Geographically closer to France, officially British Crown dependency, Guernsey is an island just off the coast of Normandy within the British Channel. The British 'Channel Islands’ are known specifically for their beauty and abundance of wild flowers. Guernsey is certainly picturesque: with a subtropical climate and hundreds of species of birds, flowers and plants, it is aglow with colour and life - a paradise for the outdoor holiday lover. Accommodation is pristine, the waters clear and the yachts perfect white. Guernsey is like a fairytale or fake toy town that’s too good to be true.
Although the island is part of the British Crown dependency, it is not a part of the United Kingdom, nor a member of the European Union. The island was settled in 6000 B.C., when the rising sea created the English Channel and separated the land. The name Guernsey actually stems from the Old Norse for “Island”. The politics of the island is rather complex: while Guernsey has autonomy over world affairs, independence from the British Crown has been discussed widely.
Where to Stay
The capital of the island is St Peter Port; a pretty village close to the port with narrow cobbled streets and little cottages with gardens trimmed to perfection. The seafront has been newly renovated. Some of the locals feel the renovation has taken away some of the charm of the island, but the green rolling hills and quaint little lanes remain untouched. The island itself is not very large, with a total square area of just 63.4 square kilometers, so there are not too many options when it comes to deciding where to stay. Tourists tend to head either to the capital, the port where the ferries from Portsmouth and St. Helier arrive and depart, to St Saviour’s, where the Nature Reserve is located, or to St Pierre, which hosts the island’s largest Golf Club. In terms of accommodation, Guernsey has a variety of self-catering holiday cottages and bed and breakfasts dotted all over the island.
What can you do on Guernsey? Although the island is primarily known for its beaches, port and countryside, there is more to Guernsey than meets the eye. Popular activities on the island include walking, hiking, boating, rock climbing, learning how to fly, archery, golf, horse riding, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, and much more besides. The Hauteville House was the home and writing place of author Victor Hugo, who wrote the famous Les Miserables, which has been preserved as it was at the time of his writing. There is a good selection of independent art galleries dotted around the island, showcasing work from local artists, as well as historic and political landmarks, where you can explore the rich history of Guernsey.
There are also several museums on the island, including the Guernsey Museum at Candie, which houses a collection of exhibitions relating the ‘story of Guernsey’, the La Vallette Underground Military Museum which also showcases all aspects of the island’s history in a German tunnel complex from World War II, the National Trust of Guernsey Folk and Costume Museum, set in a cluster of 18th century outbuildings, and the Guernsey Diamond Museum, which showcases an impressive collection of diamonds from a variety of sources.
The best place for shopping on the island is the St Peter Port, which offers visitors a unique shopping experience with boutiques and independent stores dominating the shopping scene. Here you will be able to find plenty of unique clothing and gift items. The businesses are mostly family run and on Fridays there is the Fresh Friday Market which offers a variety of homemade and homegrown treats, such as beautifully decorrated cupcakes and potted plants. St Peter Port is a great place to take advantage of the excise duty rates on the island.
As a small island, much of the food is locally sourced, including fresh fish, home grown vegetables and other organic produce. In terms of cuisine, there is no typical style. The food is rich in natural ingredients from both sea and land, with many different influences including both English and French. Whether you’re enjoying a local fish and chips on the beach or al fresco dining in the garden of your holiday home, it certainly isn’t hard to find some delicious food on the island.
Getting In and Around
You can get to Guernsey one of two ways: by sea or by air. Ferries leave from Portsmouth dock and take up to 3 hours to get the island. International flights leave from most of the main airports in the UK, as well as Hannover, Rotterdam and Dusseldorf. If arriving by ferry, you can also bring your car. Alternatively, you can hire one once you get there. Having a car gives you a lot more flexibility on the island as the bus service is irregular and rather costly.