The locals guide to sea swimming in Alderney
Alderney may be small, but packed into its 7.8 square miles are some of the most stunning swimming spots in the British Isles. The island’s isolated position and lack of people keep the surrounding waters free from pollution.
It’s these crystal clear and temperate waters that have become a sanctuary for a growing number of dedicated local sea swimmers. Renowned for their hardiness, they take to the water every day of the year regardless of the cold, wind or occasional snow.
Alderney’s friendly sea swimming community is made up of islanders of all ages and abilities. You haven’t got to be the next Michael Phelps to join them for a dip and this guide, put together with the help of passionate local swimmer Clare Evans and swimming power couple Liz and David Sumner, will help you get the most out of your swims whilst on the island.
Heading for the water at Arch beach
Finding the best spot for the conditions
The weather and the state of tide are the two main considerations when picking the perfect spot for a swim.
Like all the Channel Islands, Alderney experiences large tidal swings. Beaches can look drastically different at opposite ends of the tide.
High tide favourites
Local couple Liz and David Sumner have been taking to Alderney’s waters year round since getting hooked on sea swimming in 2019. When the tide’s high they recommend heading to Saye Beach or Braye. Both beaches are easily accessible with golden sands and clear waters.
Low tide spots
At low tide Liz and David recommend heading to Corblets on the North East coast of the island. Corblets is a great place to take a dip in the inviting waters and at low tide you can explore the rock pools and jump across the rocks to the neighbouring Arch.
Although Alderney is blessed with more sunshine hours than most of the UK, we’re still British. Swimmers here know how to handle bad weather AND make the most of the good stuff.
The beaches mentioned above are all on Alderney’s north coast, exposing them to any wind that’s also from the north. If northerly winds are forecast Liz and David seek shelter at Longis Bay.
Situated on the South East coast, Longis is home to the longest stretch of sand in Alderney. The bay has a gentle slope, making it ideal for swimming and paddling as well as playing games on the beach. It is truly impressive at low tide as you can walk out for miles and explore the rock pools.
If there’s a storm a brewing
As we mentioned earlier, Alderney swimmers are a hardy bunch. If a storm is on the cards, they smartly avoid any of our exposed beaches, instead opting for the shelter of Braye Beach.
If you’re struggling to pluck up the courage to wade in, you can always take the express route and jump off the old quay like local swimmer Clare Evans who explains that ‘jumping the dougie’ makes her feel nothing but “exhilarated, happy and ecstatic”.
In good weather
During good weather you have the pick of so many bays. Clare Evans summed up her approached to picking a fair weather swimming spot like this,:
“Arch - most beautiful. Corblets - to play in the surf. Cats - unknown, remote, best asked a friendly local for more information.”
Staying safe while sea swimming
Swimming is hugely popular on Alderney and as long as you stick to the bays mentioned in this article, you’re unlikely to end up in trouble.
With that said, there are no lifeguards at any of Alderney’s beaches so care should be taken at all times. A quick chat to a local before entering the water is always a good idea. If in doubt, don’t go out.
Stick to the bays and don’t swim out beyond the headlands. The currents in the deep water offshore of Alderney are notoriously strong. If you get caught in the current, don’t try to swim against it. If you ever find yourself in trouble, take the RNLI’s advice and float to live.
Tops tips for a winter dip
If you enjoy dramatic seascapes and quiet windswept beaches, a winter break in Alderney might be just the tonic you’re looking for.
Winter’s also the favourite season for many of our sea swimmers. The water can get as low as 6 degrees, but that doesn’t put them off. A quick winter dip can be an invigorating experience. Preparation is key and these tips come straight from some of Alderney’s winter sea swimming pros!
- Get in slowly (cold water shock is a thing)
- Splash the hands and face first
- Wetsuit boots and gloves keep the extremities warm (warm enough to get the lid off the thermos)
- Prepare a hot thermos of drinks or soup
- Lay your clothes out for a quick change
- A drying robe is one of the best investment you can make
Exciting things to do at every time of year
Whichever time of year you decide to visit Alderney, you wont run short of things to do. For more ideas, have a read of these helpful articles.