Lihou is a small island off the west coast of Guernsey linked by a tidal causeway, and constitutes the western-most point of the “inhabited” Channel Islands. Designated a RAMSAR wetland conservation site in 2006, the walk over to and around Lihou Island may be relatively short however the unique location and abundance of marine flora and fauna as well as the number of seabirds that can be spotted here make it a very worthwhile and enjoyable place to visit. Because the causeway can only be crossed when uncovered by the tide it is important to check the causeway opening times in advance and plane your visit accordingly, with the States of Guernsey advising that visitors allow at least twenty minutes to cross and wear sturdy, appropriate, footwear.
From the car park on L’Eree Headland, walk the quarter of a mile across the causeway to Lihou Island. Along the way you can investigate the tidal rock pools on either side of the causeway which contain a wide range of marine life including various crabs, anemones, shannies (small fish that can “wriggle” their way between rock pools), starfish, and marine snails such as topshells. The rocky foreshore that borders the entire island is a productive habitat for marine life, and over 200 species of seaweed have been noted around Lihou, five of which have not been recorded anywhere else in the Channel Islands. When investigating tidal pools please be sure to follow the seashore code and take care of slippery surfaces, in particular those covered with seaweed or algae.
Once on the island you are free to go wherever you please, although visitors are asked to respect and avoid the areas roped off for the protection of nesting seabirds, particularly the Lissroy Peninsula and the islet of Lihoumel. The island is largely carpeted with grasses, which provides an ideal habitat for plants such as Wild Carrots, Violets, Cinquefoil, Trefoils and Campion, and in early summer patches of sea pink bloom across the island. Many rare plants have been recorded on Lihou, including the Yellow Horned Poppy, Sand Crocus, Least Adder’s Tongue, Sea Stork’s Bill, Dwarf Pansy, Sand Quillwort and Early Meadow Grass. We suggest circling Lihou in a clockwise direction, so take a left just before Lihou House (which was used for artillery target practice during the German occupation of WWII but is now operated by the Lihou Charitable Trust and used primarily for residential school and youth groups) and walk down to the remains of the ruined priory. The Priory of St Mary is thought to date back as far as 1114 and was linked to the Benedictine Abbey at Mont St. Michel in Normandy. The priory is the most extensive religious relic in Guernsey, and archaeological excavations here in 1996 and 1998 discovered the remains of graves dating back as far as the twelfth century. Keep walking with the shoreline on your right hand side and you will soon come to the westernmost point of Lihou, with views out to Lihoumel. Nearby you will also find the Venus Pool, a large, deep, rock pool that you can carefully clamber down the rocks to and take a swim in if you’re brave enough. The path then continues around the northern shore of the island, and looping back around to Lihou House where you can head back across the causeway to the car park.
An incredible variety of birdlife can be seen on and around Lihou, particularly during the spring and summer months and around low tide, which, thankfully, is when it is possible to visit the island. Gulls and shags nest on Lihoumel and Lissroy, whilst Ringed Plovers have been known to breed on the shingle bank, which is why these areas are out of bounds to the general public. Large numbers of Oystercatchers raise their young on the island and can often be seen searching for food around the shoreline at low tide alongside other wading birds such as Curlews, Turnstones and Redshanks. Shags search for fish from the rocks around the island and sometimes search for food close to the causeway, whilst Little Egrets and Grey Herons can be seen searching for food in the shallows.