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Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

Guernsey Day 3

One More Lap

After the success of post-marathon tourism and cycling in Amsterdam, I’d repeated that in Germany last year without the bike. It’d been a bit of active recovery for my legs, though obviously in both cases it was for flatter courses, and shorter ones. Whether or not spending a day cycling was a good idea, I couldn’t say, but I was about to find out.

I was awake early, and out running around 06:00 to get just one mile done. It was tough going after yesterday, but I took breaks for some photographs. Breakfast at the hotel runs from 07:30 until 09:00 during weekdays which wouldn’t leave me with much time for getting the bus to St. Martins. I needed to be there by 08:30 ideally to collect the bike, and give myself as much time as possible. In the breakfast room is a buffet for orange or cranberry juice, some cereal, and some small croissants. Everything else has to be ordered. I felt like a cooked breakfast would take too long, so I ordered just a cup of tea and some toast. The tea took twenty minutes to arrive, and the toast never did - so maybe for the best I didn’t order anything more complicated.

I then rushed to get ready and took the 81 bus into St. Martin’s a little later than intended - it takes around twenty minutes to get there depending on traffic. From the nearest bus stop it’s a very short walk, and the bike hire is from the shop on the same side of the road as the petrol station - the one opposite is for maintenance. The hire cost £30 for the day, and included a lock and a bicycle helmet. I’d opted for a mountain bike over a road bike as I felt maybe it’d be a bit easier on Guernsey hills after yesterday. I’d got my London Marathon jacket with me, and this turned out to be the best option for storing my mobile phone I’d be using for navigation without the risk of damaging it.

I then set off in the direction of Petit Port, taking a couple of wrong turns along the way to the Jerbourg Kiosk. It was hard work cycling a heavy mountain bike with wheels about 4-5 centimetres thick. So going downhill the wrong way at Doyle Column wasn’t fun for cycling back to correct my mistake!


At the kiosk there’s a place for locking up bikes, and from there I walked back onto the cliff path from yesterday, and worked my way down. Eventually I got low enough that I could see that even a few hours after high tide, the tide was too high to reach the cave I’d planned on photographing. The climb back up those stairs was not fun!

Not spending time in the cave meant that I was already ahead of schedule, so I wasn't too worried how long it was going to take to reach the German Underground Hospital. I’m sure my map was sending me on routes that would involve the most hill climbs it could fit in, as there sure were a lot. I locked the bike up to the sign outside, and then sat and waited. When it started to rain I checked the door to see if they’d happened to open a few minutes early, and found that the time on the sign and online was wrong and they’d been open since 09:30. A bit of wasted time, but I was sure it wouldn’t matter too much.


The entrance costs £4.00, and is somewhere you could probably spend thirty minutes or so if you really take your time. I walked swiftly, photographed anything I thought was remotely interesting, such as shots of the wards, the operating rooms, and the various tunnels, and then got ready to get back to cycling.


When I’d been planning this day of cycling I’d put a lot in as ‘optional’ to let me know that there were other things about should I have time. Today would be tight on time, but as I’d managed to get ahead of time it meant I could risk visiting Les Niaux. The rain had eased a little by this point, but on my way down the wrong hill it started to rain heavier and heavier. I was too far down now to change my mind so kept going, and then found I could still reach the watermill at Les Niaux, and go back up that one. Due to the rain I took one quick photograph with my phone, which meant the detour was almost not worthwhile. It was, however, nice to see it. The hill back up though, not so nice to see. This one was so steep that I actually got off the bicycle and walked eventually. I’d been forewarned it was steep, but this was ridiculously so.


At the top of the hill, there were some smaller hills to climb on my way to another nearby sight called The Little Chapel. It really is a small one, and was started by Brother Déodat, with the current version being his third attempt after he pulled the previous two down for different reasons. With all of the ceramic work that has been cemented together, it really is quite the work of art, and has a few rooms inside that you can enter for free.

The Little Chapel

My original plan had been to head south from there to Petit Bot Bay, and then to Pleinmont for the various towers and the Tables des Pions. Having photographed these during the ultra marathon I felt I no longer needed to visit these, so instead cut across the country to the Fort Grey Shipwreck museum. To enter this one you can either pay cash at the fort, or go across to the Guernsey Pearl to buy a ticket there. I found this was a good place to lock up the bike, got the ticket (eyeing up the cakes), and then headed across the causeway to the fort. I found this museum however was barely worth the £4.00 entry as there’s so little to see - I’d thought maybe they’d got some wrecks there you could see, but all they have is salvaged items from wrecks.


Back at the Guernsey Pearl I talked myself out of the apple tart I’d seen earlier, deciding it was a bit too heavy, and went for the much smaller cheesecake. All the cakes there seemed to be £3.50 a slice, even the very large chocolate fudge cake slices. It was a good chance to rest, and to stay out of this most recent rain shower.


Further around the coast is Fort Saumarez but I couldn’t find the way to get to it. What I did find however was that at low tide there’s a causeway across to the Lihou Island Nature Reserve. I slipped a couple of times, and came close to getting my feet wet at least once, but I took the uneven, winding path around to it. There’s quite a large fenced off area for nesting birds (mostly different types of gull), and some ruins of an old priory. What I found interesting is that there’s a hostel here too - so there’d be times when people staying there are either stranded at their accomodation, or unable to reach it, depending upon the tide. I wasn’t sure of the tides there, so I made sure I was quick - I couldn’t tell if it was coming in or going out. Even with this unplanned detour, I was still ahead of time when I got back to the bicycle.

For the descent from near the fort I picked up a lot of speed, and was often surprised at just how well this mountain bike moved. I wasn’t familiar enough with it to take corners fast so had to slow rapidly using the disc brakes as I reached the bend at the bottom which led round onto the main road once more.


Next was the Le Trépied Dolmen which is a neolithic burial chamber which can be found on a small hill on the side of the road. It was the first of a few neolithic sites I hoped to see, and possibly the smallest of them measuring only five by two metres. For this one I didn’t lock the bike up as I propped it up against the nearby sign - I could see far enough around that I knew nobody could steal it in the next few minutes. It’d save a bit of time. Once I’d photographed it from the outside, I crouched down, not the easiest thing to do on post-ultra legs, and photographed the inside as well. Happy I’d got the shots I’d visited for I got back on the bike, and was on my way again.

Once again I cut across inland to miss out a lot of twists and turns around the coast line. It was the shorter route, but there were also a lot of hills with some of the climbs becoming challenging - the sort of hills where it helps to stand up on the pedals. I did however eventually make it to Fort Hommet, which was one I’d spotted during the run, but hadn’t got a photograph. You can’t go inside the majority of this one, but for a few days every year you can go inside the chapel there. I felt it absolutely unbelievable that the most recent of those days had been Saturday. My Saturday had been better than going to an old fort anyway.


There is a path around the back of the fort with a sign saying pedestrians take the path at their own risk due to erosion damage. I thought I’d walk around it anyway, to see how far round you can go, and found it was actually fine. I got around the back to where there’s some stairs up onto the roof, had a quick look around, and made my way back to the bike.

My plan for the next stop would have been to visit the tower at Rousse if there was time, or to cycle back to the bike shop if things were starting to look tight. As it worked out, I did neither. I’d already found out that the tower would be closed, and I’d ended up so far ahead of schedule it felt like I might just get to see all the ‘optional’ sights for the end of the ride too. So I cut inland once more, and got back to the coast at La Varde. This was where one of the golf courses had been that the race had gone through. This time I needed to locate numerous burial chambers, but they were not easy to find at all. I found a very small one, but not the one I’d seen photographs of. When golfers started invading the area I was exploring I decided it was best if I gave up and moved on.


The final neolithic site I was looking for was Dehus Dolmen, and it’s one I’d already seen the location of in photographs. It’s located on a quiet road with an entrance on the bend with a farm gate just beyond it. As there was nobody there I could probably have left the bike unlocked, but instead I locked it to the gate, knowing I was going to be quick.

Dehus Dolmen is a reasonably sized circular mound with stones around the base and a single entranceway. I ducked down and went inside and found it was incredibly dark. I wasn’t that sure if it was just my sunglasses, or if it really was as dark as it seemed. It was also fortunate I was still wearing the bike helmet as I managed to bang my head whilst trying to see what was around. There was a stone pillar in the middle, and I thought maybe there were a few alcoves around, but couldn’t be sure.

Somehow I’d left myself with plenty of time to look around Vale Castle as well, so I cycled there next. I saw the beach car park and remembered that was where I’d seen rabbits on the run. The kiosk was busy again, even though it was now a weekday. I entered the car park to see if that was how you got to the castle, but couldn’t see a path to it. I returned to the road and followed it around further but felt it was getting away from where Google Maps said the entrance was so I turned back and went down a side road. That too seemed to completely miss the castle. I decided the best thing to do was go back to the kiosk and get an ice cream. I sat and ate that and looked at the map some more.

Once ready again, I decided to follow the road around further to see if I could find an entrance further around. When I’d just about rounded the headland I spotted some small steps up from the raised pavement. I kept on going then, looking for somewhere to lock the bike up. I got so far around I eventually decided that as the pavement there was quiet I’d cross over, walk with the bike back along it, and find a wide section where I could lock the bike to the railing whilst I checked out what was up the stairs. It was then a bit of an effort to get to the top, and once there I couldn’t believe what I saw.


There were two cyclists standing outside the castle, having taken a road up - it must have been the entranceway I’d seen with a chain across it. It now made sense how that could be the main entrance too - there was a sign outside the castle gate. It read: ‘Castle Vale is closed for a private event’. So that was it then. I’d got no more sights left to see unless I spotted anything else on my way back into town.

To get back to St. Martins, I cycled through St. Peter Port and up into the hills - these were incredibly hard work, and unusually for me I actually walked some of them. I tried taking some of the hill climbs quickly in short bursts of speed, but was lacking the energy to maintain it. That ultra marathon was sure making this harder.

By the time I’d dropped the bike off at the shop, and had crossed over to the bus stop, it was only 15:20. It seemed I’d be back in town by 16:00. The 15:28 bus never turned up though, and I stood around waiting, wondering if maybe the bus stop was suspended for road works I couldn’t see or something like that. Maybe the bus was taking a different route to normal? When someone else started to wait at the bus stop I decided it must be the right one after all, but still I waited. It rained for a while, and stopped, and still no sign of the bus. The next one had been due at 15:55, but there was no sign of that either. After another ten to fifteen minutes the bus finally arrived, and quickly got me back into Saint Peter Port.

With this extra time it meant I could relax in the hotel room before I needed to get some food. I’d checked the opening time for Rosso online, hoping to get some pizza, but unfortunately since the pandemic, they’re now closed Mondays and Tuesdays. My main choices now were Pickled Pig, which is a restaurant at the hotel I would have originally been staying at had it been 2020, or Fat Rascals. Both of these had been recommended before I’d flown here. In the end, Fat Rascals won out only because their dessert menu was better.

I met up with another runner for food there, and had the Fast Rascals burger, and a pear crumble after. At £23.50 for a main meal and dessert it wasn’t too badly priced, but I still felt I would have preferred a pizza, or some chicken.

I then returned to the hotel for the last time, tomorrow I’d be doing a final bit of tourism, and then flying home.

Tags: cycling guernsey travel trips

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© David G. Paul