Situated in the English Channel, Sark is the smallest self-governing island within the Bailiwick of Guernsey & one of the United Kingdom’s Crown Dependencies. Sark lies 7 miles East of Guernsey, 14 miles Northwest of Jersey and approx. 20 miles from the Normandy coast of France.
The island measures 3½ miles long by 1½ miles wide and consists of two main land masses, Big Sark and Little Sark, joined together by a narrow isthmus called La Coupée.
Sark is entirely car-free and unspoilt by noise and pollution. 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. With no street lights, the night skies are truly striking. Sark is world renowned for star gazing and was named the world's first Dark Sky Island.
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 annual rainfall is 30 to 40 inches. Summer weather is very pleasant with light breezes and temperatures in the mid-20’s Celsius. Winter can bring wet and windy storms, which occasionally interrupt the inter-island ferry services.
Sark’s resident population is around 500, rising to about 1000 between Easter and October with seasonal staff and when hotels, guest houses and campsites are open to receive holiday makers.
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.
Sercquaise (a patois derived mainly from Normandy French) was the islands language in bygone times. It is rarely spoken today and English is the main language of use on the island. However, there is still a strong French influence apparent in many place names, as well as some of the old family names and Sercquaise 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.
The Isle of Sark Shipping Company operates an all year round passenger and cargo service between Sark and Guernsey. There is a seasonal service between Sark and Jersey during the summer months provided by Manche Iles and Condor Ferries. Smaller, chartered boats are also available to hire privately between Sark and Guernsey.
Privately owned boats may make use of Sark's visitor moorings, located at Havre Gosselin, Greve de la Ville and Creux Harbour. These moorings are provided free of charge, though donations are welcomed.
Sark has no airport and aircraft are not permitted to fly over Sark at an altitude of less than 2374 feet. The use of drones over Sark is also restricted.
Sark exports locally caught seafood, Sark reared lamb, pork, and beef as well as hen’s eggs and other agricultural produce. It also exports chocolate, pottery, ale and jewelery, which are all produced locally.
Tourism is the main source of income for most residents, mainly through restaurants, pubs, hotels, other visitor accommodation and 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 also 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 an independent price control commissioner. (currently 53p/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. 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 at a charge.
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 and Diesel, for use in tractors and boat engines is supplied by two retailers.
Telephones: Land line telephones and a broadband service are provided by Sure Guernsey or Jersey Telecom. Several operators provide mobile phone service to the Island.
Rubbish Collection: Household waste, sorted into glass, tins/cans and burnable refuse is collected weekly. Other items such as white goods, and electrical goods are collected by arrangement at an extra charge.
Sark has several different shops within the 'Village' area. Most of which are located on The Avenue, the main road in the centre of 'The Village'.
Avenue shops include: grocery store, cafés, cycle hire, gift shops, charity shop, upholstery, beauty salon, estate agency and a homeware/hardware shop called The Gallery Stores, which also serves as the Island’s Post Office, a Bureau De Change and a NatWest Banking service.
The Sark Post Office is a sub-office of Guernsey Post, with full counter services and home deliveries five days a week. Sark is also served by major courier carriers including DHL, FedEx and UPS.
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; Sark Summer Festival and the Sheep Racing Carnival to name but two.
Many events support local charities and island projects, so volunteering plays an important part in the lives of people on Sark. Indeed, many official roles on Sark are voluntary and unpaid, including Government Conseillers, Ambulance, Fire Brigade, Constable and many more. It is therefore quite ordinary for people to have a number of roles in addition to their ‘day job’.
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.
The Sark Medical Centre offers daily drop-in surgeries, home visits and afternoon appointments with the resident doctor. More information can be found at www.sarkmedical.co.uk
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 RLNI Lifeboat.
From around April to September Sark is visited by a Guernsey Registered Osteopath and Dentist. Both offer simple treatments but for any more serious work, or if it is needed at any other time of year, a visit to Guernsey will be required.
Carers for the elderly or infirm are available by private arrangement both on Island and from agencies in Guernsey, at a cost.
All emergency calls should be made to 999 (or 112 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 harbour for people who need assistance. The ambulance may be booked in advance by contacting the Chief Ambulance Officer (T: 07781154018
E: firstname.lastname@example.org) There is a charge for this service.
Transfer of patients to Guernsey: St John’s Ambulance operate the Flying Christine, a marine ambulance which can transfer patients requiring urgent medical attention in most weather conditions. In severe weather the Lifeboat will transfer patients, both are available in emergency situations.
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 is 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. Each case is handled individually and aid is given on a need basis but is not automatic or guaranteed.
Sark has a counter service of a Guernsey branch of NatWest, operated via the Post Office, and a local branch of HSBC banks. 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.
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 prior 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 prior consultation with the Deacon 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.
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.
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 and horses must be licenced annually, with licences being available from the Constables Office.
There is no resident vet on Sark, however, a local resident does have the authority to carry out simple procedures as instructed by Isabelle Vets in Guernsey. Isabelle Vets visits Sark on a monthly basis. Any serious treatment may require the affected animal to be treated in Guernsey.
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 drafting and introduction of new legislation.
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 years or older may have their name put on the Electoral Roll once they have resided on the Island for at least two years. This allows them to participate in the election of Conseillers to Chief Pleas.
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. Whilst 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 £5,000.
In the event of the Court handing down a sentence of greater than 48 hours, Sark’s small prison is not used and prisoners are sent to 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.
The Greffier is the Clerk of the Court and the Clerk of Chief Pleas.
Any births on Sark is registered with the Greffier. 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. You can get married by the Deputy Registrar-General by special licence after 3 days residence on Sark. However, one clear day, excluding Saturday or a Sunday, has to elapse before the Special Licence can be issued.
Divorces are handled by the Royal Court in Guernsey.
Any death on Sark is registered with the Greffier. Funerals are attended to by private Funeral Directors, currently Mr. Adrian Guille is the only person on Sark offering this service.
The Electoral Roll is compiled and maintained by the Greffier.
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 such as cycles, tractors etc.
The system of Direct Taxation on Sark is 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.
Sark has a Property Tax (PT) and a Personal Capital Tax (PCT). The prime objective is to ensure that all PT is paid by those so qualified who will also pay the minimum PCT only.
The French system of land registration was adopted by Sark many years ago and is 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 along with the total number of Quarters you possess. Property Quarters are determined by the Island Douzaine, who keep record of all the taxable properties (dwellings, sheds, greenhouses etc.) 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 and keeps a record of all such transactions.
No motor vehicle may be imported to Sark without prior permission from the Road Traffic Committee. 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 visitor’s 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 'tractor-bus' service to carry people up or down the 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. 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.
Cycles, including electric cylce, and horse carriages are permitted to be used on Sark roads. All cycles and horse carriages for public use are taxed annually.
Travel to Sark from Guernsey
The only year-round scheduled direct route to Sark is by boat from Guernsey with Isle of Sark Shipping. 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, dependent upon tidal conditions in Jersey. Jersey also has its own International Airport.