Stage 3: Les Grandes Rocques to St Peter Port

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Port Soif

(1) Port Soif


(2) Portinfer


(3) Pulias

Baie de Port Grat

(4) Baie de Port Grat

After a day off for rain I returned to Les Grandes Rocques on another overcast morning to complete my walk around Guernsey. From the bus stop I walked the short distance along the road to rejoin the coastal path where it comes off the headland of Grandes Rocques.

A well-worn path runs along a bank behind the sandy crescent of Port Soif (picture 1), beside the road at first but soon curving away onto the next headland, which is occupied by the Port Soif/Portinfer Dunes Nature Reserve. The path goes out to a carpark by an impressive granite outcrop at the tip of the headland before turning past the Port Soif Kiosk and heading along the edge of the dunes above the shingle beach of Portinfer (picture 2).

The next headland is mostly taken up by the Guernsey Clay Target Shooting Club, leaving a narrow apron of land for the coastal path to skirt around the headland to reach the Baie des Pecqueries. A tarmac path runs around the bay on the grassy bank between the beach and the road, opposite seaside homes.

At the end of the bay is the rock-strewn headland of Pulias, where many varieties of wildflowers grow (picture 3). The path continues around the small Baie de Pulias to a carpark on the next point, overlooking the much larger Baie de Port Grat (picture 4).


(5) Seaview

Rousse Tower

(6) Rousse Tower

Grand Havre

(7) Grand Havre

Pont St Michel

(8) Pont St Michel

The coastal path follows a track past a tiny fisherman's cottage called Seaview (picture 5), briefly following the coast road to a slipway from which a well-worn footpath circles the bay on a grassy, flower-covered bank to the headland of Rousse. On the square end of the headland stands a loophole tower of 1779 and its adjoining semicircular gun battery of 1804 (picture 6), which faces eastwards across the Grand Havre, the largest and most sheltered anchorage on the north coast of Guernsey.

After exploring the tower (which houses a small museum) and the battery, I set off on the long walk around the Grand Havre, which is surrounded by residential areas. Part of the way around the bay at Point Piquerel, the view shows why the Grand Havre is so sheltered (picture 7).

Following the footpath above the next sandy beach, the coastal path reaches the innermost corner of the Grand Havre at Pont St Michel, where the tall spire of Vale Parish Church is prominent on the skyline ahead (picture 8). This spot is named Pont St Michel because an abbey that once stood on the site of the present church was tied to the monastery of Mont St Michel in Normandy until the early 15th century.

Vale Parish Church

(9) Vale Parish Church

Grand Havre

(10) Grand Havre

L'Ancresse Common

(11) L'Ancresse Common


(12) Chouet

After making a short diversion inland for a closer look at Vale Parish Church (picture 9), I followed the coastal path along the east side of the Grand Havre (picture 10), paralleling a minor road as far as a large carpark by the small Amarreurs Harbour. The road turns inland here, but the coastal path continues above Chouet Beach along the edge of the wide expanse of L'Ancresse Common (picture 11), a large area of Heathland partly occupied by the Royal Guernsey Golf Club.

At the far end of Chouet Beach, I stopped for a light lunch at the Chouet Kiosk (picture 12). Beyond the beach carpark a path crosses a short stretch of gorse to join the lane that runs out onto the Chouet headland and past its loophole tower.

A few steps along the lane, a sign on a wire mesh fence shows the site of the Torrey Canyon Oil Spill Storage Site. The Torrey Canyon was an oil tanker that ran aground on the Seven Stones Reef between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly on 18 March 1967, spilling more than 100 million litres of crude oil into the sea. This was one of the world's worst environmental disasters, with the oil not only washing up along hundreds of kilometres of Cornwall's coastline, but also drifting across the English Channel to contaminate parts of the French and Guernsey coasts. The oil collected in Guernsey's cleanup effort was dumped in a disused quarry on the Chouet headland and remains there more than fifty years later.

Mont Cuet

(13) Mont Cuet

Jaonneuse Bay

(14) Jaonneuse Bay

Fort Pembroke

(15) Fort Pembroke

Pembroke Beach

(16) Pembroke Beach

The lane becomes an unsealed track that passes close to the Chouet loophole tower and continues to the end of the headland, where a pistol range occupies another former quarry. Now heading along the north side of Chouet, the path passes a large German bunker built into a bank that hides the Mont Cuet landfill site from view. The coastal path follows the rocky shore of Mont Cuet (picture 13) to round the next point and skirt the small, white sand cove of Jaonneuse Bay (picture 14), where a loophole tower standing in the dunes behind the beach has a noticeable lean.

I felt obliged to stop here, dip a toe in the cool water and sit on the sand for a little while before continuing on to Fort Pembroke, which stands on the far side of the bay at the tip of a narrow finger of land (picture 15). Turning sharp right in front of the fort, the path heads back off the point and is soon following a sturdy concrete seawall past a German bunker behind Pembroke Beach (picture 16). The beach is part of L'Ancresse Bay and stretching away behind it is the eastern side of L'Ancresse Common, the other side of which was passed earlier in the walk by the Grand Havre.

L'Ancresse Tower

(17) L'Ancresse Tower

L'Ancresse Bay

(18) L'Ancresse Bay

Powder Magazine

(19) Powder Magazine

Rifle range

(20) Rifle range

The coastal path goes through car parks either side of the Beach House restaurant and passes the L'Ancresse Tower (picture 17), which seemed to be a favourite spot for the local birds. Some rocks halfway around the bay separate Pembroke Beach from L'Ancresse Beach, where another loophole tower is set back on the edge of the common before the path passes the L'Ancresse Kiosk.

At the end of the beach, the path climbs onto the next point (picture 18), which is topped by yet another loophole tower. At the tip of the point, a small building, originally a powder magazine, shelters between large granite outcrops next to the site of an old gun battery (picture 19).

After circling a small cove, the path passes between a rifle range (picture 20) and another loophole tower to head out onto the long, narrow headland at the eastern extremity of L'Ancresse Bay.

Fort le Marchant

(21) Fort le Marchant

Fontenelle Bay

(22) Fontenelle Bay

Passing Loophole Tower 4

(23) Passing Loophole Tower 4

Fort Doyle

(24) Fort Doyle

On the end of the headland, at the northernmost point on Guernsey, stands Fort le Marchant (picture 21), an 1805 expansion of an older fort built around 1680. Turning back along the other edge of the headland, the path overlooks Fontenelle Bay (picture 22). The coastal path passes to the left of the same loophole tower passed on the way out to the fort (picture 23), following an obvious path through the gorse all the way around the bay to Fort Doyle (picture 24), which also dates from 1805.

View towards Herm and Jethou

(25) View towards Herm and Jethou

Beaucette Marina

(26) Beaucette Marina

Route de Saint Magloire

(27) Route de Saint Magloire

La Miellette

(28) La Miellette

Fort Doyle stands on the north-east corner of Guernsey, and from there the coastal path turns southward, with views across the water to Herm and Jethou (picture 25). The coastal path follows a track behind a whitewashed house and up to the edge of the Beaucette Marina (picture 26), sited in a flooded quarry. There is no footbridge over the narrow entrance to the marina, so the path has to go around the back of the marina, passing some large glasshouses and following the pretty walled Route de Saint Magloire (picture 27) until a gap in the stone wall opens into a small, flowery meadow where the path runs along the right-hand edge to rejoin the coast on the stony beach of Mares a Fils. Beyond a small point is a second stony beach, La Miellette (picture 28).

Petils Bay

(29) Petils Bay

Bordeaux Harbour

(30) Bordeaux Harbour

Vale Castle

(31) Vale Castle

View from Vale Castle

(32) View from Vale Castle

The return to the coast is brief, however, as a fish farm blocks further progress and the route is forced to turn inland along the Rue des Hougues de Noirmont. After several twists and turns, the lane ends and the path turns left on Kings Road and left again on Les Croutes.

At the bottom of the road a track on the right runs alongside Petils Bay (picture 29) to a small carpark and a cinder path continues to a second carpark where the path turns right to follow a road around the shallow Bordeaux Harbour (picture 30) and halfway around the next bay, La Banque Imber. A footpath leaves the end of a long carpark to run along the rounded edge of the next point to the edge of the industrial area of St Sampson.

Just before the industrial area starts, I took a diversion up a lane that climbs to Vale Castle (picture 31). The castle was built in the 1400s on the site of an Iron-Age fort and was significantly modified during the Napoleonic Wars and again during the German Occupation. From atop the castle walls there is a good view across the mouth of St Sampson Harbour and down the east coast of Guernsey (picture 32).

St Sampson Harbour

(33) St Sampson Harbour

Le Cocq Clock Tower

(34) Le Cocq Clock Tower

St Sampson Church

(35) St Sampson Church

Delancy Park

(36) Delancy Park

Back on the coastal path, the main road is followed along North Quay and around the end of the rectangular harbour (picture 33), which stretches about 500 metres inland. Returning along the South Quay, the path passes the attractive Le Cocq Clock Tower (picture 34), which is built into the old harbourmaster's office. A little further along the quay the coastal path turns right into Church Road, soon passing St Sampson Church (picture 35), named after a Breton missionary who came to convert Guernsey to Christianity in the 6th century.

At the top of the long Church Road, the coastal route turns right onto Mont Morin and follows it to the entrance of Delancy Park. A tarmac path snakes its way across the park (picture 36), passing the School of Popular Music on the way out to Rue des Monts.

Belle Grieve Bay

(37) Belle Grieve Bay

Les Banques Lookout

(38) Les Banques Lookout

St Peter Port Harbour

(39) St Peter Port Harbour

Liberation Place

(40) Liberation Place

After leaving the park, the first street on the left, Delancy Lane, leads back to the coast road at Belle Grieve Bay (picture 37). The coastal path runs along a bank between the beach and the busy road until the bank ends and a seawall begins. Now in St Peter Port, the pavement beside the seawall continues around the bay, passing the grassy Les Banques Lookout (picture 38) on the way to St Peter Port Marina (picture 39).

At the landward end of St Julian's Pier, which separates the marina from the commercial part of the harbour, I returned to Liberation Place (picture 40), the start and end of my circuit of Guernsey. The Liberation Monument was unveiled in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Occupation.