The beauty of taking a short break in The Islands of Guernsey is it’s so close to home – and yet a beautiful island escape that feels like an island escape. Rather than forking out for flights to far-flung destinations and struggling to cope with different time zones, you can be exploring this holiday idyll just hours after leaving home.
Holidaying on this group of five beautiful Channel Islands is reassuringly stress-free: you don’t need a passport if you’re travelling from the UK or Republic of Ireland; the currency is the British pound and, of course, everyone speaks English.
Springtime arrives about four weeks earlier here than mainland Britain, making The Islands of Guernsey the perfect place for a post-winter pep-up with balmy sunshine, nodding heads of wildflowers and glorious sub-tropical gardens.
With flight times of around 55 minutes from airports across the UK (including Gatwick, Stansted, Southend, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Exeter, Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Southampton), getting to Guernsey couldn’t be easier. Alternatively, if you want to bring your car (driving on the left but at a sedate speed limit of 35mph), you can catch a ferry from Portsmouth or Poole in Dorset.
Once on Guernsey there are four more Islands - Sark, Herm, Alderney and Lihou – that make up the Islands of Guernsey to explore by day trip or for a longer stay. You can even book an island-hopping package holiday tailored to your holiday wish list.
You call fill your days in any number of ways, from tranquil beach relaxing to walks through spectacular scenery and intriguing history.
A foodie haven
For those who love dining out, the Islands of Guernsey most definitely fit the bill. The bustling restaurants off the cobbled streets of St Peter’s Port, beach ‘kiosks’ like Belvoir Beach offering delicious crab sandwiches to tuck into while admiring Herm’s sea views and the famous Cobo Fish & Chips in Guernsey, best eaten hot and salty sitting on the sea wall to watch the glorious west coast sunsets. The only question will be what do you fancy next?
Just 20 miles off the coast of Normandy, Guernsey offers an array of French restaurants like the ever-popular La Grande Mare Brasserie, but you can also choose English fare, as well as Chinese, Indian, Mexican and tapas – whatever tickles your taste buds. Guernsey is particularly renowned for its ice-cream and cream teas – thanks to the rich milk produced by the famous cows – and the abundance of freshly caught crab, lobster and other seafood.
Unique culinary specialties include the Guernsey Bean Jar, a warming cassoulet of haricot beans and ham hock or beef shin in an earthenware pot, and a fruit loaf bread call Guernsey gâche (pronounced ‘gosh’), served at all the tea shops. It’s particularly delicious when spread with golden Guernsey butter.
And let’s not forget the tasty local tipples to try. Locally produced for over 150 years, Randalls Beer is served in pubs and restaurants around the Island of Guernsey or you can take a tour of the distillery. The perfect drink to quench your thirst after a countryside meander is Rocquette Cider, made by the Guernsey Cider Company. A gin-tasting experience at the fancy Bella Luce Hotel, where Wheadon’s Gin is distilled, is not to be missed. Proprietor Luke Wheadon uses rock samphire foraged from the nearby cliffs, limes grown locally and other carefully sourced botanicals to create delicious artisanal gins in very small batches.
Action or relaxation? The choice is yours
The options are endless in the Islands of Guernsey. The simple pleasures of watching the tide coming in from your coastal path viewpoint or taking a wander through scented bluebell woods. Taking a dip in 150-year-old La Vallette Bathing Pools or snorkeling in the crystal clear sea from a hidden cove.
Wherever you go, you’ll discover more about the Islands of Guernsey’s rich history. Must-visits include Castle Cornet, which has guarded Guernsey for over 800 years and boasts five museums and four formal gardens, and the author Victor Hugo’s lovingly restored house and garden. The prehistoric grave Dehus Dolmen has remarkable carvings within, while Clarence Battery, the Islands’ principal fort during the French Revolution and the home of the German Luftwaffe early warning system during World War Two, is fascinating.
A tour of stately home Sausmarez Manor reveals 800 years of family history, art and artefacts. In the glorious RHS-recommended sub-tropical gardens there’s also a sculpture park to admire with more than 100 creations by varied artists.
Reflecting the Islands of Guernsey’s rich heritage and culture, there are a number of festivals well worth timing your holiday to coincide with. 2020 promises to be an exciting year as Islanders celebrate the 75th anniversary of their liberation from German Occupation during WWII. The ‘Heritage75’ festival runs from April to October with special openings, tours and talks to commemorate this year of remembrance. The Guernsey Literary Festival follows in May, with a host of visiting authors sharing their works and the Spring and Autumn Walking Festivals offer dozens of guided walks around the stunning Islands, whatever your fitness level.
The hugely popular Tennerfest kicks off in October for six weeks, when restaurants, hotels and gastro pubs across the Islands offer amazing three-course meals starting from just £10 a head.
Where to stay
Treating yourself to a luxury 5-star hotel, bed and breakfast in a working farm, enjoying having all the family under one roof in a unique holiday cottage or waking up to calming countryside on a campsite. Whatever your budget and individual requirements, you’ll find the perfect place to stay in The Islands of Guernsey.
Ready to explore one of Europe’s best island destinations? Go to visitguernsey.com to find out more and start planning your fascinating island-hopping break.