Sark is the smallest of the four main Channel Islands, located about 80 miles south of the English coast. Only three miles long and a mile and a half wide, the island stands approximately 350 feet above sea level and boasts some 40 miles of picturesque coastlines.
Unspoilt by motor cars and without all the noise and bustle of modern day life, Sark is an idyllic place to grow up. With no street lighting, after dark a torch is essential when walking or cycling around the island. That is unless it is a clear night with a full moon when the brightness of the moon is almost as bright as daylight and beautiful moon shadows are cast on the roads and pathways.
In fact, due to the lack of lighting and its very dark skies, Sark is the world’s first ‘Dark Skies Island’. On a clear night its starry skies are truly amazing.
The Channel Islands have belonged to the Crown since the time of William the Conqueror when they formed part of the Duchy of Normandy. In the 13th century they were retained by King John when the rest of Normandy was lost to the French. In 1565, Queen Elizabeth I granted Sark to Helier de Carteret as a ‘fief haubert’ and the island's unique status has remained the same ever since.
Until 2008, Sark remained the last feudal constitution in the Western world, neither part of the United Kingdom nor the European Union, yet not a sovereign state either. The Seigneur held the island from the Monarch in perpetuity, and governed in conjunction with Chief Pleas, the island’s parliament, made up of unelected tenement holders and 12 elected deputies. In 2008, the first elections were held and now Sark has a democratically elected government of 18 Conseillers forming Chief Pleas.
The only way to travel to Sark is by boat with Sark owning its own shipping company which provides an all year round ferry service to the island from Guernsey. Once on the island travel is by foot, cycle, horse drawn carriage or tractor.
One of the most popular tourist attractions is La Seigneurie Gardens. La Seigneurie is the official home of the Seigneur of Sark. The house was built around 1675 and has been altered and added to many times over the years. The grounds and gardens are open to the public and tours of the house can be arranged. The gardens include a beautiful walled garden with many exotic and unusual plants. For children one of the most popular features of the gardens is the maze with the watch tower at its centre and sundial at its entrance.
Sark is a rambler’s paradise with coastal paths, numerous bays and headlands to explore. Dark caves indent into the cliffs and huge austere-looking perpendicular rocks lie in isolated and detached masses off-shore. The varied inlets and bays possess a wealth of sea and bird life as the island’s isolated position affords it a large array of bird species, including puffins which visit every year in the late spring. Clean air results in a great many lichens and there is a vast variety of wild flowers, especially in the spring.
Many people visit Sark to enjoy the unique atmosphere and tranquil, relaxed nature of the island. Many hours can be spent exploring, rock pooling and bird watching. However a recent addition to the tourism trade has been coasteering for the more adventurous. For a more traditional way to see the island, many tourists enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride around the island, including a visit to La Coupee, the narrow isthmus connecting ‘Big Sark’ to Little Sark.