Getaway To Guernsey
There’s just something about holidaying on an island. Whatever that ‘something’ is, it makes all of your previous land-locked holidays seem, well, not quite as nice. But this time, forget palm trees and piña coladas. This time, think cows and crab. This time, think Guernsey.
Just off the coast of Normandy, Guernsey is one of the five Channel Islands (the others being Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Herm). With a flight time from London of around an hour, Guernsey is the ideal short-haul destination if you’re looking for spectacular scenery (scenery that you could easily mistake for a tropical much-further-south island), delicious food and good ol’ fashioned R&R.
There are enough beaches, restaurants, attractions and history to last you all summer, but it’s small enough to enjoy the best of the island in just a few days. Although a six-week summer stay on Guernsey would have been my preferred way to visit, my trip fit in the latter category – two nights at the boutique 4-star Fermain Valley Hotel.
The hotel is approached by a single-width downhill lane and only comes into view after you’ve turned onto the short circular drive. But, the hotel might not be the first thing you notice. Instead, your eyes will most likely wander to the breathtaking panoramic views of Fermain Bay and the sea beyond – one of the hotel’s many boasting points.
Offering a variety of accommodation from Silver to Platinum, each room includes a complimentary decanter of sherry, fresh fruit, Sky-TV and luxury toiletries. If you’re lucky, you might have found availability in a balcony room overlooking the bay below. Whatever your room of choice, it’ll be lovely. I know mine was.
You could easily while away your entire break at the Fermain Valley – with two restaurants, a swimming pool, sauna, 3D cinema and gorgeous gardens, and just a short 10-minute stroll to the pebble beach below (though a bit longer to navigate the steep hill back up), its location and amenities are second to none. But, Guernsey beckoned! And off I went to explore…
Escorted by Sylvia from Visit Guernsey for a highlight tour, I was quickly absorbed into the colourful past, unique traditions and stunning scenery of the island. If you’re going to book a tour of Guernsey, I can’t imagine a better person to show you around. Sylvia has lived on the island for almost 40 years, knows every winding lane and tidbit of history, and will ensure you’re educated fully about ‘hedge veg’ (local products sold in small boxes or stalls outside private residences – honesty box and all), Guernsey’s famous cows and goats, and the interesting ties to Victor Hugo and even Paul Revere (the American patriot).
I was utterly fascinated by the history, from the ancient burial grounds (4000BC!), to the newspapers and letters published during the German occupation, to the 3rd-century Roman shipwreck found in St Peter Port harbour. And let’s not forget the scenery! Almost everywhere you look there’s either a jaw-dropping view of cliffs and sea, or a street lined with beautifully kept homes and endless rows of overflowing flower baskets.
After the half-day tour and a quick spruce up back at the hotel, my guest and I travelled the short distance to Guernsey’s capital – St Peter Port – for dinner at Le Nautique Restaurant.
Rated number two of 97 restaurants in the town (TripAdvisor), Le Nautique is quite the swanky establishment. Beginning our evening at the bar, we enjoyed a cocktail on comfortable cream leather seats next to the wall-to-wall wine rack before being shown to our window-side table. Here we go with the views again… this time instead of cliffs and sea, we admired the many impressive sailboats and yachts moored in the harbour.
First up: the homemade lobster soup with crab dumplings, served alongside freshly baked bread and Guernsey’s signature butter (from those famous Guernsey cows, of course). Smooth and flavourful, the starter was a great showcase of local ingredients combined to make a fabulous dish.
Deciding that we were on holiday after all, we thought what the heck, let’s get the most expensive thing on the menu – the Chateaubriand for two. Now, this isn’t something I make a habit of, and if we were back on the mainland, I’d have second thoughts; but in this case, the most expensive thing isn’t that expensive at all. Due to no VAT on Guernsey, I found dining out to be refreshingly inexpensive (our Chateaubriand for two coming in at only £48). Arriving perfectly cooked alongside Béarnaise sauce, hand-cut chips, fresh spinach and courgettes frites, the meal was simply superb.
Our night was finished off with a glass of bubbly and a white chocolate crème brûlée, followed by a breezy stroll along the harbour. Guernsey, we are impressed.
Day two arrived after a restful night’s sleep, and began with a delicious cooked breakfast served in one of the hotel’s on-site restaurants, Ocean. After devouring possibly the best omelette ever made, it was time to venture out for another day of exploration – this time to St Peter Port.
With its cobbled streets, boutique shopping, quaint cafés and endless historical sites to boot, the island’s capital is a holidaymaker’s dream. Whether you fancy a day at a castle (Castle Cornet), tea and cake amongst the flowers (Candie Gardens), a spot of literary history (Hauteville House, the home of Victor Hugo), or a search around one of the many museums (the Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery and La Vallette Underground Military Museum are worth a visit), St Peter Port has something for everyone. There are plenty of guided walking tours available (www.guernseyguidedtours.com), or if you’d rather be chauffeured, hop on ‘Le Petit Train’ at the harbour for a narrated driving tour, hitting all the top spots.
Another packed day left us hungry (any excuse to eat…), so we ventured out of St Peter Port along the coast to The Auberge, a fine dining restaurant nestled in the stunning cliffs of Guernsey. Specialising in local seafood, the menu’s starters included local scallops and bacon, Rocquaine Bay oysters, and my choice, deep-fried panko crumbed Camembert. I know it’s not from their signature seafood selection, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ll have you know I did order fish for my main – couldn’t not eat seafood at a place known for its fish (though the summer vegetable and truffle butter gnocchi did look tasty). I ordered the daily special – sea bream with crushed new potatoes and fresh vegetables, whilst my guest sampled a fresh Guernsey lobster. Both were tender, sweet and delicious.
After a few more glasses of wine, we headed back for a second and final night at The Fermain Bay Hotel. The great thing about Guernsey – and its small size – is you have time to actually do something on your last day, as everything is within a few minutes’ drive to the airport. Whether you spend your last hours on the neighbouring island of Herm (as we did – stunning might I add), relax on the beach or enjoy a crab sandwich near the harbour, Guernsey is one island destination that shouldn’t be overlooked. With a few packs of that delectable butter in tow, I spent the flight home daydreaming about my next, hopefully much longer, visit.
The Fermain Valley Hotel
Le Nautique Restaurant
The Auberge Restaurant