Walk of the month: Along the craggy coast of Guernsey

The island's cliffs, bays and coves were such an inspiration to Renoir that he immortalised the landscape in 15 canvases. And, at just 25 square miles, this is small yet perfectly formed walking country, says Mark Rowe

Sunday 02 September 2007 00:00

Walking is drawing more visitors to Guernsey, although hikers generally come from France or Germany. It's a cultural issue: in the UK it seems we are too quick to pigeonhole Guernsey as a tax haven mown over by golfing greens, an unfair and inaccurate caricature.

Part of Guernsey's appeal is that its size – just 25 square miles – enables walkers to explore its crenellated coastline. There is plenty of wildlife to see at this time of year. Look out for autumn squill, pink or blue bell-shaped flowers, among the short turf on the cliffs, and rock samphire. The stretches of soft coastal cliff are likely to host ivy bees, which forage exclusively on ivy in enormous colonies.

This walks starts in Guernsey's capital St Peter Port. Heading south from the waterfront, bear left by the Half Moon Café. Close at hand stands Castle Cornet, Guernsey's royal fortress, while across the water are the islands of Herm, Brecqhou and Sark.

Take the steps up to the Clarence Battery and follow footpath signs for Fermain Bay. Several tracks peel off the path, and while some do loop back to the trail, others tend to deliver you to dead-ends or drop down to secluded beaches. The track briefly joins a road before rejoining the cliff path and entering Bluebell Wood. At a T-junction in front of a fence, turn left and follow the granite footpath signs for Fermain Bay. There's a good beach café here in the shadow of a pre-Napoleonic loophole tower, one of 15 on Guernsey built in the 1770s. Cross the metal bridge with green handrails and press on for St Martin's Point.

After a little while, take the path to the left signposted for Bec du Nez, a natural harbour formed after the ice age. A little further along, another left turn would take you down to the harbour, though this is an in-and-out route. Continue along the track, which drops sharply downhill to traverse a valley and climbs abruptly into woods. Some brief but steep up-and-down sections follow before you reach a brow above St Martin's Point.

A steep climb then takes you up above Telegraph Bay on to the Jerbourg peninsula and the Jerbourg Hotel. Here, bear left along La Moye Lane before turning left by Seaplane Bungalow, signposted for Petit Port. The south coast opens up ahead, with vast Moulin Huet Bay dominating the land and seascape. Renoir painted 15 canvases here in 1883.

As you make your way around the bay, paths criss-cross and flirt briefly with paved roads. The key is to keep as close to the cliffs as possible. But don't take the 300 steps down to Petit Port bay unless you intend to: the only way back is the way you've come.

At the southern end of the bay the path meets a paved road and switches back sharply, with a walled garden on your right before becoming a path once again. Across the bay to the east you can see Les Tas de Pois d'Amont, a striking row of six sea stacks. You then turn sharp left again to join a road down to the Moulin Huet tearooms. By a board providing information on Renoir's sojourn, turn right and climb the steep steps. At the top, turn left to reach a headland before dropping down to another road and turning left downhill, signposted for Saints Harbour. Pass another loophole tower to reach the headland where a sharp path climbs up again to Icart Point, signposted for Petit Bot.

Keeping on the main path, be careful not to turn left down the one-way path for Le Jaonnet Bay. After a mile, the path drops you down at the bay of Petit Bot. From here, it is a short walk to the main road, Le Bourg, where buses go to St Peter Port. Or you could construct a route back to St Peter Port, for the most part taking in the rouettes tranquilles, roads on which walkers and cyclists have priority.

DISTANCE: Nine miles

TIME: Four hours

MAP: There are no OS maps of Guernsey so use the map given out free at the tourist office at North Esplanade, St Peter Port.

Further information

VisitGuernsey (01481 723552; visitguernsey.com)

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