Situated in the Bay of St. Malo, Sark is the smallest self-governing island within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, one of the United Kingdom’s Crown Dependencies. It is 7 miles [11 kilometres] east of Guernsey, 14 miles [22½ kilometres] northwest of Jersey and about 20 miles [32 kilometres] from France.
At around 3½ miles [5½ kilometres] long by 1½ miles [2½ kilometres] wide the mainland of Sark consists of two distinct regions, Sark and Little Sark, joined by an isthmus called La Coupée, as well as a number of smaller associated islands, including Brecqhou.
Sark is the most fascinating of the Channel Islands, unspoiled by motor cars and without all the noise and bustle of modern day life. Surrounded on all sides by high, scenic cliffs, the top of the Island is a verdant patchwork of fields and tarmac free-roads with tranquil bays and coves to explore at sea level.
The climate is similar to that of Devon, Cornwall and Brittany. Frosts are infrequent and Sark frequently reports the greatest annual sunshine hours for any place in the British Isles.
Average rainfall is 30 to 40 inches [760 to 1020 mm]. Summer weather is very pleasant with light breezes and temperatures in the mid-20’s Celsius. Winter can bring wet and windy storms; however ferry services to/from Sark are only interrupted very occasionally.
Sark’s resident population is around 500 rising to about 1000 ‘in season’ with seasonal staff and when hotels, guest houses and campsites are open to receive holiday makers, generally between Easter and October.
The only prerequisites for people wishing to live on Sark in respect of nationality, citizenship or religion is that they are either a citizen of the UK or permitted to move to the UK. Further information can be obtained through the Bailiwick Border Agency: https://www.gov.gg/GBA
Victor Hugo described the Channel Islands as "fragments of France which fell into the sea and were gathered up by England". While Serquaise (a patois, a version of Guernsey French) is rarely spoken and English is the main language of use today there are plenty of signs of the French influence still evident. This influence is apparent in many place names, as well as some of the old family names, it is also used in many official documents.
All dwellings, whether rented, leased or purchased outright are defined as being either ‘local market’ (one that was built new since 1976) or ‘open market’. In order to reside in a ‘local market’ dwelling, a person needs to be ‘locally qualified’ by having been born on Sark, lived on Sark for at least 15 years or by living as a member of the family of a person who is ‘locally qualified’. There are no restrictions on who may reside in an ‘open market’ dwelling. A more complete explanation of this can be found within the Housing (Control of Occupation) (Sark) Law, 2013.
Any new dwelling, or other development on the Island, needs to have written permission from the Development Control Committee before any work may begin. Application forms are available from the Committee Office.
The Isle of Sark Shipping Company operates an all year round lifeline passenger and cargo service between Sark and Guernsey. There is a seasonal service between Sark, Jersey and Normandy during the summer months provided by Manche Iles. A number of smaller operators are licenced for 12 & under passengers, on a charter basis, between Sark and Guernsey, a list of licenced vessels can be found on the Sark Government web site. Fares include poll “landing” tax.
Privately owned yachts, pleasure craft, dive boats and fishing vessels have the use of Sark’s three harbours. The harbours and moorings are administered by the Harbours & Shipping Committee. Visiting yachts are welcome to use the yellow mooring buoys in either Havre Gosselin or Grève de la Ville, these are provided free of charge, though donations are welcome.
Sark has no airport. Under the R095 restriction aircraft and helicopters are not permitted to fly over Sark at an altitude of less than 2374 feet without prior permission from the Guernsey Director of Civil Aviation. This restriction also covers the flying of drones and the necessary regulations and procedure to seek permission to do so can be found on the Sark Government web site.
Sark exports locally caught seafood, and Island reared lamb, pork, and beef as well as hen’s eggs and other agricultural produce. It also exports chocolate, pottery, ale and jewelry which are all produced locally.
Tourism probably occupies the greatest number of residents. There are several restaurants, pubs and hotels, as well as guest houses, bed & breakfast and self-catering facilities and two campsites.
All financial services/activity on Sark are regulated by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission.
The island’s currency is the Guernsey Pound, which is tied to the British Pound sterling and both are accepted throughout Sark. The Euro is accepted by a number of places on Sark at the current exchange rate.
Electricity: 240v mains electricity is supplied to the whole of the Island by a privately owned business, at a rate determined by the independent price control commissioner (currently 54p/kWh).
Water: There is no mains water supply on Sark and each household is responsible for its own supply, the choice being catchment, borehole/well, or a combination of both. In the case of those people who are on catchment, in times of low rainfall water deliveries may need to be arranged by the Fire Service (07781 110806 this number is NOT for emergency calls - use 999 instead) The treatment of drinking water, regardless of source, is the responsibility of the individual householder.
Sewage: There is no mains sewer system on Sark and each household is responsible for the handling of its own foul water. Pits are emptied by the Island, for which a charge of £18.37 is made for each load removed. This may be arranged by making a phone call to Sark Public Works 07781 104846.
Gas: There is no main gas supply on Sark, Bottled gas (Butane and Propane) is supplied by a privately owned business at a rate set by them.
Heating Oil: Domestic heating oil is supplied by two privately owned businesses who deliver to customers.
Petrol/Diesel: Petrol, for use in outboard motors, lawn mowers and other horticultural equipment is supplied by one retailer.
Diesel, for use in tractors and boat engines is supplied by the same retailer.
Telephones: Land line telephones and a broadband service are provided by Sure Telecom or JT. Several operators provide mobile phone service to the Island.
Post: Guernsey Post provides a sub-Post Office on Sark with full counter services and home deliveries five days a week. Sark is also served by major courier carriers including DHL, FedEx and UPS.
Rubbish Collection: Household waste, sorted into glass, tins/cans and burnable refuse is collected on a weekly basis. Other items such as cycles, white goods, and electrical goods are collected by arrangement. An annual charge of £88.80 per person, paid quarterly, is payable for this service with additional charges levied for other items.
Sitting approximately central on the Island is the Avenue, this is Sark’s main shopping area. Fresh and frozen food is available from the grocery store ‘The Food Stop’, which features a selection of ‘Waitrose’ lines. The Gallery Stores offer general sundries, housewares, gifts and ironmongery as well as being the Island’s Post Office; it also runs a NatWest Bank counter service. There are also several other outlets on the Avenue including cafés, a cycle hire shop and gift shops selling items such as handmade glass, paintings, jewelry and pottery and an Estate Agency.
Around the perimeter of the Avenue are other cycle hire shops, pubs, the Island Hall, restaurants and grocery store ‘Mon Plaisir’ which has a selection of ‘Iceland’ products.
Most outlets offer a delivery service for which there may be an additional charge.
There is a great community spirit on Sark with a full programme of activities and events being held throughout the year. There are many Sark organisations and clubs offering a wide range of activities and interests to suit all. Details of some of these and a full calendar of Island activities can be found on the Sark Tourism website at www.sark.co.uk
Annual events generally attract a remarkable influx of day visitors, doubling or quadrupling the resident high season population: e.g. Sark Folk Festival [June] and The Sheep Races [July]. These events are organised to support local charities including the Professor Charles Saint Medical Trust which subsidies prescription charges for Sark residents.
Volunteering plays an important part in the lives of people on Sark, be it just to help out with some event or other, or to fulfill a specific role such as a member of the Fire Brigade and Ambulance. It is therefore quite ordinary for people to have a number of roles in addition to their ‘day job’.
Terrestrial Digital Television is broadcast from Jersey and Guernsey and consists of the channels available through Freeview. The satellite providers Sky also broadcasts to Sark, a subscription may be required. To operate a television receiver requires a UK Television Licence. The free licence for those people over 75 years does not apply to Sark.
Sark is served by BBC Radio Guernsey and the independent radio station Island FM 104.7
Sark does not have a permanent theatre however the Sark Theatre Group does put on regular performances including pantomime at Christmas.
There is no Cinema on Sark, the nearest being on Guernsey.
Sark has one Island funded school that provides education for all the island's children from the ages of 3 (optional) or 4 to the age of 13. Students entering secondary education are able to attend Les Beaucamps High School in Guernsey or be home schooled in Sark. Both of these options are supported in one way or another by Sark’s Government. More information can be found on Sark School's website: www.sarkschool.co.uk
Sark is not part of the UK’s National Health Service and all residents are strongly encouraged to take out private medical insurance or else pay for treatment as it is needed, this includes any ‘Accident & Emergency’ treatment and any emergency evacuation off the Island which can be very costly. An annual subscription to St John’s Ambulance Marine Scheme is available.
The island currently has a resident doctor. Surgeries are held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 8.30am-1pm by appointment only. Home visits also available by contacting the surgery. The surgery is closed Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. More information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event of accident or emergency care above that which the resident doctor can provide locally, evacuation to Guernsey is carried out by either the Flying Christine III, the St. John Ambulance’s medical launch, or the RNLI Lifeboat for which there is a charge.
Physiotherapy treatment may be available on Sark, undertaken by a Guernsey Registered physiotherapist, during the summer months. Treatment is usually undertaken at Stocks Hotel.
There is no resident dentist on Sark, however between April and September a dentist comes across from Guernsey to hold a surgery catering for check-ups, polishing and fillings. Any work more serious than this, or needed at any other time of year, will require a visit to Guernsey.
There is no optician on Sark, all appointments and treatment have to be carried out off-island.
Carers for the elderly or infirm are available by private arrangement both on Island and from agencies in Guernsey - but again this comes at a cost.
ALL emergency calls should be made to 999 (or 911 via a mobile), stating which Sark emergency service is required.
Police: Sark has a volunteer Constable and a volunteer Vingtenier (deputy), each spending a year in the role, they are supported by a number of volunteer Special Constables that together constitute Sark’s police force. The Constable and Vingtenier are on call 24 hours a day to deal with whatever matter arises.
In the event of a serious crime Guernsey Police are requested to handle the matter, with the cooperation of the Sark Constable.
Fire Service: The Sark Fire & Rescue Service is made up of trained volunteers who will respond to any emergency situation. Further background information including its history can be found at www.sarkfireservice.org.gg
Ambulance Service: The Sark Ambulance Service provides emergency medical transport in support of the Doctor and/or the Fire & Rescue Service as well as non-emergency transportation to and from the harbor for people who need assistance. The ambulance may be booked in advance by contacting the Chief Ambulance Officer on 07781154018 for which a charge is made.
There are additional charges levied for emergency call outs if they require additional man-power, for example fire crew on cliff rescues.
Lifeboat: Lifeboat services are provided by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution from the Guernsey lifeboat station, supported by the RNLI stations on Jersey and Alderney.
There is no form of universal social security provided on Sark. There is no maternity benefit, child benefit, unemployment benefit or state pension, it being down to the individual to make their own provisions.
The Procureur, a Sark resident who works for the Island, administers financial assistance for people who for one reason or other, are in difficulties. Aid is given on a need basis but is not automatic or guaranteed.
Sark has counter services of Guernsey branches of the NatWest and HSBC banks. The NatWest operates a service via the Post Office, while the HSBC has a local branch, through which accounts may be opened. There is no cash machine on island. However several shops and cafés offer a ‘cash back’ service with a debit card purchase, usually with a minimum spend of £5.
There are two churches on Sark, St Peters Church and the Methodist Chapel. Both are led by a resident Minister who can be contacted on 01481 832115.
Church weddings may take place in either St Peters Church or in the Methodist Chapel. It is advised that the Minister is contacted in the first instance before arranging a marriage. Residency in the Bailiwick for 5 days is necessary. No divorcees may be married in St Peters Church although a Blessing Service is possible after a Civil marriage. Under certain circumstances divorcees can be married in the Methodist Chapel although consultation with the Deacon prior to arranging a marriage may be required.
Civil weddings may be performed by the Deputy Registrar-General Mr Trevor Hamon, either in the Chief Pleas Assembly Room and Court House or at other venues at the discretion of the Deputy Registrar-General (see Greffier).
A number of qualified trades people live and work on-island, including builders, plumbers, electricians, gas fitters, hairdressers, beauticians, cleaners, gardeners, carers and nursing staff. Professionals not available locally will need to be brought in as and when needed, e.g. carpet fitters.
Sark is governed by Chief Pleas, a parliament of 18 representatives, elected by universal suffrage, known as Conseillers, none of whom are remunerated for this role. Chief Pleas and its Committees (populated by Conseillers) are responsible for the administration of existing legislation as well as the introduction of new legislation which is drafted by Guernsey Law Officers. New primary legislation has to be approved by the Privy Council.
Each Conseiller serves a term of four years with elections being held every two years at which half of the Conseiller seats are re-elected.
Anyone aged 18 year or older may have their name put on the Electoral Roll once they have resided on the Island for at least two years.
Please see Sark Government website www.sarkgov.co.ukfor further information.
Sark is a self-governing jurisdiction with a degree of independence. It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey whilst having a direct relationship to the Crown as a Crown Dependency.
Sark has owed its allegiance to the English crown since its Fief Haubert was granted in 1565 to Helier De Carteret, a Jersey man who became the first Seigneur of Sark. While not part of the United Kingdom, nor the European Union, Sark’s international responsibilities are carried by the UK Government through the Ministry of Justice.
There is no facility for a person to acquire Sark ‘citizenship’.
Sark has its own court known as the Court of the Seneschal. The Seneschal is appointed by the Seigneur with the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey. It is similar to a Magistrates Court in the UK.
The Court of the Seneschal has unlimited civil jurisdiction. It has criminal jurisdiction to impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding one month and/or a fine not exceeding £5000. Imprisonment for more than 3 days must be served in Guernsey.
Appeals from the Court of the Seneschal in criminal cases are to the Royal Court in Guernsey and in civil matters to the Ordinary Court. From there appeals lie subject to certain limitations and procedures to the Guernsey Court of Appeal and hence to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
For criminal matters the Constable liaises closely with Guernsey Police and Guernsey Border Agency.
In the event of the Court handing down a sentence of greater than 48 hours, Sark’s small prison is not used, instead prisoners are sent to Guernsey prison.
The Greffier is the Clerk of the Court and the Clerk of Chief Pleas.
Any births happening on Sark are registered with the Greffier, there is no fee for this, however extra copies of the birth certificate are charged at £20. Births occurring on vessels in Sark waters are registered in the port of the vessel’s destination.
Civil Weddings may be performed by the Deputy Registrar-General Mr Trevor Hamon, either in the Chief Pleas Assembly Room and Court House or at other venues at the discretion of the Deputy Registrar-General. The Deputy Registrar-General will be able to answer any queries about the legal requirements necessary to get married on Sark, and must be consulted before any marriage arrangements are made.
Divorces are handled by the Royal Court in Guernsey.
Any death happening on Sark is registered with the Greffier, there is no fee for this, though extra copies of the death certificate are charged at £20.
Funerals are attended to by private Funeral Directors, currently Mr. Adrian Guille is the only person on Sark offering this service.
People who have been ordinarily resident in Sark for at least two years may request that their name be put on the Electoral Roll and so allow them to participate in the election of Conseillers to Chief Pleas. The Electoral Roll is compiled and maintained by the Greffier.
British citizens living in Sark may still vote in UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections as long as they have not been living abroad for more than 15 years. You can find out details of how to register by visiting the Electoral Commission website.
Charities or other Non Profit organisations to be based in Sark will need to register, within one month of being created, with the Registrar of Non Profit Organisations and are therefore advised to contact the Sark Greffier.
Sark does not have Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax or Sales Tax, instead the Government is funded by a combination of Property Tax, Personal Tax along with a smaller contribution from Impôt, (a duty paid on the import of alcohol, tobacco and certain fuels), Property Transfer Tax and lesser taxes on such items as cycles, tractors etc.
The system of Direct Taxation on Sark is governed by The Direct Taxes (Sark) Law, 2002 and administered by the Sark Tax Assessor. The duty of the Sark Tax Assessor is to scrutinise the Declaration Forms sent out to each household on the 1st January each year for the previous year’s tax, filled in by those with a taxable connection to Sark.
Declaration Forms are sent out to each household on the 1st January each year for the previous year’s tax, and must be completed and returned to the Assessor, together with any remittance, by the 28th February. Failure to comply with this will involve the Assessor sending a Formal Assessment that will include a fixed penalty and simple interest. The interest is added on each and every month until cleared.
Sark has a Property Tax (PT) and a Personal Capital Tax (PCT).
The French system of land registration was adopted by Sark many years ago and referred to as ‘Quartiers’ now known as ‘Quarters’. If you are a registered owner or Possessor of a property on Sark then you will be registered in the Island Cadastre with the Total number of Quarters so listed. Property Quarters are determined by the Island Douzaine.
A record of all the taxable property (dwellings, sheds, greenhouses etc.) is maintained by the Douzaine, this is called the Cadastre. It is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure that their entry in the Cadastre is up to date.
Property Transfer Tax
Any property transaction where one person grants or transfers to another the ownership or a long leasehold in any real property situated in Sark will incur Property Transfer Tax, at the rate of 4% of the adjusted value of the transaction. The law does not state which, buyer or seller, is responsible for paying the tax, just that the tax should be paid. The Sark Tax Assessor will determine if a given transaction should incur Property Transfer Tax as well as keeping a record of all such transactions.
No motor vehicle may be imported to Sark without prior permission from the Road Traffic Committee, appropriate forms are available on the Government website.
In addition to the restriction on importing a motor vehicle, no unlicensed motor vehicle is permitted to be used on Sark roads. The only vehicles that may be licenced are tractors, agricultural vehicles, construction vehicles and mobility scooters.
Tractors are the principle motor vehicle on Sark, being used to move anything and everything that needs moving around Sark, be this visitors luggage to and from the harbour, transportation of cargo or construction materials through to the towing of boats, the Sark Ambulance and Fire Tenders. The one thing tractors may not transport is people, there are no taxis on Sark though there is a bus service to carry people up or down Harbour Hill.
Before a person may use any permitted motor vehicle they must hold a Tractor Driver’s Licence for which a test, administered by the Constable, must have been passed.
A mobility scooter (i.e. invalid carriages with appropriate certificate from the local Doctor) may be licenced for use upon Sark roads, such licences being issued annually by the Road Traffic Committee. Only individuals with a medical condition may apply to use a mobility scooter. Mobility scooters need to have an import licence from the Road Traffic Committee before they may be brought onto the Island. For temporary assistance such vehicles may be hired, an application form and details of how to apply can be found on the Government website.
Cycles, including electric cycles, are permitted to be used on Sark roads and are taxed annually.
Horse and Horse carriages may be used on Sark roads. Horses and carriages for public use need to be licenced annually.
The only restrictions on pet ownership relates to dogs, it being illegal to keep an unspayed bitch on the Island for more than 28 days.
All dogs are licenced annually with licences being available from the Constables Office.
All horses are licenced annually with licences being available from the Constables Office.
There is no resident vet on Sark however a Guernsey vet (Isabelle Vets 01481 732863) visits Sark on a monthly basis. Any serious treatment may require the affected animal to be treated in Guernsey.
The misuse of controlled substances is covered by Bailiwick Criminal Law and controlled by the Guernsey Border Agency (Police & Customs).
To own or trade in any firearm, ammunition, or explosive, a Firearms certificate must first be held, this includes any such importation. An application for a Firearms Certificate should be made to the Douzaine.
The only year-round scheduled direct route to Sark is by boat from Guernsey. Guernsey, unlike Sark, has an International Airport with scheduled flights arriving from the UK and the continent on a daily basis.
A ferry service to Guernsey, from the UK, Jersey and on to France is operated by Condor Ferries catering for both foot and vehicle passengers.
There are a number of removal firms experienced in removals to and from Sark, these may be found in the local phone directory, or online.
Travel to Sark from Jersey
There is no scheduled direct route to Sark from Jersey, though Manche Iles Express does operate a seasonal service, one that is very much dependent upon tidal conditions in Jersey.
Jersey has its own International Airport while a ferry service to Jersey, from the UK, and on to France is operated by Condor Ferries catering for both foot and vehicle passengers.