Galaxies, caves, beaches and rolling fields - what else do you really need?
You’ve probably heard of Jersey and Guernsey out in the Channel Islands, but their lesser-known sister Sark is well worth making the trek out to. The first few steps off the boat are almost into another world – one where there are no street lamps or cars and there’s a breathtaking natural wonder on every corner. Getting there isn’t as straightforward as stepping on a plane, as you’ll have first have to fly to Guernsey and catch a ferry over, but trust us – it’s worth it.
If you’re looking to get away from the bustle of the city, Sark’s laidback tranquility makes it an paradise of calm for those looking for a chilled out holiday. Measuring three miles long and just a mile wide, the island won’t take you too long to explore it in its entirety but it’s absolutely teeming with character and wildlife.
To get around, you’ll have to either travel by bike, foot, horse and carriage or even tractor (the only motorised vehicle allowed on the island). Taking things slow here isn’t such a bad shout though, as it gives you a chance to really soak in the sublime landscape.
If you’re sick of your office cubicle and want a taste of the great outdoors, there’s a lot of al fresco adventuring to be done here. Give George Guille and his trusty boat Non Pareil a shout and he’ll take you around the island to see its gorgeous beaches, eerie caves and even point out some of its iconic landmarks like the Queen Victoria Rock, shaped just like the monarch’s head.
Adventure Sark will have you sorted if you’re keen on a bit of caving and coasteering, which is unmatched in Sark with its steep jagged cliffs.
There’s virtually no light pollution on Sark and the main reason to go is for the breathtaking evenings, when the night sky lights up like a Christmas tree with crisp white stars.
In fact, its starry skies are so impressive that the International Dark Sky Association named it the world’s first ‘dark sky island’ in 2011 and keen stargazers flock there every year.
We stayed at Clos a Jaon, a brand new luxury hotel ideal for getaways with the gang. While Sark’s other hospitality stalwarts like Sablonniere and Stocks Hotel are gorgeous, Clos a Jaon brings a more modern, understated vibe to the island.
With four separate self-catered complexes catering from four to eight people, it’s an all or nothing deal here as you’ll have to rent out an entire complex. All the residences are equipped with a state of the art kitchen, access to a garden with lounge furniture, as well as Clos a Jaon’s extensive kitchen garden and a commendable selection of board games.
My personal favourite was the largest residence La Grange (which sleeps eight people), which has a sprawling garden laid out with cosy outdoor furniture and even a barbecue for warm summer nights. Sitting out here with a couple of blankets, good company and a bottle of wine at night as the stars flicker to life above you is a completely unforgettable experience.
Clos a Jaon’s helpful and friendly team is always ready to help at the drop of the hat and embody Sark’s generous hospitality. Chic, laidback and utterly serene, Clos a Jaon is exactly the kind of place you head to if you want to get away and holiday independently.
Prices range between £90-£375, depending on whether you head over during low season (January-March) or high season (June-September) – just a heads up if you’re planning to come during low season that Sark winters are harsh, and you’ll need to come prepared in terms of clothing – think many layers!
We stayed in Le Grand, Clos a Jaon’s biggest residence. Like the rest of the complex, its rooms are all luxury hotel-quality with beds you could melt into, a walk-in closet, remote-controlled skylights and a view onto the complex’s cobblestone courtyard. It’s all tastefully designed in muted tones that instantly evoke a feeling of peace.
Every building also has its lounge and top of the line kitchen, where the gang can chill out or grab a quick bite before heading out on another adventure. Since Clos a Jaon is self-catered, you’re going to have to figure out your own mealtimes. Sark does have its own grocery – stocked with Waitrose products – but we’d recommend picking up your rations before you head across from Guernsey, just in case.
Being an island in the middle of the ocean, it’s no surprise that seafood is a priority for any visitor to Sark. Lobster, crab, scallops and fresh fish are all on the menu here and while there aren’t that many restaurants on the island, there’s a good mix of fine dining and casual establishments.
For classic fine dining, head out to La Sablonniere, which serves up a decadent Lobster Thermidor with a long list of quality wines, or the luxurious Stocks Hotel which brings fresh, seasonal produce to the table. (Try their award-winning sloe vodka – it’s unbelievable.)
For more low key affairs, spending a sunny afternoon in Nicole’s garden is a great shout. Run by a family, their crab cakes and more traditional pub grub like fish and chips will definitely hit the spot and are best washed down with a frosty pint of cider.
Since Clos a Jaon is a self-catered hotel, it’s worth knowing where to grab essentials for breakfast or a cheeky midnight snack. Food Stop is your best bet and they’ve also recently started stocking Waitrose products, if you’re looking to splash out.
Sark is a very laidback place and if you’re not cycling, you’re going to have to do a lot of walking. Leave the heels at home and come dressed ready to brave the great outdoors – grab a pair of good boots and a thick jumper and you’ll fit right in.
Given that you’re not afraid of heights, a walk across La Coupee is unforgettable.
This narrow steep walkway connects both the main part of Sark to Little Sark and from it, you can see out across one of Sark’s many beaches and out right across the horizon.
It’s easily one of the most breathtaking places in Sark – and there are a lot of them. Even if you’re not the most confident cyclist (I sheepishly raise my hand here), the roads aren’t too challenging and I’d highly recommend seeing it all from a rental bike to really get the full Sark experience.
While you’re there…
Although you won’t be able to jump onto Brecqhou, Sark’s neighbouring private island owned by the Barclay brothers, it’s still worth jumping over to explore the rest of the Channel Islands if you have time to spare.
You’re probably going to have to stop off in Guernsey first anyways to ferry over to Sark, so it’s worth taking some time out to see Hauteville House (Victor Hugo’s old home), The Little Port and a stroll along Shell Beach. A day trip to Alderney wouldn’t go amiss either – especially if it’s Alderney Week, when the island comes alive with a festival filled with live music, beach parties and carnivals.