Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and a British Crown dependency. It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. It is 3 miles (5 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.5 km) wide. The area is three square miles (8 sq.km), making it the third largest island of the Channel Islands, and the second largest in the Bailiwick. It is around ten miles (16 km) to the west of La Hague in the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, in France, twenty miles (32 km) to the north-east of Guernsey and sixty miles (97 km) from the south coast of England. It is the closest of the Channel Islands to France as well as being the closest to England. It is separated from Cap de la Hague by the dangerous Race of Alderney (Le Raz).
The island has a population of 2400 people, and they are traditionally nicknamed vaques after the cows, or else lapins after the many rabbits seen in the island. The only parish of Alderney is the parish of St Anne which covers the whole island.
The main town ('La Ville' or simply 'Town' in English) is often erroneously referred to as 'St Annes' (or less inaccurately: 'St Anne'). It features an imposing, pretty church and unevenly cobbled high street. There is a primary school, a secondary school, and a sub-post office as well as hotels, restaurants, banks and shops. Alderney is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful of the Channel Islands.
In terms of geography Alderney is similar to the other islands in that it has sheer cliffs broken by stretches of sandy beach and dunes. It has a temperate climate, moderated by the sea, and summers are usually warmer than elsewhere in the British Isles. Trees are rather scarce, as many were cut down in the 17th century to fuel the lighthouses on Alderney and the Casquets. Those trees that remain include some cabbage trees (due to the mild climate - often miscalled "palms" but of the lily family.), and there are now some small woods dotted about the island.
Alderney and its surrounding islets feature a rich flora and fauna. Puffins on Burhou and gannets on Les Étacs just off Alderney are a favourite of many visitors to the island. The Blonde hedgehog is a species native to Alderney. The island has its own breed of cattle, called the Alderney; the pure breed became extinct in 1944, but hybrids remain elsewhere, though no longer on Alderney itself. In August 2005, the west coast of Alderney and associated islands, including Burhou and Ortac, were designated as Ramsar wetlands of international importance.
The island is surrounded by rocks, which have caused hundreds of wrecks. There are two treacherous tidal streams on either side of the island: the Swinge between Alderney and Burhou, just outside the harbour, and Le Raz between the island and the Norman mainland.
Auregnais, the local dialect of Norman is almost extinct, with only one or two islanders being "rememberers", and French is no longer spoken in the island (except by tourists); it ceased to be an official language in 1966, declining a great deal from neglect, especially in the education sector, and also because most of the population was evacuated in WWII. To this day however, many, if not most of the local placenames are in French or Auregnais. One or two words linger on in the local English, e.g. vraic (seaweed fertiliser), and the pronunciation of certain local names, e.g. Dupont as 'Dippoh' rather than the French way.
Golf, Fishing and other water sports are popular, though there are many clubs and associations for sports and other leisure activities (List of Clubs & Associations). Due in part to the large numbers of tourists, there are a large number of restaurants and public houses. There is a vibrant and lively nightlife which is enjoyed by many especially in the summer -- such as the Quarry parties.
It is legal to smoke in pubs, shops, restaurants and other indoor public places.
Alderney has a somewhat ageing population, being popular with people wanting somewhere quiet to retire. Being a quiet and secluded island, Alderney has attracted a number of famous residents, including authors T. H. White (The Once and Future King) and Elisabeth Beresford (The Wombles), cricket commentator John Arlott, cricketer Ian Botham, Beatles producer George Martin, actress Julie Andrews, and Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew.
Alderney Week is celebrated from the Saturday before the first Monday of August, during which a number of events take place. Each year a new theme is picked by the organisers, and there is a local competition for a logo/mascot.
-The first Saturday begins with a parade of decorated brollies, bonnets and dogs to the Marais Square, where, traditionally, the firemen squirt their hoses into the air to "test" the brollies. There is a disco on the green, and a Quarry Party starting at 11pm with a 70s and 80s theme. People dress in costume or just in wacky clothes.
-The Sunday is always the day of a traditional Street Market. A mixture of traditional toffee apples and personal junk sales is laid out up and down the main street. Clothes, ice-creams, local sweets and jewellry are all sold from tables in the street, and with dancing by the KFA, the Miss Holiday Princess Competition and music by the Alderney Band, it is always guaranteed to be a great day.
-Cavalcade Day takes place on the Monday, on which residents and organisations construct parade floats based upon a particular theme, before walking them though the high street and onto the green. Judging and prize giving takes place up there, as well as games, stalls and burger vans. Why not sign up for Alderney's Got Talent, or the Alderney X-Factor while you are there? Or have a go on the coconut shy? The Alderney Blowers give a full concert, and there is a Car and Bike show.
-Tuesday is always a mis-match of events. Auditions, Shakespeare in the gardens, and "the blessing of the fishing fleet" are regularly timetabled for Tuesday.
-Wednesday often includes the Daft Raft Race, though it changes days often to get the right tide. Locals and visitors alike build the wackiest crafts they can think up to sail around two buoys in 3 great races... whilst being pelted with flour bombs, water bombs and hoses from the lifeboat. Although the races are friendly, many attempts at sabotage have been made, which range from standing in the way of launch, to drilling holes in the previous-years winners the night before. In the evening is the Extravaganza- a show of hilarious sketches and acts about Alderney, the theme, and inter-island competition.
-The Man-Powered Flight is the main focus of Thursday's events for many. A duck race (that is numbered bath ducks) takes place at the same time as the mad flying attempts. Machines go from the beautifully decorated to the ones that might actually fly... although the furthest flying usually flies no more than a metre or two. In the evening is the Battle Of The Bands, with both local and visiting bands taking part. It is held in the quarry, where people of all ages go to dance, cheer, and sit around the bonfire.
-Friday is given over to the sandcastle competition. The competitors are split into age groups- 0-5, 5-7, 7-10, 10-13, and Adult, and time-limits set for each group. The standard is continuously high (see the Alderney Week webpage gallery for photographs) and it is a fun event for all. The evening is given over to entertainment by the talented. The under-16 talent show (Alderney's Got Talent) is held early on, followed by the Alderney X-Factor at 9pm. The talent show welcomes kids of every age and any talent, from dancing and singing to poetry and karate. The X-Factor prefers singers over 14, and provides fun, family-friendly entertainment.
-The Torchlight Procession, on the Saturday evening of the week, sees a parade of people walking through the town centre, carrying torches towards a large bonfire upon the local green. The evening ends with a fireworks display and an open-air music event held in a now-disused quarry, starting at midnight and finishing at 8:00am the next morning, although it has been known to continue on until gone 10am by some nocturnal people, using the radio for music. Other people make their way to the airport for their flight in the sleeping bags they slept in on the nearest soft floor they could find.