About Sark by Susie Crowther
A Bright Future for Dark Skies on Sark
With only 600 people, Sark occupies a lonely yet intriguing corner of the Channel Islands in north-western Europe. This small chunk of rock has managed to climb onto the world stage due to its alluring night skies coupled with its charming way of life. This captivating island is probably the least known of all the Channel Islands yet is swiftly developing a solid tourist infrastructure to cope with increasing demand. The dazzling flora, fascinating history, traditional culture and unique topography all coalesce to provide the visitor with an experience they’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the British Isles.
A Dark Beginning
If you were to arrive at Sark at nightfall, it wouldn’t be the mainland itself that would catch your attention – that’s left till later. It would be the night sky, the roof of Sark itself, peppered as it is with a wonderful celestial array that rivals any of the skies enjoyed from Saharan sands. The full appreciation of this heavenly display was finally acknowledged by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), who in 2011 designated Sark as the first Dark Sky Island in the world.
Indeed, it wasn’t just the professional astronomers who played a role in this designation. The population of Sark themselves contributed to the award by agreeing to reduce light pollution through altering its intensity and location. This is crucial because tourism acts as the principal economic pulse on the island and so this award puts it on the world map as a small place with massive actual, current and future potential. Thus, one of the outstanding things about Sark is that it can offer the tourist beauty traversing both night and day throughout the entire year.
A Holiday worth Remembering
It’s not just the spectacle of experiencing Sark itself that should interest tourists – something described in detail below. It’s also worth emphasising that the means of actually getting to Sark can be just as rewarding. For instance, flying to the neighbouring island of Guernsey provides you with the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the Channel Islands from the sky before you get to explore on the ground below – an ideal way to begin your planned and long awaited excursion. To get to Sark, one needs to travel onward from Guernsey, and the simplest and most convenient route is that offered by the regular passenger ferry service. It can take as little as an hour before you arrive at Sark to appreciate all it has to offer. As with flying, the benefits of family holidays on the seas offer a great way to appreciate the landscape of the territories you’re about to explore as well as providing a relaxing atmosphere for all in the family to enjoy. This confers some spectacular advantages to the Channel Islands from the inception of the holiday right through to the end.
Getting to the Middle of its Culture
It’s certainly not the end of your trip when dawn breaks on Sark. In fact, this is when you get to savour everything that encompasses both the history and the people of this island. Of course, when we say ‘island’, we really mean islands. This is because Sark is made up of two islands – Greater Sark in the north and Little Sark in the south. They are joined by a narrow road only 91 metres in length; ensuring that tourists can benefit from both parts of this territory. Surprisingly to many, it would be this small narrow road that would make a lasting impact between the two peoples.
This is because the older people of Sark speak a dialect of the Norman language called Sercquiais – a variety of French. Interestingly, the peoples of Little Sark speak a different dialect than their northern counterparts, reflecting a fascinating difference on such a small territory. This varying linguistic flavour adds to the cultural enchantment that these islands offer to prospective tourists. However, it’s not just this Norman heritage that adds a unique grandeur to these isles but also the way of life of the natives themselves.
The traditionalism of Sark is probably one of its greatest cultural assets. This is reflected in their decision not to use ordinary cars and vehicles but instead opts for transport such as tractors and horse-and-carriage. This latter form is an ideal way to spend an afternoon on Sark taking in the splendour of the mainland while being comforted in their customary transport. However, you don’t need to limit yourself to the land. Sark offers marine enthusiasts the opportunity to partake in diving to appreciate the aquatic life that its surroundings offer in abundance.
If marine explorations aren’t for you, then you’ve got fascinating territory to explore, both at the coastline and inland. Spring offers a captivating time to enjoy the stunning flora that makes the island vivid and distinct in character. Meanwhile, you can take the time to meet and greet the locals at the capital of La Seigneurie. This gives you the ideal opportunity to get to grips with the people, their language, history and culture, while grounding your experience with the experiences of the natives.
A Bright Future
Sark has rightly taken its place as one of the most obscure yet fascinating places to visit in the world. The combination of beautiful night skies married with its impressive mainland visage offer the visitor the best of both worlds. Its isolated home on the northwest corner of Europe has ensured that its impressive natural wonders have gone unsullied. These benefits are bolstered with a uniquely flavoured culture that extends into every nook and cranny of the islands that need to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Overall, it looks as though Sark has finally found its value and, with enhanced tourist infrastructure, looks to enjoy an appreciation it hasn’t yet seen before.
Contributor, Susie Crowther