Herm: A true destination of delights

Award-winning travel writer Godfrey Hall revisits the island of Herm and discovers that although it has taken on new challenges it still manages to retain its charm and mystique.

It had been a long time since I had visited the island of Herm which is just a short ferry ride from Guernsey and so I was looking forward to seeing how life on this magical island might have changed on a beautiful sunny summer’s day. My companion for my visit was Soo Wellfair, an accredited silver tour guide who specialises in guided walks, rambles and family events and has written several excellent books on the area (Facebook.com/soowellfairtours.)

Owned by the states of Guernsey and leased by the Bailiwick of Guernsey, it is home to around 65 people and an extra 100 staff in the holiday season. Awash with beautiful walks and amazing vistas from seascapes to views across the water to Guernsey, the island has a definite Caribbean vibe! 

My charismatic guide Soo was an expert also on the more sinister and strange and informed me during my visit of ghost and apparitions which appeared in different parts of the island where at one time joined to the island of Guernsey. Herm has a rich history and a rich array of flora and fauna with amazing agapanthus which I had also recently experienced around the town of Sintra near Lisbon. Home to a Christian missionary, monks and many other fascinating individuals, the island is 1.5 miles long, 0.5 miles wide. With no roads just tracks, no traffic and no public transport, you will need a good pair of walking boots if you want to really explore. Walking onto Shell beach reminded me of the Caribbean as people sunbathed, took themselves out in the rental kayaks or enjoyed a drink at the historic beach café. 

Island Pathways

Soo explained that the beach was also extremely popular with the locals. Being such a small island, many of the beaches were very close and so a short walk soon brought us to one of Soo’s favourite places Belvoir Beach, another ‘paradise’ location. 

Travel to the island is either by Trident Ferry or the newer and smaller Isle of Herm Ferry The journey takes around 20 minutes with boarding and landing on Herm is either from the main harbour or a short walk along the coast depending on the tides. There are around twenty self-catering cottages which are very popular and need to be booked up long time in advance especially during holiday seasons. There are also several campsites. The island is dog friendly and provides a tranquil haven away from the hustle and bustle of Guernsey. The White House Hotel has a range of accommodation and you can eat here or at the Mermaid Tavern which serves wholesome food and impressive portions. A ploughman comes with a huge helping of local cheese and delicious pickle made at the local cider company.  

Herm has its own unique fire service and can provide an emergency medical assistance with more serious cases transported to Guernsey in around 20 minutes. The island is never crowded and Craig Senior, the island CEO, told me that his roll feels more like caretaker than an owner. Turning over around £6 million a year, every pound profit they make is reinvested back into the island’s infrastructure. Most of his time in day-to-day duties include leading the team on twelve months a year business, they have around 20,000-day visitors a month in the summer which can sometimes drop to just 20 in the winter. They have their water but have to import most of other services and are the only island currently running on bio diesel using upgraded tanks which has allowed them to move away from dirty diesel. 

As the island is extremely popular, Craig recommends that visitors should avoid mid-summer and aim to come in the autumn which is a much quieter time.

With a rich tradition of seafaring tales, stories of mermaids (hence The Mermaid Tavern) and disappearing monks, the cost of the return trip to Herm is around £15.00. Soo said that there are many stories of strange goings on the island. Next to St Tugual’s Chapel is a small prison which it is said was used for many years. Also, bones have been found in a wall close by next to a door and said to be those of disobedient monks who may have been put into the tiny space and left to die. Soo also told me of one time when she is walking in one of the wooded areas and experienced a hooded figure. Close to the chapel, is the grave of a mother and child who died of cholera on-board a ship in 1832 and were not allowed to be buried on Guernsey, so the story goes. 

Once very well known for its granite quarries, we also find hidden amongst the heather and bracken a number of dolmens (Neolithic mass graves) causing Herm to be called ‘the island of the dead’. It was thought that the spirits would be unable to escape from the graves. In Roman times a large number of limpets could be found on Herm. Today just the oyster beds remain.  

The fantastic views, exotic fauna and fantastic beaches make Herm a pristine destination and somewhere you can really chill out! 

Looking Across From St Peters Port to Herm

There is no crime on the island and it has what many describe as an innocent feel to it as though it should have been included in ‘Swallows and Amazons’. 

Herm is an all-year-round location, just waiting to be explored. It is a secret corner of the Channel Islands that has a rich history, excellent walking trails, beaches to die for and a range of accommodation to suit all requirements as well as being ideal for families. Telephone 01481 750000 or go to www.herm.com for further information.

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Godfrey Hall

Award-winning travel writer

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