Tiny Herm is a stunning little jewel of an island with lush green bracken and wild flowers, sub-tropical plants, white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. You could be in the Caribbean but you are actually in the Channel Islands! Still travelling with my cousin, Chris, we had heard so much about Herm from our Mums and Uncles that it was a must-see. One of the smallest inhabited islands of the Channel Islands, little Herm is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and is leased by the present tenant Major Peter Wood. It is one and a half miles long and half a mile wide and lies three miles off the east coast of Guernsey. Regular boats link the island to St Peter Port in Guernsey and you can walk around it easily in a day – and we did! It’s a fantastic walk around a beautiful island.
The Herm Trident V (or VI) makes the short crossing to the tiny island of Herm in about 30 minutes. Departing from one of two St Peter Port locations, depending on the tide, the Trident weaves its way out of the harbour and around the various rocky outcrops whose potentially dangerous underwater presence at high tide is announced by long poles with large capital letters on top . The route to Herm skirts around the private island of Jethou and the some large rocky islets to land people either at the Rosaire Steps – a long line of steps leading from the water’s edge up across the rocks to an old stone arch – or at high tide into Herm’s tiny harbour which, at low tide, looks like a dry dock.
Since 2015 Herm, Jethou and the surrounding islets have been a designated RAMSAR site and home to important bird, marine and plant life incuding Atlantic Puffins, European Shags, grey seals and the rare Sea Holly. We were disappointed not to see any birds but we did see some Sea Holly!
Herm has a estimated population of 60-65 during the summer season, most of them seasonal workers from other EU member states working for the summer. In winter the population apparently drops to about 10 people! Herm has well-kept and signposted paths that help its annual 100,000 visitors navigate their way around the island. No cars or bicycles are allowed on Herm and there are only a handful of buildings – a hotel, a few pub/restaurants, a campsite and some holiday let accommodation. Quad bikes and tractors are permitted to be used by staff for transporting luggage and supplies. Apparently there is also a primary school with only 8 children taught by a teacher who visits daily from Guernsey. There is a chapel in the centre of the island and Herm’s cemetery has one grave!
The owner of our campsite warned us that, due to the lack of pollution on Herm, the sun was very strong and even people from Guernsey got burnt when they visited. We took his advice with a pinch of salt until we arrived and realised the sun was very strong – luckily the shop sells sunscreen!
We walked around the whole island at a very leisurely pace in a clockwise direction from the Rosaire Steps, stopping to take lots of photos, to have a long paddle at shell beach and a well-deserved, chilled Guernsey cider at the Ship pub (attached to the White House Hotel) when we’d been all the way round. It’s an easy walk apart from the south part of the island where there are some steep ascents and descents and a few steps to negotiate. Large rocks have been conveniently positioned around the path to sit on a have a breather and admire the stunning views out to sea and to the other islands. The island is green and lush with carpets of wild flowers and moss to the east, thick bracken covering the west side and Holm oaks covering the southernmost part. The turquoise colour of the water is breathtaking and not what you would expect so close to home. It took us most of the day to wonder around but it was well worth the effort!
Crowds gather at the top of the Rosaire Steps for the journey back. Hotel staff joined us on the steps to meet the boat and transfer luggage belonging to incoming guests and cases of wine and other supplies for the restaurants. If you miss the last one at 5.30 pm you’re stuck there for the night! In the winter, visitors are very much at the mercy of the weather and the tides and it is not unheard of for people to be stranded there! We made it back unscathed! We loved it here and had a fabulous day!
NEXT ISLAND: Staying in the Channel Islands the next island will be Sark