‘TWO thousand alcoholics clinging to a rock,’ is what they say... Before visiting the practically unknown Channel Island of Alderney, I considered this a rather derogatory representation of the estranged island residents, stuck 60 miles away from the mainland and 20 miles from the bright lights of bustling Guernsey.

But, after spending considerable time there, I can vouch for the fact that this is an entirely fair comment.

But who can blame them? The island is only one by three miles wide, and within a few hours you can walk almost every road and cliff path there is.

There’s virtually no entertainment, whether or not you count an old-style cinema which has two weekly showings of films way behind the UK release dates. And shopping? Well let’s just say they haven’t even got a WH Smiths, let alone places to buy anything fashionable, unless you have a particular fondness for deck shoes or Guernsey knitwear.

What they do have however, and thank God they do, is pubs. Nine in fact, which function as the key to the island’s social scene. They are the second living room for Alderney’s residents (also known as lapins) who dwell here even more than in their own homes.

I seem to have successfully portrayed a rock of doom and gloom, like locals stuck on Shutter Island, bored out their brains with no way of escape (unless they want to fork out £65 for a boat to Guernsey or the astoundingly pricey £90 for a one-way ticket to Southampton) but, in reality, it couldn’t be more different.

It is the lack of anything recognisable to our over-commercialised, materialistic expectations that makes Alderney so special, a gem of natural beauty with a community spirit so humbling that anywhere else you ever visit will seem hostile by comparison.

Well, unless it doesn’t stop raining – then you will want to leave, which ironically is probably when you can’t. Flights from Alderney’s miniature airport depart several times a day to Southampton, East Midlands or Guernsey, yet the chance of remaining grounded is fairly high with the 16-seater Trislander planes rarely risking anything other than calm conditions.

But imagine it’s a gloriously sunny day, and the island is your oyster (or lobster, or crab – the English Channel is famous for this delicacy) and you might mistake Alderney for an unspoilt Greek island.

The beaches rival the best in the British Isles – and you’ll likely find yourselves nearly alone.

I mentioned that Alderney people are known as lapins, which derives from the hundreds of rabbits bouncing around the island, while the world’s only blonde hedgehogs hide in the hedgerows.

History geeks will have a wild time here. The island is littered with reminders of the German occupation of Alderney during the Second World War.

The Germans built dozens of bunkers here, which protrude through the rugged cliffs and hills with a disconcerting menace.

The bunkers are free for exploration, although stumbling across a painted Swastika or a dusty coat hung up in a pitch black hole will likely dissuade you from ever entering one again.

The island’s museum provides a comprehensive history, or alternatively there’s the Wombles exhibition, since writer Elisabeth Beresford lived on Alderney from the 1970s until her death in 2010.

Of course, it would be out of character if the lapins didn’t utilise the island’s bunkers for their greatest passion – drinking.

Cue Alderney Week – a seven-day festival held in August, famed across all the Channel Islands for its wonderful and bizarre events including pig races, man-powered flights, sand castle building competitions and, oh yes, seven days of extreme partying.

I’ve been to Ayia Napa, I’ve partied in Barcelona yet never in my 23 years of existence have I witnessed such madness as late-night Alderney. No one believes me but a German bunker makes the perfect location for a pop-up night club, while the vast disused quarry in the middle of the island functions as the greatest outdoor rave venue the UK has ever seen. Hundreds of people, young and slightly older, walk along the rickety train tracks with booze before finding themselves in what looks like the aftermath of an asteroid landing, installed with pyrotechnics, podiums and a couple of DJs from Ibiza.

During this week the population of the island doubles.

After Alderney Week and the fantastical final fireworks display, the population dwindles back to normal and the local kids begin their 51-week countdown until the next seven days of excitement.

Yet this isn’t the only time to visit, and some may find more magic wandering the cobbled streets of Alderney’s capital (when I say capital, there is no other town) St Anne’s at a quieter time of year.

The range of eateries exceed expectations with the choice of Thai, Italian, Indian, pub-grub, gastro food, fine dining or South African tapas, several of which stay open throughout the winter.

It’s impossible to visit Alderney without feasting on a Fruit-de-Mer platter or sampling the local bright yellow butter from cows which must be fed with deep-fried grass; the milk they produce is so rich it resembles clotted cream.

I’ll warn you however, a trip to the rock doesn’t come cheap.

The island is a tax haven, but produce that isn’t home grown still needs to get there somehow, and this means by boat, the inconvenience of which is reflected in supermarket, restaurant and property prices. Yet the cost of a holiday to Alderney is irrelevant compared to the smugness you will feel when hearing of friends’ experiences squashed on a beach in the south of France while you bask in a deserted British paradise, eating fresh lobster like a king or making friends with exuberant locals, only 40 minutes by air from the UK.

So yes, you may encounter two thousand alcoholics, but two thousand jovial, mild ‘alcoholics’ who want to organise a party to celebrate their unique status.

‘When Alderney get’s into your soul, it never leaves you,’ I was told by a lady who works behind the bar at The Georgian House, Alderney’s prime drinking spot.

And I have to say I agree – it really gets under your skin.