ISLANDSIsland SARK, CHANNEL
This tiny fleck of green floating between England and France may have an area of just 5.45sq km but it is, in fact, an independent state. The Channel Islands are the last remnants of the Duchy of Normandy, which was wrestled away from Anglo-Norman control by the French in 1204. The local government, known as the Chief Pleas, rule with a system that can be traced back to Norman times. Many of the islanders are descendants of the original English settlers and older residents still speak Sercquiais, a dialect descended from Norman French.
Sark basks in a self-imposed time warp. Its pretty lanes and single main road are entirely car-free. Instead, horse-drawn carts will heave your bags from the harbour to The Village (the only one on the island), where inviting whitewashed cottages await. The only way to get around is on foot or by bike, so sort a ride from Avenue Cycle Hire and head for the coast. The narrow isthmus which connects Sark to Little Sark delivers glorious sea views, while woodland paths wind their way to farmhouses selling fresh cream from the native Guernsey cows.
Streetlamps are too newfangled for Sark. In fact, it has so little light pollution it officially became a Dark Sky Community in 2011. Gaze upwards on a summer’s evening and you’ll be able to see the white smudge of the Milky Way itself.
With such utter isolation, it’s no surprise that locals are a convivial lot. In summer there are a host of quirky festivals. Act fast to bag tickets to the Sark Folk Festival (30 June-2 July), eat your way around the street market (25 June) and place your bets on which sprightly animal will be the victor of the fiercely contested sheep-racing weekend (21-23 July).
La Sablonnerie is the island’s grand dame hotel in a 400-year-old farmhouse. Expect nostalgic prints, faded rugs and a restaurant specialising in lobster. Doubles from £237, including a five-course dinner for two. sablonneriesark.com
Condor Ferries condorferries.co.uk has regular departures from Portsmouth to Guernsey, from £69 return with car. The Sark Shipping Company has several boats a day from Guernsey from £29 return. sarkshippingcompany.com
With over 120 permanently inhabited islands surrounding the United Kingdom, you don’t need to travel far to enjoy peace and isolation, says Imogen Lepere