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Alderney is a tiny British island with a mild climate and fascinating historic sites to discover. Add gorgeous beaches, incredible sunrises and sunsets, and the most delicious food to the mix too, and you’ll soon find a surprising amount of things to do in Alderney.
I first visited the island as a small child, staying in an adorable little cottage with bunk beds and a porthole window I could peep through from my top bunk! Alderney felt like heaven to a six-year-old and still does today.
Over the years, I’ve been back to Alderney several times and explored the island thoroughly! It will be one of my favourite places to escape for years to come.
Before You Leave For Alderney
The Channel Islands have long been popular with Brits, with thousands loving their trips to Jersey and Guernsey, but sleepy little Alderney is different. It’s quaint, unhurried, and safe – the perfect spot to unwind, relax and rejuvenate in one of the sunniest places in the British Isles.
For an island of just over three-square miles, there’s an astonishing amount of things to do. History buffs, nature lovers and foodies love Alderney and it’s a terrific place to visit with kids!
You can get anywhere within 10 minutes of the main town, and the 50 miles of footpaths keep keen walkers happy – and burn off the calories.
It’s a bit of an adventure to get to Alderney, and that’s part of the fun. The tiny Dornier 228 propeller planes only have one seat on each side of a narrow aisle, but they are efficient and very comfortable for short flights to Alderney.
While Alderney is a fascinating place for your holidays, the island won’t be for you if you’re looking for wall-to-wall bright lights and lots of late-night entertainment!!
Where is Alderney?
Alderney is a relatively small British island eight miles off the coast of France and 45 minutes from Southampton. You can reach the island by ferry or plane – see exactly how to get to Alderney below.
How long and wide is Alderney?
Alderney is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and at three miles long by one and a half miles wide, it’s the third largest of the Channel Islands. The main settlement is St Anne, a pleasant village in the middle of the island known as “Town”.
How many people live on Alderney?
At the end of March 2021, the Alderney population was 2,102. The number swells significantly from April to October, as the island is popular with tourists.
It’s a beautiful, underrated sun trap that feels like you’re stepping back 50 years. There are loads of things to do on Alderney – it’ll take you a few trips to get through this lot!
What NOT To Miss in Alderney
If your time is limited, here are the top 5 things you’ll want to include in your Alderney itinerary.
#1 A Birdwatching Boat Trip with Alderney Wildlife Trust
The boat trip to the rocky outcrops of Les Etacs and Ortacs, known as “Gannet Rock”, is incredible. You’ll get amazing views and the spectacle of 8,000 pairs of gannets nesting on the rocks.
As the boat chugs merrily along, the cacophony of calling birds will fill the air, while the tang of salty air mingles will compete with the unmistakable smell of guano!
#2 Visit the Alderney Society Museum
Check out the award-winning Alderney Museum, where a treasure trove of memorabilia awaits. You’ll learn how the island’s entire population was evacuated at the start of the Second World War and how 30,000 mines had to be cleared before islanders could return home in December 1945.
#3 Explore the Victorian Fortifications
Alderney has more fortresses per square mile than elsewhere in the UK. Some of the Victorian forts, which were built in the 1850s, are accessible and fascinating to poke around.
Fort Tourgis and the Cambridge Battery have been renovated recently and should be on your itinerary.
Top Tip: Take a warm jacket as these coastal defences can be very windswept and you’ll need a torch in some places!
#4 Relax on Your Favourite Beach
You will love the beaches in Alderney. The beautiful coastline is never far, and you can almost imagine being in the Caribbean on a sunny day.
Seriously though – the beaches in Alderney are stunning. Even if you’re only visiting Alderney for a few days, you can visit them all to decide which your best spots.
Saye Bay and Braye Bay are favourites for swimming and their lovely white sands, whereas Longis Beach is protected from winds by a German ‘anti-tank wall’!
Visiting the beaches is one of the most popular things to do in Alderney
#5 Eat all the seafood
Pack your elasticated waist pants – food on Alderney is excellent! Dressed crab and lobster are local specialities, with plenty of “straight from the boat” seafood to tempt you.
There’s nothing quite like eating freshly caught fish with locally grown veggies and you’ll have many places to do that in Alderney. I’ve tried as many restaurants as possible, but it’s a work in progress.
The island of Alderney is a beautiful, underrated sun trap that feels like you’re stepping back 50 years. There are loads of things to do on Alderney – it’ll take you a few trips to get through this lot!
Shopping in Alderney
Alderney has a pretty cobbled high street (Victoria Street), usually decorated with cheery bunting. You’ll find a “proper” post office, butcher, newsagent, and other independent shops, but absolutely no chain stores!
Most Alderney shops still close for a traditional ‘lunch hour’ and for half a day on Wednesdays. It’s all very civilised!
Elsewhere on the island, you’ll find ‘honesty boxes’ on people’s doorsteps, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to flowers and eggs to homemade jams and chutneys.
Top Attractions in Alderney
While you’e on the island, there are plenty more iconic and varied attractions you won’t want to miss!
Alderney Lighthouse (Mannez Lighthouse)
Alderney Lighthouse is located on the island’s northeast coast at Quénard Point. The 32 metre high structure is painted white with a central black band, making it more visible to shipping during daylight hours.
The lighthouse was automated in 1997, and the last keepers left in early October. You can still see the keepers’ accommodation next to the tower.
Catch the 2:30 pm train from Braye harbour on Sundays to get to the lighthouse for the 3 pm guided tour with the Alderney Wildlife Trust.
While on the tour, you can climb the steep winding staircase to get incredible coastline views from the top. You’ll learn how the lighthouse was built in 1912 and how it keeps shipping traffic away from the island’s treacherous rocks and currents.
The Alderney Race is a treacherous stretch of water between Alderney and the Cap de la Hague coast in France. It’s the strongest tidal stream in Europe, with an uneven sea bed and hazardous rocks that are a real danger to shipping.
After your tour, catch the 4 pm train back to St Anne.
The terrain from the station to the lighthouse is rough and has steep drops, so keep to the path. The lighthouse is for non-disabled visitors, and you must be at least 1.1m tall to visit.
The Nunnery Roman Fort
Alderney has one of Britain’s best-preserved small roman forts, originally built in the 4th century. The fort was built to defend Longis Bay harbour and the Roman settlement nearby.
Over the centuries, the fort has been adapted and used by Tudors, British soldiers, and the German forces who added a large bunker to the site.
The site has just had a substantial make over and is now a rewarding heritage site to visit.
The Old Watermill
The Watermill in the Val de la Bonne Terre (Bonne Terre Valley) is one of the oldest surviving sites on Alderney, with records dating back to the early 13th Century. The present ruins are the remains of a mill rebuilt in 1796.
With excellent information boards about the ongoing work, the Watermill is well worth a visit and is always open to the public, with free admission.
The Dark Skies
Alderney ….. there’s no better place for gazing up at the magic of the Milky Way on a clear night, as there’s practically zero light pollution!
World War II German Fortifications
The second world war was one of the darkest periods in Alderney’s history, as German forces invaded and occupied the island. All but a handful of islanders were evacuated before the invasion.
The German soldiers reinforced the old Victorian coastal defences and littered the island with many new concrete fortifications. Alderney became a crucial part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ and one of the most fortified places in the world! Today, you can visit some of the WWII bunkers and the massive lookout post known as the Odeon, perched on a rocky outcrop at the edge of a cliff.
St Anne’s Church
Located in the heart of the town, St Anne’s is the largest church in the Channel Islands! Known as the cathedral of the Channel Islands, St Anne’s is also the only church in the Channel Islands to have a bell tower with 12 bells! It’s pretty impressive when they are all ringing!
The Old Church Tower and Clock
When the large new church was completed, the old church was demolished, as it was small and in a poor state of repair. Only the tower, built in 1767, now remains. It still has the two original bells you can hear daily, striking each quarter hour.
More Attractions and Activities
Ride on the Alderney Railway
You’ll enjoy the quaint railway if you love heritage railways and history, as it’s the last working railway in the Channel Islands. The railway was visited three times by Queen Victoria and used by the German forces during WWII.
Spending time at the beach hunting for treasures in a rockpool is one of the most popular things to do in Alderney if you have kids. At low tide, it’s fascinating to see the tiny creatures left behind by the sea!
Remember to check the tide times – it’s dangerous to rock pool on a rising tide!
Visit Alderney Cinema
Movie nights at Alderney’s quaint little cinema are fun. The intimate cinema in St Anne is run by volunteers, with movies generally screened two or three months after the general release.
Picnic on the Beach
One of my favourite things to do on Alderney is picking up tasty bites from the deli in Victoria Street in St Anne and taking them to one of the lovely white sand beaches for a leisurely afternoon listening to the sounds of the sea.
If you like your holidays with a touch of adventure, Alderney is an excellent choice! Everything is almost on your doorstep!
Hike the Alderney Coastal Path
On your trip to Alderney, one of the great things to do is hiking the scenic coastal paths at your own pace. From rugged gorse-carpeted cliff paths to quiet sandy bays, you can explore Alderney thoroughly with the free self-guided walks available from the Visitor Information Centre.
Top Tip: Some of the walks are
quite very challenging! You will need your walking boots, water bottle and don’t forget your camera as the views are incredible.
Try Kayaking with the Alderney Wildlife Trust
Wildlife kayaking around the coast with a specialist marine guide from the Alderney Wildlife Trust is one of the most magical experiences you can have in Alderney.
£20 (adults), and £16 (children) for a 90 minute trip.
Cycle Around the Island
Alderney is made for cycle rides, whether you want to don all the lycra and zoom about or pootle along in your shorts and T shirt! Honestly, no one gives a hoot!
While you can take a bike on the ferry, it’s far easier to rent one when you arrive from the lovely folks at Cycle and Surf. Grab a free map from the Visitor centre and set off to explore.
Top tip: Whether you want hills or a straight, even path, there are many options to choose if you want to cycle Alderney.
Animal Attractions in Alderney
While Alderney has no large land mammals, there are many small mammals, including an incredible 14 species of bats! Hedgehogs (including rare blonde hedgehogs) are also resident across the island. The waters around Alderney also host species of marine mammals, including a breeding colony of grey seals.
Add a hedgehog walk or an evening bat walk with the Alderney Wildlife Trust to your list of what to do in Alderney if you’re an animal lover. It’s one of the most unusual things to do on Alderney.
Food and Drink in Alderney
Alderney’s French-influenced cuisine features abundant seafood and shellfish. Local specialities include lobster and dressed crab; however, you’ll also find traditional British and international dishes. Alcohol is generally cheaper than in the UK.
Where to Eat
Alderney has excellent restaurants! You can enjoy anything from budget cafes to high-quality restaurants for dinner.
Try the Georgian House or Blonde Hedgehog, where you can expect the freshest and best local produce, or pop along to The Braye Chippy if you want sunset supper on the beach!
Special Events in Alderney
Milk-o-Punch Sunday (1st Sunday of May)
Traditionally, islanders (or “lapins”) celebrated moving their cows out to their summer pastures at the beginning of May. They would take a bucket to the field, milk a cow, crack some seagull eggs (!!) into the milk, then add rum and nutmeg and drink a toast to the new season.
After the German occupation, the local pubs adopted the tradition of Milk-a-Punch. The only difference is that they no longer use seagull eggs 🙂
The Seafood Festival (First two weeks of May)
The “Festival des Fruits de Mer” celebrates all things seafood. If you love fresh seafood in beautiful surroundings, you’ll need to book early, as the island is busy for this festival.
Alderney Week – Alderney’s Biggest Carnival
Alderney Week kicks off with Cavalcade Day (a public holiday in Alderney) on the first Monday in August. The festivities culminate on Saturday night with a torchlight procession, fireworks and live music. It’s a bit mad, completely marvellous and suitable for every age.
Homecoming Day (December 15th)
Homecoming Day is a public holiday in Alderney to celebrate the day when islanders were able to return to Alderney after World War Two. Residents enjoy a day off, and schools and most businesses are closed.
Where to Stay in Alderney
There’s a fantastic amount of Alderney accommodation, from campsites with a sea view to charming B&Bs, luxurious cottages and lovely hotels. You could even stay in a Victorian fortress or the old Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage for something different.
1. Georgian House
Located right in the heart of St Anne, the Georgian House is one of the most stylish Alderney hotels – perfect for solos and couples! The restaurant offers a mix of traditional British pub favourites and European style with a seafood influence, while the bar has wines from around the world and draught beers from the UK. Or maybe you’d prefer a cheeky cocktail?
“Fantastic hotel with some of the friendliest staff. Great food, location and atmosphere. Can’t wait to go back!”.
❤️ WHY YOU WILL LOVE THE GEORGIAN HOUSE
Start your day enjoying your English breakfast in the garden before exploring the island. The cobbled streets of St Anne are right on your doorstep, while beautiful Saye Beach and Braye Bay are just minutes away. Afternoon tea with local clotted cream and homemade scones is delicious.
⭐️ GEORGIAN HOUSE REVIEWS (8.9/10 stars)
The helpfulness of the team, nothing was too much. The location of the hotel is is very central to everything. Overall feeling of being very welcome during our stay. —Sarah
Room was very comfortable, and the breakfast was excellent. The best thing though, was the attitude of the staff. Friendly, fantastic service. Nothing was too much trouble. —Mark
2. The Blonde Hedgehog
Located in the heart of St Anne on a pretty cobbled street, the Georgian House is a luxury boutique Alderney hotel – highly rated by couples and families! The restaurant offers an inspiring and daily-changing menu with much of the locally grown produce sourced from their own kitchen garden.
“spacious rooms amazing bathroom and superb terrace gardens”
❤️ WHY YOU WILL LOVE THE BLONDE HEDGEHOG
Check in after your free Airport pick up and discover your luxurious room and beautiful bathroom. Enjoy Alderney’s attractions before a candle-lit dinner or snuggling down in the private cinema, with a cosy blanket, snacks and a cocktail. Dogs are very welcome and treated like rock stars!
⭐️ BLONDE HEDGEHOG REVIEWS (9.1/10 stars)
What a fabulous hotel, the bathroom was amazingly spacious and luxurious. The bedroom was comfortable and well provisioned. The setting and grounds were well above expectations. The breakfast was varied and very filling and the evening meal we had was absolutely delicious. We will definitely be returning —Deborah
Just about everything about the hotel was top notch. Comfortable room, warm welcome, great food, friendly staff —Steve
Saye Beach Campsite is tucked away in the white sand dunes, moments away from Saye Beach, with clean, modern facilities, tents for hire and a short walk into town. It’s ideal for a peaceful stay.
How to Get to Alderney
The only direct flights to Alderney from the UK are from Southampton; however, you can also fly to the island from France or via Guernsey. ➡️ Find your flights to Alderney here.
Alternatively, there are regular ferries from St Peter Port in Guernsey to Alderney harbour in the summer months.
I hope I’ve covered everything you need to plan an amazing trip to Alderney, but here are a few FAQS to add a little more detail.
Does Alderney have its own language?
Alderney Patois (Aourgnais) is now a dead language – no longer spoken on the island. English is spoken everywhere.
– The beaches are one of the most popular things to do in Alderney
What currency is used in Alderney?
The currency in Alderney is British pounds Sterling, so there is no need to worry about exchange rates if you’re visiting from the UK.
Top Tip: Alderney is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which issues its own notes and coins. These are worth the same as English, Scottish or Jersey notes – all of which you can also spend throughout the Channel Islands. You will need to spend your Channel Island notes and coins during your trip, though, as you won’t be able to use them in the UK.
Wrap Up – Things to do in Alderney Channel Islands
So there you have it! I hope this travel guide to Alderney has whetted your appetite to visit this beautiful little island!
While the stunning beaches usually top the favourite Alderney attractions lists (quite rightly), the relaxed lifestyle, beautiful and ever-changing coast, and easy cycling routes keep me coming back for more. And that legendary seafood!
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