CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I have a fascination with islands. Part of the magic for me is the unlimited view of sky and sea that islands provide.
On the island of Sark, almost everything you see is magical. Set in the Channel Islands between England and France, Sark is only 3.5 miles by 1.5 miles across its widest point. But it has 42 miles of coastline. Every time I caught a glimpse of the water from a hiking trail or the road, I felt a thrill. Oftentimes, the water was truly aquamarine.
I first learned about Sark from an article in National Geographic. The magazine explained that UNESCO had designated Sark as a "dark island" in recognition of its lack of light pollution.
I love to look at the sky -- day or night. I wanted to have the experience of seeing the night sky without competing manmade lights.
The more I read about Sark, the more I wanted to see it.
The Channel Islands have an interesting history that includes invasion by the Nazis. Some readers may know about that history from the book set on the larger, neighboring island, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society."
Sark is independent but with an allegiance to England. Yet its French heritage shows up, too, in the names for most of its geography.
Except for tractors, there are no gasoline-powered vehicles on Sark. Everyone walks, bikes or rides in horse-drawn carriages.
I loved Sark from the moment I first saw it, but I had the accidental good fortune to meet some Sark residents even before I set foot on the island.
When my husband, David, and I were planning the trip, we knew we would be taking a ferry to Sark, the only public transportation to and from the island. We also could have taken a ferry from England to Sark, but we opted to save time and fly, via the airline Flybe, from London to the airport at Guernsey.
After a flight of just under an hour, we waited at St. Peter Port with many longtime Sark residents to take the ferry to the island. Just our luck, that day was very stormy. The dock master was not even sure we could cross. So we waited and talked with some Sark residents. To a person, each glowed with the love they have for their island world.
Happily, throughout our visit, we ran into those same people biking, at the grocery store, and at church. They would always stop and talk. They made us feel like we had been incorporated into island life.
When we alighted from our boat on the first day, the fern-covered hillsides rose around us. Tractor operators can take you up the hill, and they will also take your luggage to wherever you are staying. At the top of the hill, we got out of the tractor and started walking to our bed and breakfast.
I immediately liked the looks of the small main street: post office, grocery stores, bike shop, gift shops, cafes. And, of course, flowers everywhere. We found our bed and breakfast with no problem and discovered we were centrally located.
After settling in, we went for our first of many hikes. On our way to the trail marked Les Fontaines, we passed a field occupied by three large horses. With the sun setting around them, the horses took on a magical glow.
A short distance from the horses, the path cut down among ferns and wildflowers. A few feet after we started down the path, I caught my first glimpse of one edge of the island. This just thrilled me each time it happened.
We were extremely fortunate in our choice of bed and breakfast, the Clos Princess. Our hostess, Linda Williams (no relation), served a great breakfast each morning and provided a comfortable room. She also shared her two dogs that were always available for petting and snacks.
As a longtime resident of Sark, she provided us with information about the island -- like the best place to dine and the best boat guide.