Guernsey and her neighbouring islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney provide beautiful little cameos. Writers and artists have been inspired by Guernsey: French poet Victor Hugo was exiled here for 15 years where he completed Les Miserables and painter Renoir was mesmerised by the “shimmering light” of Moulin Huet Bay.
A film, simply named “Guernsey”, was released in 2018, and is centered around the occupants of the island in the aftermath of World War II. The island is steeped in history and there are many reminders around the island of the German Occupation (Guernsey was the only part of the British Isles successfully invaded by the Nazis).
Local crab, lobster and prawns regularly feature on restaurant menus, and the food is so good that French visitors often sail over for their dinner! There is no better recommendation than that. A great time to visit Guernsey is during the Tennerfest festival, a six-week slice of foodie heaven in October-November, when many restaurants offer daily two and three course menus starting from just £10.
The island attracts families seeking a traditional holiday with fabulous beaches and a wide range of activities. Couples are discovering that Guernsey is an increasingly fashionable place, boasting romantic hideaways and stylish restaurants – again, a real fusion of French and English styles, tastes and fashions. Groups of friends are regularly choosing the island for a weekend get-together where boat trips, boutique shopping and shore-side bistros provide a fabulous break.
St Peter Port and the East Coast
The island’s capital, which showcases a sparkling marina full of yachts and fishing boats, is also the departure point for regular ferries to the beautiful islands of Herm and Sark. Along the waterfront are bars, cafes, restaurants and small smugglers’ passageways that lead to the centre of town, a classic mix of French and British architecture. Tourists love pottering among the galleries and individual boutique shops selling clothes, jewellery, shoes and antiques. Roads are steep and often cobbled, so if walking is an issue please ask for hotel recommendations. Castle Cornet is a must visit – standing proudly on the entrance to the harbour, this 800-year old citadel offers a daily guided tour at 10.30am and the firing of the noon-day gun by scarlet-clad gunners.
Beaches are spectacular in Guernsey and each coast offers uniquely stunning bays. The picturesque Fermain Bay can be reached only by foot, and its café is a popular stop on the coastal walk from the capital. Just inland is Suasmarez Manor – an historic house offering tours, subtropical gardens, a sculpture park and pitch and putt among its attractions.
The South Coast
This coastline offers secluded bays and picturesque harbours. The coast path on this side of the island has a large continuous stretch of semi-natural vegetation, mainly consisting of cliff-top grassland and heathland. Bird watchers will enjoy spotting cormorant, shag, fulmar, kittiwake, oystercatcher, dartford warbler, peregrine falcon and long-eared owls which nest in sheltered spots in the cliffs.
Moulin Huet – tricky to access but well worth the effort – is where Renoir once spent a summer sketching 15 famous pieces. The café, like many others on the island, offers homemade cakes and delicious crab sandwiches. Further inland, and just north of the airport, the charming Little Chapel is possibly the smallest chapel in the world. Originally built by Brother Deodat in 1914, it has been rebuilt three times and is covered in pebbles and broken china. A must see attraction. In the same area is the German Military Underground hospital, the largest remaining structure from World War II, and the Occupation Museum.
The West Coast
If you time it right, take the opportunity to visit Lihou Island just off the west coast. It is accessed for about two weeks a month, across a causeway at low tide, and has a fascinating history and varied wildlife. To the south of Rocquaine Bay is the Fort Grey and Shipwreck Museum, one of Guernsey’s three Martello towers dating back to 1804.
The North Coast
Wide expanses of white sand open up on the north beaches, giving a true wild and rugged feel. Walking the cliff paths here is very popular – why not pick up a copy of the Tasty Walks Guide from the Tourist Office, taking in the delights of beachfront cafes as you go. At low tide, a lunar landscape appears and offers amazing rock pools to explore. Watching the sun set at low tide on Cobo Bay beach is a spectacle in itself. Ideal for families with children of all ages.