The Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey are perhaps better known as centers of offshore finance than hot tourist destinations, but as part of our effort to see more of our “immediate backyard” and with interest sparked by the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is set on the island during and immediately after the German occupation in the Second World War, not to mention Britt’s family’s heritage, which has been traced in part back to Guernsey, we thought it’d be worth the 4-day Easter weekend.
Flights to Guernsey from Gatwick are cheap, comfortable, and quick. Driving is the best way to explore the island, but be prepared for very tight roads, lots of hill stops, and unique driving rules and road markings. Even the most heavily trafficked thoroughfares on the island are essentially tight, winding country roads; we drove most of the major roads on the island during our stay and never got above 4th gear! Fortunately, some aspects of driving in Guernsey are quite nice—for example, parking on the island is free; you just need to park in the right zone and set a dashboard clock to your time of arrival (the website linked above provides all the parking information you need).
Guernsey is well-known for its spring bloom, having been recognized on a few occasions in the annual Britain in Bloom competition, and it did not disappoint. The sunny weather really highlighted the explosion of wild flowers throughout the island. We came to appreciate this over the course of a number of walks. Much of the perimeter of the island is laced with public trails from which one can appreciate the island’s coastline (which is quite dramatic on the south side).
Our first walk came after our first lunch at the cafe. Stone steps starting at the restaurant’s outdoor patio led us west toward the stunning viewpoint at 49.419779, -2.598505. Back at the restaurant, Rue du Gouffre turns into a walking path leading eastward, which we followed down the east side of a nearby rocky outcropping to views of a vividly turquoise cove from 49.418895, -2.591463.
We started and ended our trip with lunch at Le Gouffre Cafe (tomato, mozzarella, and pesto sandwich), which quickly became a favorite for its light, tasty food and coastal views. The weather couldn’t have been better for most of the weekend—it was brilliantly sunny and felt more like early June than mid-April—so we took full advantage of the cafe’s outdoor seating.
On another day we parked our car at the minuscule car park at 49.425043, -2.639183 to walk along the southwest coast. We started with a walk toward the east before turning around, double-backing, and then walking west of the car park, where we appreciated views of the arch at 49.425593, -2.646324 (the best vantage point is from 49.426458, -2.649473).
While the southern coast was the highlight for us, the rest of the island isn’t to be ignored. We spent one day driving around the northern and northwestern sides of the island: Fort Pembroke and Pembroke Beach, Port Soif and Portinfer Dunes Nature Reserve, and Fort Hommet and Vazon Bay. We finished the day with a sunset at L'Erée Beach.
For an island so small and so oceanic, the pine forest-fringed lake (well, reservoir) at Saint Saviour's Nature Reserve seems beautifully out of place. We parked at the marked car park off of Rue à l'Or and walked counterclockwise around the perimeter of the reserve.
St. Peter Port, Guernsey’s capital, is a charming little port town. We walked from the roundabout at North Beach Car Park down the Pollet, up to the area around 49.457154, -2.537593, back down to the High Street, then up and down Mill Street. This short walk packs a punch with gorgeous architecture, hilly cobblestone streets, charming alleyways, and picture-perfect views.
Herm is a small island a few miles off of Guernsey proper’s eastern coast. Ferries operated by Trident leave (and return to) St. Peter Port eight times per day in the high season. The journey takes 20 minutes and there’s no need to pre-book; just arrive at the kiosk to purchase your tickets 30 minutes ahead of your preferred scheduled departure. See the website for more details.
We parked at North Beach Car Park, purchased our tickets, and set off. We walked counterclockwise around the island. Its southern side, like Guernsey proper, is dominated by dramatic cliffs. Eventually we got to the beach at Belvoir Bay on the east side of the island (which can be reached directly from the port via a path cutting through the center of the island). We grabbed a refreshing ice cream from the kiosk at Shell Beach before continuing along the perimeter of the island. The landscape in the north of the island is quite different than the south, dominated not by rocky coast and clifftop views but rather by dunes, tall grass, and rolling hills.
Guernsey surprised us with its tasty food. We had dinners at our hotel (chickpea burger, butternut squash soup, mixed greens salad), Búho (vegetarian chorizo burrito with mango salsa, vegetarian chorizo tacos, chili roasted new potatoes), and The Rockmount (margherita pizza, chips, brownie sundae).
We did not expect from Guernsey much more than a low-key getaway from the city, but were taken by the dramatic views, quaint towns and villages, and relative lack of crowds. The great weather no doubt enhanced our experience, and we’re not sure that we would have enjoyed our visit as much without it, but if you’re looking to get away from it all and are fortunate enough to have at least decent weather, there are few places so close to London more worthy of a visit.