Practical guide for families travelling to Sark
Sark makes the perfect holiday destination for families. You will find an unspoilt landscape, bays and caves to explore, small lanes to cycle along, and green paths and valleys to roam.
Planning a trip to the island needn’t be stressful. There are plenty of families with children who live on Sark so there are ways and means of getting about!
One thing that many visitors are surprised about is that we are not covered by the NHS here when it comes to medical care and emergencies. It is essential that you make sure to have travel insurance in place before you travel to Sark. You may already be covered by your bank, and very competitive rates can be found online.
Tickets to Sark can be bought from Sark Shipping Company on 01481 724059. If you book online however, there is no fee to change your booking as long as you do it before you set off: www.sarkshippingcompany.com. Look out for offers on their website.
Island Mums, based in Guernsey, are helping families by offering great discounts on all the islands, including Sark. They are also working in conjunction with Sark Shipping, so do keep an eye out for family savings with travel.
Bringing a buggy to Sark is not a problem. You should attach a label with your name and address to the buggy, just in case you get separated from it. If you are visiting for longer than a day, and you want your buggy delivered to your accommodation, please add a carter’s label. These can be picked up from Sark Shipping and will be with either Island Deliveries or Jimmy’s Carting. Sark Shipping Company can carry your collapsed buggy onto the boat as luggage. At their own discretion, they may allow you to leave the buggy fully open on the Sark Belle (the largest boat). Add the carter’s label to any luggage that you would like delivered on Sark.
There is a pontoon on which to access the Sark boat, and you can walk down the ramp at any tide.
When you are on the boat you can either sit inside or outside. Sick bags are provided in case your little ones are poorly. There are toilets on-board, and on the Sark Belle there is a small kiosk for refreshments. There are no baby changing facilities on the boats, but there are public toilets at both Guernsey and Sark harbours, and at the Condor Ferry terminal.
Travel sickness pills for children can be bought from pharmacies and are quite effective. It may be something to consider if you think your child may be queasy on the boat.
When you arrive in Sark, you may have quite a few steps to climb to get to the quay. This depends on how low the tide is. The boat and harbour staff will carry your bags to the top of the steps if you require. If your bags are labelled, they will be put onto the trailers of either Island Deliveries or Jimmy’s Carting, and dropped at your destination. There is a very small cost for this, and it can be settled at your accommodation. If you are just on a day trip, make sure to pick up your buggy at the top of the steps where you disembarked. You can wheel the buggy through the tunnel to the awaiting tractor-drawn bus (a covered trailer affectionately known as the ‘toast rack’!). The drivers will allow you to fold up the buggy and put it under the seats. Sometimes they may let you keep the buggy up and put it on the front row of the bus. There is no extra cost for buggies on the bus. Tickets for adults are £1.10 single and for a child they are 55p.
You can also choose to walk up to the village instead of taking the bus. The hill is quite substantial but is suitable for children who are comfortable on their feet. There is a very pretty path through the trees, or the track up the hill which is quite a push for someone taking a buggy. The buggy can’t be taken up the path, due to steps and tree roots.
Once you have reached the top of the Harbour Hill, the road becomes flatter and it is easy to use a buggy. The nearest public toilets at this point are at the Visitor Centre straight down the Avenue to the left, about a 5 minute walk away. The Avenue is the main street that you come to first. Here you will find several shops, including a small super market. Food Stop is well stocked with baby food in jars and pouches, as well as children’s medicines, wipes, nappies, talc, Sudocreme, sun cream etc. On the road to the Methodist Chapel you will find Mon Plaisir Stores, a charming little general store, also stocking some items for children. PLEASE NOTE: guests staying at self-catering or campsite accommodation may need to pre-order bread, milk, Sark cream and Sark butter from the food shops, to avoid disappointment.
There are three cycle hire shops on Sark: Avenue Cycles, 01481 832102, Pam’s Cycles (behind the Bel Air Inn) 07781 454375 and A to B Cycles down Mermaid Lane 01481 832844. You can hire tandem cycles, adult bikes with tag-alongs, bikes with baby seats on the back and also child trailers. A helmet and cycle lock is loaned for free with each cycle hired. Costs are between £6.50 and £7.50 per day depending on where you go, and a refundable deposit is required at the time of collection. To hire them for a week the prices range from £30 to £35.
Cycle routes on Sark are the same as the ‘roads’ marked in black on the free visitor map. These are un-made and so can be bumpy and unpredictable. Care should be taken to avoid any unevenness in the road. All cliff paths and valley walks are marked as dotted lines on the map. These routes are not accessible by bike, so lock the bike up in a memorable place before you start your amble! You may not cycle across La Coupée nor down the Harbour Hill, as neither would be safe. Push your bike over La Coupée to the other side (Little Sark) or leave your bike at the top of Harbour Hill.
A very popular thing to do is to take a horse and carriage ride around the island. If you are travelling in a group, it may be a good idea to book this in advance. Details of carriage operators can be found at http://www.sark.co.uk/getting-around/. Otherwise, you will find carriage drivers at the top of the Harbour Hill where you alight from the tractor bus. They will offer trips around the island based on one or two hours, at £10/£15 respectively. Do ask the drivers for concessions for very small children.
There is a shop called ‘Avenue Souvenirs’ on the main Avenue, should you need to purchase swimming equipment such as arm bands, lilos etc. If you need to buy children’s clothes, there is a selection here (although these are more holiday clothes and not essentials like underwear). Good beaches for families are Dixcart Bay, with a lovely walk through a valley down to a large beach with sand and pebbles. It takes around 20 minutes to get to on foot from the main road. Creux Harbour is another favourite for locals and visitors alike. This is accessed down Harbour Hill and to the right through the tunnel (opposite to where you arrived at Maseline Harbour). You will walk past the pubic loos, with showers and disabled access. There, on the right, is also the Harbour Café open from morning boat to last boat of the day. Creux Harbour offers beautiful swimming at high tide and a lovely place to explore caves and look for treasure at low tide. There is a harbour wall for children to jump off and a smaller slip way. Be careful, use the Harbour at your own risk.
Sark does not have railings along the coastline or at many of the viewpoints. There may not be warning signs. Please be aware, that Sark is so unspoilt that you may need to take extra care when out and about with your little ones! Window in the Rock is a stunning viewpoint, but please be very careful to hold onto the hands of children. There is a sheer drop though the other side of the ‘window’.
Our local doctor is called Dr Stevenson, and his surgery can be located opposite the Island Hall and school on Rue de la Seigneurie (head North). He can be contacted on 01481 832045, and his opening hours are found here http://www.medical.sark.gg/. In an emergency, call 999 or 01481 832045. Alternatively call the emergency mobile number given on the surgery answerphone, out of hours.