Hiking the Alderney coast path – a Channel Islands adventure
I hiked the entire coastline of Alderney this summer. It sounds quite impressive when I put it like that – but it wasn’t exactly a gruelling challenge. Despite being the third largest island in the Channel Islands, remote Alderney is a measly 1.5-miles wide and 3.5miles long – making the full coastal walk only 10 miles. It isn’t an epic distance, but it is still an epic walk.
My Channel Islands adventure started with an is-this-safe-please-say-this-is-safe flight in a dinky plane from Southampton to Alderney. The purpose? Our annual family holiday (yes, I still go on one of those, despite being 33!) The first few days were filled with beach chilling, stupid amount of delicious hotel food, brotherly sports competitions and initially-cold-but-then-refreshing-once-you’re-in swims in the sea. It was great fun. But I quickly got very, very bored of my dad’s “banter” so I decided to head out for a long hike with my wife Becky.
Alderney coast path – the views
Armed with a walk leaflet and basic map acquired from the visitor centre, we headed west from Braye Beach hotel. Easy-to-spot waymarks pointed out the route and we were soon enjoying an intimate, slow-paced interaction with the island. What better way could there be to see Alderney than on foot?
The coastal views rarely failed to disappoint. To the south rugged cliffs, sea stacks and meandering headlands added real drama to the walking. But, for me, the most memorable sections were the arced, white-sand beaches of the northern coastline – every bit the postcard-perfect panorama I envisaged when daydreaming of what this sunny, quiet corner of Britain would look like.
Alderney coast walk – the wildlife
Another highlight was the wildlife, the jewel in Alderney’s crown. It is an island of distinctive, even bizarre, biodiversity that attracts legions of geeky, binocular-wielding wildlife enthusiasts. I’m far too cool (!) for any of that. However, I must admit, my eyes were forever peeled for dolphins, seals and the much-hyped, cuter-than-cute blonde hedgehogs. We didn’t see any sadly – but we made do with the myriads of sea birds, butterflies and insects that seemed to follow us around the coastline.
Alderney coast path – the history
Military history is another prominent feature of walking Alderney’s coastline. Around every corner is yet another fort, battlement, bunker or tower. Imaginative kids use them to fire off pretend bullets at approaching Nazis, while history buffs seem to adore exploring the ruins and learning about a bloody and shocking bygone era. I, however, hated them. When I’m ogling the waves lapping against a picturesque beach, the sight of a huge, ugly, concrete anti-tank wall is just, frankly, annoying. But maybe that was just me being a purist.
Alderney coast path – been there, done that, got the certificate
Anyway, rant over. After about four hours of steadily plodding away, Becky and I were back at our hotel, sipping coffee. The sun was bright in a cloudless, blue sky. Our hands proudly gripped the flimsy certificates we’d been given at the visitor centre in St Anne’s, the island’s super-tiny capital. I’m not convinced the terrain or distance warranted formal recoginition. But, hey, it was a nice touch and we can now, quite accurately say, walking the coastline of Alderney – been there, done that, got the certificate.