Hovercraft – the geekiest way to travel?

When I heard that Bonn had another job over on the Isle of Wight I knew I had to go with him. Heck, one of the first conversations the pair of us ever had was about the island’s train service (a post on that soon). The place is a transport geek’s paradise. Now only do you have vintage tube trains providing a mainline service. But there is also the geekiest method of sea travel known to man. The hovercraft.

Hovercraft Hovertravel Isle of Wight

Hovercraft to the Isle of Wight

Hovertravel have been providing passenger hovercraft services between Portsmouth and Ryde since 1965. In fact, it’s the only commercial hovercraft service in Europe. Can you get any geekier than that?

The fact we had to take a car with us meant that we travelled over to the Isle of Wight by more traditional car ferry this time. We’re determined however to take the hovercraft next time. Even if it does mean going backwards and forwards across the Solent a couple of times to make the logistics work! With it only being a ten minute journey that shouldn’t be too problematic.

If you’re on the island there’s a fantastically positioned footbridge over the train line that provide a brilliant vantage point. You can stand there and watch the hovercraft arrive and depart for as long as you want. I can promise that you’ll be astounded at their turnaround time.

That’s one of the big advantages of a hovercraft for foot passengers. The fact that they can just pull up onto a beach or other landing area means that there isn’t time spent docking. You also therefore don’t need so much infrastructure to support them.

And not forgetting. It just looks damn cool!

Understanding how it works

I’m pretty sure that any true transport geek wants to get their head around how the hovercraft actually works. That’s where the wonderful Ladybird books has all the answers for you.

Collecting vintage Ladybird books is one of my hobbies and I was therefore thrilled to see a copy of their “How It Works – The Hovercraft” book when I was in the Hovertravel terminal in Ryde. You can read all about it here and pop over to their website to buy a copy online too.

Hovertravel provide a passenger hovercraft service between Southsea, Portsmouth and Ryde, Isle of Wight. In Portsmouth there is a Hovertravel run Hoverbus that connects Southsea to Portsmouth Harbour. In Ryde it is only a short walk to Ryde Esplanade station on the Island Line and Ryde bus station. You can find out more about Hovertravel, including their timetable and fares, over on their website.

Guernsey – Five quick facts

With the recent release of the film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tourist numbers to this part of the Channel Islands is on the rise. Not everyone knows where Guernsey is though, or much about it. So here are my top five facts that I think everyone should know about Guernsey.


German Occupation of Guernsey

Probably the best known fact about the island, and core to the film, is Guernsey’s occupation by the Germans. The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey were the only parts of the British Isles to be occupied during the War. The occupation lasted from 30 June 1940 until 9 May 1945, and so 9 May is celebrated as liberation day.

American Mary Ann Shaffer found herself stranded at Guernsey airport by fog and picked up a book about the occupation to kill time until flights resumed. This is what inspired her to write the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Bailiwick of Guernsey

When people say “Guernsey” they assume you’re talking about one island, but the Bailiwick actually consists of four main islands. As well as a plethora of smaller islands. There is Guernsey itself, the biggest of the islands and home to the majority (63,000) of the local population. In comparison, Alderney has a population of approximately 1,900 and Sark 600. Herm (population 60) is part of the Parish of St Peter Port, on the island of Guernsey.

Guernsey, and Jersey are Crown Dependancies. So, whilst they are not part of the United Kingdom, The UK is responsible for the defence and international relations. Each Bailiwick has its own independent laws, elections, and representative bodies.

The Guernsey Pound

Whilst not having a totally separate currency, Guernsey (like Jersey) issues its own bank notes. The Guernsey Pound is linked to the British Pound and you can use either notes in the Bailiwick. Around places like St Peter Port you can find cash machines that distribute British Pounds, but any that are unmarked will give you local notes.

Trying to spend them in the UK will result in blank faces, but go to any bank and they will exchange them back to Sterling for you.

Oldest Postbox

Guernsey post box

Whilst most postboxes that you find in the Bailiwick are blue (the postal service being run by Guernsey Post) there is one red one to be found. On Union Street in St Peter Port is what is believed to be the oldest pillar-box still in use in the British Isles.

Guernsey post box Guernsey post box

It has been repainted in the livery that it is though to have had in 1852/53, when it was first installed.

Guernsey Sweaters

You may not have needed a jumper at all when we visited, but the Bailiwick is famous for its knitwear. Developed in the 17th century these traditional sweaters were primarily worn by fishermen. A traditional style “diamond” insert under the arms made it easier for those wearing it to move their arms around.

The jumpers had distinctive stitches within the pattern that mirrored things like a sailing ship’s rope ladder, crashing waves and pebbles, stones and sand. Each family had variations on the pattern and many fishermen who were lost at sea were identified by their jumpers.


For more information on Guernsey please visit the local tourist boards’s website¬†and look out on Penny Travels for further posts about our visit there.