Lihou is a small tidal island situated just off the west coast of Guernsey and accessed by a causeway at low tide for about two weeks every month. We found it almost by accident when we spied it whilst having a picnic further along the Guernsey coast and decided to investigate. Luckily for us, the tide was low and we were able to walk across and visit this tiny little nature reserve. A sign on the Guernsey side gives up-to-date tide times and informs would-be visitors what time they need to be back to avoid being cut off by the tide and stuck on the island! A tractor drives across just before the tide comes in to pick up any stragglers!
The States of Guernsey bought Lihou Island in 1995 to guarantee access for the people of Guernsey and visitors alike. It is uninhabited apart from a large house that is available for hire. The general public are welcome to visit Lihou when the causeway is open. The Environment Department of the States of Guernsey are responsible for the island whilst The Lihou Charitable Trust are responsible for the house and its grounds. Ten years ago, Lihou and the nearby L’Erée headland were designated as Guernsey’s first RAMSAR wetland site and the marine reserve is now home to more than 200 species of seaweed and 150 species of bird.
It’s an easy walk across although a bit damp in places. Most of the causeway is a wide cobbled ‘road’ that disappears underground for the middle section and re-appears on the island side. The seaweed is amazing shades of bright green and orange and it is fascinating to peer into the rockpools and observe the birds. We saw an Oyster catcher!
Once on Lihou, there are clearly marked paths which take the visitor past the house and onto the ruins of an old Benedictine Monastery and finally to the Venus Pool – a rock pool you can swim in (we didn’t!). On a clear day, it’s a beautiful walk and the colours of the sea, sky and seaweed are stunning.
The house and its facilities are aimed at youth and school groups but also accommodate groups of adults (stag and hen parties are banned due to past bad experiences!) There is no TV or music in the house to encourage visitors to enjoy the tranquility and appreciate nature and the beauty of the location. Lihou is a very important nesting and roosting habitat for gulls and waders as well as migrating visitors and any planned activity on the Island must take this into consideration. There seemed to be a group of school-age children there when we visited enjoying some rockpooling activity.
This is a very enjoyable stroll through some lovely scenery – brilliant for bird and nature lovers. We made it back just as the tide was coming in and sat on the cannons on the Guernsey side and watched the waters rise over the causeway and little Lihou becoming an island again.
NEXT ISLAND: For my next island I will be back in Portugal visiting Ilha Deserta.