after the Second World War, many horses were too scared to cross from Little Sark to Great Sark.
- 1 La Seigneurie, GY10 1SF (North-west of the island), ☎ . Easter-1 Nov M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Home of the Seigneur of Sark since 1730. The house itself is not open to the public, but you can visit its formal gardens. £4/adult, £1.50/child.
- Disused Silver Mines, Little Sark.
- Window in the Rock (North-west of the island). A man-made hole in the rock from which to admire the beautiful scenery.
- Natural attractions. Check the Do section for various natural attractions
- The sky at night. In 2011, Sark became the first Dark Sky Island as recognised by the International Dark-sky Association (IDA). The absence of street-lighting and cars means that there is very little light pollution, making this on of the best places to see stars, and the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon.
- Walk. Enjoy the rugged scenery and soak up the unique atmosphere of this car-free island.
- Cycle. A charming alternative to walking; see the Get around section for more details.
- Horse vans, usually departing from the top of Harbour Hill. See the Get around section for more details. Around £20 per person.
- Caves. Sark is famous for its caves accessible at low tide. The Boutique Caves are at the north end of the island, the Gouliot Caves on the west coast. Caution should be exercised by checking the high-tide times, and preferably travelling with an experienced guide (particularly for the Gouliot Caves).
- Explore Sark's coastline. Sark's beautiful rugged coastline encompasses beautiful moors at the north end of the island (L'Eperquerie), natural pools (at L'Eperquerie, or the Venus Pool on Little Sark), beaches (such as La Grande Grêve, although do consider wind direction), bays (Derrible and Dixcart), and natural curiosities (La Coupée, a high narrow causeway linking Little and Big Sark; the Window in the Rock on Sark's north-west coast).
The currency of Sark is the Guernsey Pound, although UK and Jersey pounds are also accepted. Note there are no ATM on the islands, and only two banks, with rather short opening times (they usually are open 10-12 and 2-3 Monday to Friday), only one of which (HSBC, at the end of the Avenue) can give money to non-customers (note that Natwest can only help Natwest International customers, not Natwest customers from the UK). Most hotels, and restaurants card terminals, and a couple of the grocery stores on the Avenue can do cashback up to £50. When leaving the Bailwick of Guernsey (i.e. if you are travelling to Jersey or France), you may purchase duty free, usually sold on board ship.
- Hathaways, La Seigneurie gardens, ☎ . 9.30AM to 10.30PM.
- Caragh Chocolates & Tea Garden (on the road to Little Sark), ☎ .
- Sue's Tea Garden and B&B (west of the island), ☎ .
They are a few cafes and two pubs on the islands. The pubs are not allowed to open on Sundays and alcohol can only be served in cafes on Sundays with purchase of a meal.
Sark now has a smoking ban in pubs, bars and restaurants; it is still legal to smoke in shops, offices, workshops, and places of worship, although many of these places voluntarily enforce smoking bans as well.
- Mermaid Tavern, ☎ .
- Bel Air Inn, ☎ .
The Sark Tourist Office provides full listings of all accommodation options on Sark, and its Guide lists all services provided by all the places (available from the Tourist Office in person or through their website).
- Aval du Creux Hotel, Harbour Hill, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. At the top of Harbour Hill, Aval du Creux has 26 rooms, gardens and has a swimming pool. £77 to £90 per person B&B, £102 to £115 per person half-board.
- Dixcart Hotel, Dixcart Lane, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sark's oldest hotel on the south of Big Sark, Dixcart was once a favourite haunt of Victor Hugo. It has 18 rooms, and boasts extensive gardens and orchards reaching all the way to Dixcart bay. £60 to £90 per person B&B, £90 to £120 per person half-board.
- Hotel Petit Champ (west coast of the island), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Hotel Petit Champ has 10 rooms with sea views, gardens, swimming pool, and lies in a secluded spot on Sark's west coast. £55 to £77 per person B&B, £75 to £97 per person half-board.
- La Moinerie Hotel (next to La Seigneurie, on the north-west of the island), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel La Moinerie has 5 rooms, gardens, and was recently refurbished. £60 to £90 per person B&B, £85 to £115 per person half-board.
- La Sablonnerie, Little Sark, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. This famous 22-room hotel on Little Sark boasts gardens and croquet lawn, and its own horses and carriages. £30 to £90 per person B&B, £48 to £135 per person half-board.
- Stocks Hotel (opposite Dixcart Hotel in the south of Big Sark), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Originally a 16th century farm, this 43 room hotel presents itself on its rustic-chic charm and informal luxury. Set in a wooded valley in the south of Big Sark, it boasts heated pool, children's pool, spa pool, bar and restaurant. £87.50 to £125 per person B&B, £107.50 to £145 per person half-board.
- Beau Sejour (Opposite La Seigneurie, on the west of the island), ☎ . £40 to £70 per person.
- La Valette (next to the lighthouse on the east coast), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. With panoramic views of the Grève de la Ville bay towards Alderney and France, this large open site offers a modern purpose-built toilet and shower block offering heated pay showers, cubicle washrooms with shaver points and a dishwashing sink. You can also hire pre-erected tents. Open 1st April to 31st October. £7.50 per adult, £4 per child.
- Pomme de Chien, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This large family-run campsite has free toilets and showers, and rents fully equipped tents. Open all year round. £7.50 per adult, £5 per child.
As may be expected, the crime rate on Sark is very low (the island only has two civilian, non-uniformed "police officers" who get no formal training or pay and rotate each year).
There are no particular health issues either, but it must be noted that private travel insurance should be purchased. Like the rest of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Sark has no reciprocal agreements with the British National Health Service (NHS) or any other nations's health service. Any medical treatment must, therefore, be paid in full.
Dr John Stevenson, who has 32 years experience as a GP, started work at the beginning of August 2012 after Dr Peter Counsell resigned. Sark's parliament voted in July 2012 to invest £4,500 in enabling night-time evacuations from the Millennium Field at Clos a Jaon on Sark and Closette Field at Duval Farm on Little Sark by helicopter.
If you are reliant on public transport, you may only go back to Guernsey (and Jersey in the summer). If you have your own boat, you could also go to Alderney, Herm and Lower Normandy in France. You can also reach these destinations from Guernsey; however, in terms of public transport, Sark is pretty much the end of the line. Note that the nearby island of Brecqhou is off-limits as it is the private property of the Barclay twins, British billionaires who own The Spectator and The Telegraph.