Herm was not a holiday destination I had ever considered… in fact, although I knew it was one of the Channel Islands, I was not sure where it was in relation to other, more well known islands of Guernsey and Jersey and I knew very little about it. I had been asked if I would be willing to review it as a ‘natural’ wildlife break destination and, to be honest, I leapt at the chance! A quick bit of research soon convinced me that it was exactly my type of break…. a tiny, unspoilt island with no cars, one hotel and famous for its stunning beaches and views; a break that would give visitors the chance to ‘reconnect with nature’.
An easy flight to Guernsey, just a 20 minute trip across on the Trident ferry and my friend, Deb and I were stepping off into what felt like a tiny piece of paradise, that was just a few hours travel from the bustling Manchester airport that we were glad to leave behind!
Herm is small… just 1.5 miles long and a mere 1/2 mile wide. Given its small size, it still boasts varied habitats easily explored in just a few days. The north end of the island is made up of beautiful beaches and a grassy common. The east coast beaches, Shell and Belvoir, boast stunning white sand beaches with aquamarine seas. The south coast is home to high cliffs, winding flower-lined paths and a more dramatic rocky coastline. It certainly had all the ingredients I needed for a break and I was keen to explore!
The weather forecast was unbelievable good and, as we waited at St Peter’s Port in Guernsey, I admired the stunning floral displays all over the port.
It had been a very straightforward trip. A direct flight from Manchester to Guernsey, then a short bus ride to St Peter Port (for just a pound!). The Trident Ferry port was clearly marked and a £13 return ticket meant we were soon on our way! Dolphins had cruised along in front of the ferry just the day before , so we sat up on top of deck, keeping our fingers crossed!
No dolphins this time, but a beautiful ride across and in just 20 mins, we were stepping off the ferry, to be met by staff from the hotel who took our bags.
A short walk up the path and we arrived at the one hotel on the island; The White House Hotel. This is the only hotel on the island, beautifully situated overlooking the sea and has no TVs or phones.
We were saying in Harbour Cottage, owned by the hotel, and just a minute walk from the main building. Our bags, picked up from where we departed from the ferry, were in the cottage by the time we had checked in. It was just perfect…. twin beds with a settee area and lovely bathroom with shower. It had its own garden and a lovely view out over the beach in front.
We knew we wouldn’t be spending much time in the accommodation and, with the sun shining, it was the to explore!
The beaches are stunning on Herm. Everything on the island is pristine and the seas were crystal clear. We watched a group of 8 curlew feeding in the shallows and there were lots of oystercatchers on the rocky shoreline outside the cottage. Some had very small chicks. I was able to creep up and get some shots of these beautiful birds.
The island has its fair share of wildlife and there were lots of butterflies around as we explored over our 3 days. From the coastal paths, to the grassy common to the wooded areas, we were treated to lots of views of a range of species, including meadow brown, gatekeepers, Small copper, Speckled wood, comma, Red admiral, Wall, Common blue and Large white.
I even found a very large caterpillar crawling across the path whilst on an evening walk… a bit of ‘Googling’ and we decided it was a gypsy moth caterpillar.. what a stunner!
I saw a number of hummingbird hawkmoths as well, taking advantage of the truly spectacular tree echinus (Echium pinniana). The micro climate of the island allows these spectacular towers of flowers to thrive and they are an absolute mega feeding station of insects and were always covered in bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
I was also amazed to see loads of wild alium, all growing along the paths and amongst the bracken. They were just about to come into flower and will be a spectacular sight and a great source of nectar for insects. The flowers on the island were incredible and the gardens all looked wonderful, thanks to the gardeners who are resident on Herm and work all year around, keeping the island looking stunning.
The next few days were easy to fill…. the island is just the right size… easy to walk all the way around in a few hours or take 2 or 3 days to explore it all. Stunning views around the whole coastline make every part of a walk in Herm just beautiful. The paths are excellent and there’s no chance you will get lost! Every turn gave us more gorgeous panoramas and we often just stood and looked for minutes on end, soaking it up.
One of the memorable bits for me has to be the rock pools and just beach-combing along the sands. The rock pools are crystal clear and I could have spent days exploring and wading around in the shallows. There were loads of fish and crabs and it was only our lack of nets and buckets that prevented us spending longer here!
There were loads of different types of seaweed… I counted at least 8 species in a very small area and I just love the different colours and textures…
The simples pleasures of collecting shells has to be done on Herm. The colour variations of the periwinkles was astounding…
and there were plenty of other beauties to be found…
We were always accompanied by oystercatchers, along with a selection of gulls and even a little egret one day. The meadow pipits gave us a great display when we were up on the common, one even catching a butterfly! They had hungry young to feed and posed beautifully for me!
Our bird count steadily increased, with us seeing a good variety of species, including; Oystercatcher, Herring gull, Lesser BB Gull, Greater BB Gull, Shag, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Curlew, Crow, Raven, Pheasant, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue tit, Robin, Whitethroat, Blackbird, chiffchaff, Little egret and Buzzard.
We did go in search of Herm’s puffins, but at this late point of the season, they must have been out at sea with this year’s youngsters.
Even the spiders looked beautiful on Herm!
To round off the trip, not only were the days stunning, but so were the evenings! We spent the last few hours of the day watching the sunsets that changed every second as the sun gradually set. What better way to end each day than to be sitting outside watching these spectacles?…
Being so small, there are no major shops on the island. A couple of excellent gift shops stock all the essentials that you may have forgotten and lots of extras. There are a couple of excellent beach cafes and The White House Hotel has both a conservatory restaurant and the Ship Inn. Both offered excellent choices of food and we ate extremely well whilst on the island. If you are staying in self-catering accommodation, you can place a food order to be at your cottage for your arrival or bring supplies with you and they will be taken up to the accommodation by quad bike!
So, I suppose the question is…. would I recommend Herm as a break? You can probably tell what the answer will be. Herm has a magical and remote feel to it, yet it is just 20 minutes from Guernsey. Its slow pace of life left me feeling throughly recharged and relaxed after a pretty hectic few months. The landscape and, in fact, whole island was just beautiful and it offered me everything I look for in a break. If you want to get away from it all, soak up all that nature has to offer, I can guarantee you will be recharged, both mentally and physically, after a break on Herm!
Find out more about booking a trip to Herm by visiting their website.
I can guarantee I will be returning again to heavenly Herm!