|Location Map ( geo)|
Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Islands and the smallest of the islands that allow motor traffic. The island is a part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but has its own legal system, thus making it a dependency of a dependency. Apart from a few uninhabited islands nearby (such as Burhou) the nearest land is the Cherbourg Peninsula of France.
The capital and largest settlement on the island is St Anne, which is on a hill in the middle of the island. The majority of the other settlements are also a part of the same urban area, with no obvious way for visitors to know where the boundary is. The island's port is in Braye, on the north coast; the breakwater, built for military purposes, is over a quarter of a mile long and was once even longer. Owing to the size of this settlement the only way of getting from the west to the east of the island avoiding the town is by following the footpath along the south coast. Most of the island is farmland, although the airport and golf course also take up quite a bit of land.
The island has always had strategic importance and still has sizeable Roman and Elizabethan fortifications. It was heavily fortified in the middle of the 19th century to guard against invasion from France, although this coincided with a decline in French military might making the forts redundant almost from construction. The island was all but abandoned during World War II and and was newly fortified by the German occupying forces, withthe result that military constructions abound.
Owing to its history as part of Normandy, many place names on the island are in Auregnais, the old Norman dialect. This was replaced by standard French and later by English, so that Auregnais is now extinct. English is now the only language in general use; some names, however, exist in both Auregnais and English forms.
The island-wide speed limit on Alderney is 35 mph, which is always explicitly signed. Certain built-up areas have a signed lower limit (usually 25 mph) and cobbled streets should not be taken at more than 15 mph, although there is no reason why anyone would want to.
As Alderney is an autonomous part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, there is no requirement for road signage and markings to be identical to those on the main island. Yellow lines (used for example as stop lines on Guernsey) are wholly absent and the font used for horizontalmarkings on the road is foreshortened as speeds are lower. Centre lines exist only around junctions. On the whole, signs are identical to those in the UK's TSRGD.
With a couple of exceptions (for example the airport is sometimes signed in St Anne) there are no signs to aid navigation on Alderney, presumably as the island is small enough not to get lost. Street names are signed in settlements and these tend to be the only possible method of navigation.
Fuel tends to cost half as much again as in the UK – but with distances being so short a full tank of petrol lasts significantly longer.
There is no known system of road classification on Alderney. Some maps mark certain roads as more important than others but on the ground they appear no different from the rest. The majority of roads are metalled but there are a number of dirt tracks which should be avoided. Some roads in the centre of St Anne are cobbled.
There are no traffic lights or roundabouts on Alderney, unless you count a tree with a keep left sign attached. Traffic calming does exist, however; in addition to the cobbles mentioned above there are speed humps in some of the smaller settlements.
Surprisingly, there is a dual-carriageway of sorts on the island. A disused railway line runs to Braye harbour and at one point runs between two one-way roads.
Perhaps the most annoying part of the road network is the extensive one-way system around St Anne. All traffic in the town (including through traffic) has to negotiate this or else follow the road along the north coast through Braye which is the only way to avoid it. Maps showing which roads are one-way are non-existent; it seems that visitors simply have to learn through trial and error.
There is no public road transport on Alderney, except for a few tourist buses in the high season, as the island is small enough to be covered on foot. For those unwilling to walk, taxis exist and cars can be hired.
A 3-km-long railway, opened in 1847 to take stone from one of the quarries to the harbour, remains partly in use as a tourist line operated by volunteers during the holiday season, but is of little use as a public transport link even though it does run about half the length of the island. The existence of the railway line means that there is a handful of ungated level crossings.
The usual way of reaching Alderney is by air, with the airport having three intersecting runways sothat, in theory at least, flights can take off and land in any wind direction. There are boats between the island and Guernsey or France but these are surprisingly infrequent and normally carry only foot passengers or consignments of cargo; the consequent difficulty in getting a private car to or from the island is severe enough to mean that seeing a non-Alderney registered vehicle on the island is very rare – and for Alderney cars to be off the island is even rarer.
Number plates on Alderney are not part of the system used on Guernsey or in the UK. Although plates may be silver on black as on Guernsey it is far more usual to see the UK colouring of black on white/yellow. Registrations are issued with the letters AY, followed by a space and then 1–4 digits. Although registrations may be transferred from one vehicle to another this is not always done, meaning that more registrations have existed than there are people on the island. Unlike on Guernsey or Jersey (where an extra H is added) there is no way of distinguishing a hire car from its number plate.
It is compulsory for the country code, GBA, to appear on the number plate even though movement of vehicles on and off the island is rare.
Tax discs are not used but drivers must display proof of insurance on the windscreen.