Highpoints of the Crown Dependencies

How does one refer to the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, and the Isle of Man collectively? I pondered the British Isles Euler diagram and didn’t see a specific designation. "Outlying British Islands" seemed like a possibility although I didn’t want to diminish their significance. I think "Crown Dependencies" covers the three, and only those three. Perhaps 12MC readers in the UK can provide additional clarification if I missed the mark. While we’re taking a moment to clarify meanings, I’ll also state that I’m using "highpoint" to define the place of maximum elevation in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. That’s where we’re going with this article.

I’m a lazy highpointer. My climb to the Connecticut highpoint drained me. I rather preferred the New Jersey highpoint that involved nothing more than an easy drive up a hillside directly to the monument. That’s my mountaineering style and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Accounts of highpointing in the Crown Dependencies provided abundant optimism for my preferred climbing techniques and methods. I will have to find an excuse to head over to the English Channel and the Irish Sea someday to experience these completely reasonable elevation extremes in person.

Bailiwick of Jersey

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Jersey’s highpoint is called Les Platons, reaching an altitude of anywhere between 135-143 metres (443-469 feet). Does it seem odd that it’s not a more exact figure? It seems unusual to me, and yet, I checked in several places and found abundant variation within the range. It’s an area of the world with access to the most advanced, most exact scientific instruments available and nobody has taken a definitive measurement?

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Also interesting, notice the proximity of the highpoint to the English Channel. It’s perched practically atop the very farthest edge of the bailiwick, on a hillside dropping quickly to the waters below. Motorists may cut across the width of the island to La Rue des Platons — Google Maps says it should take only 11 minutes from St. Helier — and arrive at the highpoint without any difficulties. How hard could it be if Google covers it with Street View? The summit can be spotted over by the communications towers.

A trip report on Peakbagger describes the mountaineering equipment used for one particular ascent: a bicycle. Nice!

Bailiwick of Guernsey

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Guernsey includes several islands, principally the isle of Guernsey itself plus Alderney, Herm, Sark and a scattering of over-glorified rocks. The bailiwick highpoint isn’t found on mainland Guernsey however, it’s located on the much smaller isle of Sark. According to trip reports I reviewed, the most difficult feature of a highpoint expedition here may be the ferry ride from Guernsey to Sark over volatile English Channel waters. There can’t be too many highpoints around the world where seasickness would be a greater concern than altitude sickness.

The maximum elevation occurs at Le Moulin ("the windmill") at 114 m (374 ft). There is indeed an old Sixteenth Century windmill atop the summit, accessible easily from Rue de Rade. Peakbagger included trip reports for Le Moulin too. I enjoyed the most recent report (lightly edited for clarity):

In a teeny-weeny shop we ask for tea. The owner Helen told us, she had no license to sell us hot drinks, but anyway she can give us some tea. My answer: if I forget this money here on the table, so it is not necessary to have a license, to take it. We had a wonderful talk in the store and Helen asked Mr. Axton to open the mill. So it was possible for us, to climb the mill to the highest point of Sark and thus Bailiwick of Guernsey.

An expedition to Mt. Everest, this was not. It’s starting to sound better and better.

Isle of Man

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The most daunting highpoint, if one can call it that, of all the Crown Dependencies can be found at Snaefell on the Isle of Man. It’s a more respectable 620 m (2,036 ft) elevation. One can climb to the top after driving up the A-18 road to a small car park at the base of a small trail (map).

The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race follows A-18, by the way. Check out some of the video clips from previous races. The clip of Guy Martin viewed from the air includes a great scene of A-18 and Snaefell in the final scene.

Snaefell Mountain Railway Terminus: Summit
SOURCE: 28Gwyn on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.

I’d rather take the Snaefell Mountain Railway though. How tough can it be to reach the top if this trolley-like vehicle can make it there on a schedule? The railway runs from the village of Laxey to the Snaefell summit during the warmer months, roughly from early April through the beginning of November. As the railway website explains,

There is only one tram at a time going up or coming down. The ride from Laxey to the summit takes thirty minutes and offers amazing views of Laxey Glens and surrounding countryside. At the top is a cafe and ticket station. Paths are located about the summit where walking is permitted. Sheep often roam free on the mountain, so can be easily encountered. From the top on a clear day it is said one can see the six kingdoms. The kingdom of Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Mann and Heaven.

Those are the leisurely highpoints of the Crown Dependencies, accessible by bicycle, stroll or public transportation, where the biggest worry may be where to stop for tea and how to get it heated.