Lady climbers

From the Star of 26 August, 1880. An indignant letter to the Editor about the suitability for ladies of visiting the Gouliot Caves in Sark. 'To all women we say, Go to the Gouliot Caves.' Also featuring: the dishonesty of tourist guides in Sark and Jersey.

SARK—To the Editor of The Star.

SIR. We also have been to Sark, We also had expectations of beauty which were far exceeded by the reality. We also visited the Great—and also the Little—Gouliot Caves. But, Sir, we are not clergymen, we are only women. The latter fact is my claim on your indulgence, for your reverend correspondent warns all 'lady visitors' not to attempt to visit these beautiful caves.

We went to Sark on Saturday morning, returning thence on Monday evening, and found the days all too short, although we worked—or walked—tolerably hard. On the Saturday we clambered down into Baleine Bay, going down the side of the Coupée, and after that we explored Little Sark, and were repaid not only by glorious views, but by the finding of a real wee orchis. After dinner, we sallied out again and climbed down to Dixcart Bay, with its grand natural arch, and later had a lovely moon-lighted walk over the common fronting the Dixcart Hotel.

On the day following, Sunday, we dared the 'perilous' descent and ascent of the Gouliot Caves. Our guide was a splendid specimen of sturdy sailorhood, proud of being 'an Englishman,' but talking French more easily than English. We climbed down without any grave difficulty; one of our party once sat down hard, but she might have done that in skating or even in walking down stairs; the path would not have suited anyone who was very nervous, or who was easily made giddy, but was nothing very dreadful; it was not quite so bad as the Mauvais Pas near Chamonix, and dozens of ladies tread that every year.

The caves were perfect of their kind; sponges, acornshells, sea-anemones, sea-weeds, carpeted the floors and tapestried the walls. The coloured streaks in the rock made gorgeous every spot which was not living, and huge starfishes and agastropods were to be found in the pools. We came back wealth-laden, regretful only that the inexorable tide made our visit shorter than our desire.

We climbed up again toilsomely, but without sore trial of either 'strength or nerve,' rather with intense enjoyment of the beauty of the cliff and sky, with the white waves dashing below our feet and the mournful cries of the seagulls filling the air around. This exquisite beauty, Mr Editor, must plead our excuse for thus trespassing on your space. It would be sad for women to miss it owing to needless alarm.

To all women we say, Go to the Gouliot Caves. If the women are nervous and foolish, they should not go to Sark at all, for its beauties are only revealed to the climber. It is no place for those whom the poor call 'carriage-folk.' A whisper to our sex: Sark hedges are much worse than Sark rocks, they are full of brambles. Sark furze-bushes are of the most penetrating description. If you go to Sark, go in a good strong dress, free from superfluous trimmings, or you will leave mementoes of your visit on all the thorns on the island.

We are, Sir,

Yours obediently,


Guernsey, August 25th.

The Star, September 9th, 1880.

'Gulled' by Guides.

Diogenes in the Jersey Express has the following remarks on this subject, the truth of which has doubtless been forcibly experienced by many of the Tourists to the Islands.

The guide in Sark, who informed Mr Henry Constable that his female companion was the first lady who had ever penetrated the Great Gouliot Caves, is not above 'fibbing.' It transpires that several other ladies have made the perilous descent in order to reach these caves, and have successfully accomplished their task. These descents and ascents were made prior to Mr Constable's visit to Sark, consequently when the guide told that gentleman that his female friend was the first lady who had ever accomplished the feat, he must have known that he was telling an untruth. But with visions of 'Queen's heads' in payment of services rendered, what will not a Channel Islands' guide say?

Tourists are sometimes 'gulled' by Jersey guides, but the latter make their statements in such a plausible manner, and with such an air of authority, that it is no wonder if the poor tourist concludes that his guide, above all others, has the history of Jersey at his finger ends.