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19th Century fortified harbour defence
Fort Clonque, the most remarkable of the great harbour works of Alderney, occupies a group of large rocks off the steep south-west tip of the island, commanding the passage between it and the island of Burhou. The property is reached by a causeway leading to a drawbridge entrance and was originally designed for ten 64-pounder guns in four open batteries, manned by two officers and 50 men. On calm days the sea can be heard all round the Clonque, restlessly searching the rocks; and on rough days it is comforting to reflect that the wall of the East Flank Battery is 19 feet thick. Stormy weather is no stranger to this location, and during some high tides the fort is cut off and the sea runs between it and the mainland.
In the 1840s it was thought that the advent of steam would make the Channel Islands more important as an advanced naval base, and also more liable to capture by the French. Accordingly the great harbour works of Alderney were begun in 1847. Before the defensive capabilities of the base were fully realised, the further development of steam brought the Channel Islands within easy reach of mainland bases, and made a base in Alderney unnecessary.
In 1886 the Defence Committee recommended that Clonque, and all the other works except Fort Albert, should be disarmed but left standing. It was thus that Hitler found them in 1940 and, imagining again that the Channel Islands had strategic value, vigorously refortified them. At Fort Clonque, part of the Victorian soldiers’ quarters was replaced by an enormous casemate, housing a gun so large that its emplacement now makes a handsome bedroom looking towards Guernsey.
The fort is fantastic, especially during a good blow, when the sky rains sea foam!
The cycling on Alderney is fabulous
It was like being in a big granite ocean liner!
Fort Clonque is self-catering accommodation sleeping up to 13 people in 6 bedrooms. Facilities include:
Fire or stove
Open grounds, garden or terrace
Fort Clonque is cared for by the Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity that rescues and restores historic buildings at risk, giving them a future by letting them for self-catering holidays. The income generated supports their ongoing maintenance, ensuring they will never again fall into decay. Each Landmark is remarkable in some way, for its architecture, history or setting and they include follies, castles, towers, forts and banqueting houses.
It is categorised as a Landmark for hardier visitors due to its remote and exposed location, and some rooms must be reached from outside the main accommodation. Please note that the island can be cut off at high tide.
All landmarks have bedding, linen and towels provided and the kitchens are fully equipped to cater for the number of people the building sleeps plus two visitors. As a matter of philosophy, we do not provide televisions or telephones.
Most forts are large and grim, but Clonque was snugly fitted to the surrounding rocks, and is small, open and picturesque, ingeniously contrived on many levels. The fort’s location will sometimes make it cold and damp, however the compensation is the delight of its spectacular setting. Views are second to none; to the lighthouses of the Casquets; colonies of gannets and seabirds that fish around the fort; and of the formidable race or current called the Swinge, which runs between Clonque and Burhou.
There are frequent flights to Alderney from Southampton, Bournemouth and Brighton / Shoreham.
Alderney benefits from clean air and fresh breezes and is a peaceful and extremely pleasant island, just small enough to be explored entirely on foot or, very easily, by bicycles which can be hired locally. The Victorian and German defence works are interesting, while the beaches at the north end are exceptional with plentiful, white sand. On calm days the sea can be heard all round the Clonque, restlessly searching the rocks; and on rough days it is comforting to reflect that the wall of the East Flank Battery is 19 feet thick. Stormy weather is no stranger to this location, and during some high tides the fort is cut off and the sea runs between it and the mainland.
In the centre of the island is St Anne, a very pretty little town, English with a hint of France offering a choice of small boutiques and restaurants. Visitors often remark that they are stepping back into a bygone age of friendly people, good pubs and a more relaxed pace of life.