Fort Clonque is the most remarkable of the great mid-Victorian harbour works off Alderney, built to protect the Channel Islands from capture by the French. Perched on a group of large rocks surrounded by the waves, you reach the Fort by a spectacular causeway leading to a drawbridge.
An important base in the early days of steam ships
The advent of steam ships in the 1840s made the Channel Islands more strategically important for refuelling and therefore equally desirable to the French as the British. Fort Clonque is the most remarkable of Alderney’s great harbour defences, begun in 1847 and designed for ten 64-pounder guns in four open batteries, manned by two officers and 50 men. However, the rapid increase in range of steam ships made Clonque redundant in purpose almost as soon as it was completed and it was left disarmed but intact. The Germans, briefly, again sought to exploit the Fort’s strategic possibilities in the 1940s.
Marine views second to none
At high tide the Fort is cut off from the rest of the island. The accommodation is spread across several different buildings. On calm days the sea can be heard all around the Fort, which sleeps up to 13 people. There are spectacular views of the other islands, rocks and stacks and two great colonies of gannets, which fish round the fort. Most forts are often large and grim but Clonque, ingeniously contrived on many levels, is small, open and picturesque, interspersed with stretches of grass and samphire. Any cold or damp, characteristic of such a fort, will be more than compensated for by the delight of its spectacular setting. The rest of Alderney is also extremely pleasant, just small enough to be explored entirely on foot or very easily by bicycle. All the Victorian and German defence works are interesting, the beaches at the north end are exceptional and in the centre is St Anne, a very pretty little town, English with a hint of France.