Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
O N T O U R: Alderney ” The Third Channel Island
Alderney is the furthest north of the Channel Islands, the nearest to Britain (and just eight miles from France). Is the smallest with a full infrastructure. The permanent population is 2,500 living on 2,000 acres contained on a craggy landscape 3.5 miles long and at the most 1.5 miles wide. In many respects it is not dissimilar to St Mary”s on the Isles of Scilly.
There are two big differences
The summer tourist trade of St Mary”s includes day trippers who come over from Cornwall by helicopter, Twin Otter and Islander aircraft. It can get quite busy. Not so Alderney. It is too far away from Southampton for inexpensive day return traffic. There are day visitors from the other Channel Islands and tourists from France. But it never gets crowded.
The really big difference is the benevolent tax regime. The Channel Islands are self-governing dependencies of the Crown but not part of the UK. Nor are they part of the EC. Alderney is one of the islands that constitute of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Confused. Guernsey has it own currency including a one pound note, which is interchangeable with the pound sterling, both in the islands and on the mainland. But you can”t use Jersey or UK stamps. Buy your drink at designated duty free shopand collect the other side of security at the airport. A litre of Scotch costs from ”5.95 (Claymore) and 200 cigarettes ”10 (Mayfair). Southern Comfort is ”12.95! One of the fastest growing industries is offshore internet betting. They drive on the left.
Alderney Airport is small, the metalled runway just 880m long, OK for Britten-Norman Islanders and Trislanders, and also the occasional Twin Otter, but nothing bigger. You can fly in from Southampton, Bournemouth and from Jersey and Guernsey where there are connecting services to most of the larger UK airports. Aurigny is the predominate carrier but it is being contested by Le Cocqs, an offshoot of the island”s largest supermarket. It is a real battle of the minnows with Le Cocqs introducing a Jersey ” Alderney route in July directly challenging the incumbent. To make matters even more interesting Aurigny has just been purchased by the State of Guernsey, which makes it the national airlines.
There is no real alternative way of getting to Alderney other than air the small harbour at Braye somewhat restricted with no roll on ” roll off facility and no regular passenger ferry. The cars that do find their way to the island end their days there too. For many years Alderney was the repositorary for all manner of ancient automobiles. Times change and today even the latest mini cars are imported. If you have your own boat Braye is perfect.
St Ann”s is the capital and its church, known as ”the Cathedral of the Channel Islands”, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, architect of the Albert Memorial and St Pancras Station hotel, can be seen from virtually anywhere on the island. It is also the venue for concerts and recitals. There is a hospital (but it is not part of the NHS (or EC) ” make sure you are insured) and two doctors” surgeries and also every high street bank. One wonders why? In the summer months there are two policemen, one local and one from the UK. It is a quiet posting.
Alderney is a site of man”s obsession with the military. During the middle of Queen Victoria”s reign Great Britain was suddenly gripped with a vision of Napoleon III securing the Channel Islands. For whatever the reason the military planners of the time decided that Alderney was the object of his desires and ringed the island with no less than 12 massive fortresses and started to built a huge harbour, big enough to house the entire then Home Fleet. The island boomed. By 1860 all was forgotten and the fortifications left to decay, one arm of the harbour built and today the subject of a massive row as to who should either pay for its maintenance or oversee its decay. It is the biggest running story for the local media.
The Germans were even less bright than the British and when they took over the Channel Islands in 1940 became preoccupied in turning Alderney into a fortress. Massive fortifications were built with slave labour brought in from all over Europe. The D Day landings just across the water in Normandy just ignored the Channel Islands and it was not until May 1945, 10 days after the surrender of Berlin, did the island return to British hands. Back in 1940 the British gave the inhabitants a choice of staying or going. With the exception of a few elderly people and farmers everyone in Alderney left, half the residents on Guernsey and just 20% of those living in Jersey. One of the strange results of the exodus was a change of vernacular in the Channel Islands, French no longer the official language after 1948. A generation had been bought up living on the British mainland.
Alderney has a working (weekends in the summer and some other days too) railway line, proudly called the only track on the Channel Islands. But don”t get too excited. In fact it is a couple of redundant London Underground carriages pulled by a diesel engine along a two mile track to a former quarry. Great fun and maintained by local enthusiasts. You can then walk to a lighthouse and just sit and enjoy the cliff top solitude. Alderney is a haven for wildlife, flora and fauna. Offshore there is fishing.
If you are a walker with no long distance ambitions Alderney is for you. A full circumference of the island using the cliff top paths is 13 miles and is a good day”s trek. There are plenty of shorter walks but plan with care as most of the pubs are in the main town if refreshments are what you are after. A mobile phone can bring a taxi with ten minutes so there is no need to panic. However along the southern coast the powerful French mobile system takes over and sucks you in and charge for an international call..
Don”t expect to find any top grade premier hotels. The biggest on the island, the Bell View, has only 27 bedrooms, and whilst its restaurant, like most eating places on the island serves fine sea food, it must be described as plain, not eye-catching. As an alternative one can try a friendly guest house typically Farm Court, five minutes walk from Victoria Street and the centre of St Anns. Large en-suite accommodation and with nine rooms a proper dining area is offered, breakfast individually cooked. Much better than many hotels on the mainland. When it comes to dining there are many small restaurants and pubs to discover. The island”s golf course is popular with visitors and not to arduous. 18 holes, par 64 and just under 5,000 yards. You will be made welcome.
The big news is that the island is again to have a tourist ferry service from Dielette (near Cherbourg) starting in July. Alderney is not for everyone. Its quiet and most evenings there is not a lot to do. But if you lead a busy stressful life and need some peace and quiet away from it all it is an attractive English speaking alternative. Not far to go. Friendly people. And not too expensive either. http://www.alderney.gov.gg