Visiting Alderney in late October is quite a different experience but nonetheless a pleasant one. The de-stressing qualities of this usually peaceful island seems to work its magic the moment you land, maybe sooner. Even the anticipation of our stay calms the soul. We were certainly fortunate with the weather and spent Saturday walking to the easterly end of the island, around Fort Albert and down on to Saye Bay, where we sat for an hour in the sunshine admiring the Forts which flaked the sandy bay on either side and staring out into the blue distance, with the occasional intrepid sailing boat sliding by, like a moving mirage in the otherwise still scene.
In fact we only saw one other couple who were walking their dog along the glassy sand where the tide had recently been; footprints quickly dissolving leaving no lasting impression. Next we headed across the deserted campsite to Arch Bay and Corblets Bay where we joined one other family enjoying the simple pleasures of the beach. There we had our picnic, bought fresh from the bakery in St Anne’s earlier that morning, when we had witnessed the early Saturday morning rush hour of at least one car every two or three minutes on their way up Braye Road to do their weekend shopping.
As the lady’s family left the beach I remarked, ‘Beautiful, isn’t it.’
‘Perfection,’ she replied. We need say no more as we glanced out over the sand and glistening rocks towards the lighthouse.
We continued our walk along the coastal paths to Longis where a few families were dotted across the bay under the brow of the sea defences, an excellent wind shelter, unnecessary today though but sometimes welcome. Our intended destination this time was not the beach but The Barn where we enjoyed a refreshing cup of afternoon tea. We’d just missed lunch but the menu looked appealing. Maybe for another day. It’s always worth remembering The Barn when you are this end of the island. In the summer the campsite has a cafe too, but at this time of year The Barn acts as a little oasis, with its sheltered plant laden courtyard and the cosy rooms of its popular restaurant.
Back in the little town of St Anne that afternoon it was quiet, many of the Georgian shops now closed for the remainder of the weekend. There was still activity at the Fishing Shop, and I mean fishing tackle and the like rather than the fresh fish shop further down Victoria Street. The annual fishing festival was nearing its final moments and people were nipping in and out, I’m not sure what for, but there was certainly an air of excitement. The One Stop was also open and the Book shop around the corner, as was Jack’s, the Bistro cum cafe right at the bottom of Victoria Street, but it was just about to close to prepare the tables for the evening meal. It was also the last day the Alderney Museum was open to the public before closing its doors for winter, often the busiest time behind the scenes for its inspired young curator and band of enthusiastic volunteers who have excellent ideas to weave the museum with the fabric of community life.
That evening we headed to The Moorings down by the harbour for supper, but it appeared that the whole island had turned up too for the end of festival celebration when cups and trophies were handed out and I gather a great time was had by all.
We hadn’t intended to eat at The Diver’s a second night, preferring to choose a different venue each night… The Diver’s on Thursday night when we arrived where we both enjoyed an Alderney burger, good wholesome home cooking; Of course it had to be The Braye Chippy on Friday, a must for any visitor but, since the islanders love it too, it’s essential to book – yes that’s how good it is; Back to the Diver’s on Saturday, gladly taking a table vacated by the multitude of fishermen on their way to the
Moorings and finally Sunday lunch at The Harbour Lights where I ate Red Mullet to die for. I had to take a photo of the meal but it was certainly as delicious as it looked. Later that evening I met Bugsy, the owner of the wetfish shop at the bar of The Harbour Lights and he told me he’d caught it at 7 am that very morning.
As always I was so sad to leave on Monday morning, not only the island which has seeped deep into my psyche but many of the islanders too, who made us feel so welcome!