10 reasons to go to Guernsey

by gill19

From glorious beaches and fabulous food to witches' magic resting stones and spooky burial chambers (not to mention peace, perfect peace), Guernsey has all the ingredients for an ideal short break

1. Fabulous beaches

If you like to be beside the seaside, you’ll find a necklace of beaches, both deserted and family-friendly, to enjoy in Guernsey. Sleepy Saints Bay is one of the loveliest. This butter-coloured beach, framed by sparkling green waters, is surrounded by crinkly, south-facing cliffs, providing shelter from any light westerly breezes that happen along. The ideal spot for drinking in the scenery and basking in the sun.

2. Mysterious island

Try to discover the mystery of the ruined Benedictine priory on tiny uninhabited Lihou island, with its pagan connections. This is the most westerly point of the Channel Islands and is reached only by an ancient quarter-mile-long causeway at low tide. It is best visited with a guide. Lihou is a bird sanctuary, and the nesting areas of Lissroy and Lihoumel are important breeding areas for oystercatchers and ringed plovers. The public should avoid these sites, which are clearly marked with signs.

3. Charming chapel

The Little Chapel of St Andrews is the charming creation of Benedictine monk Brother Deodat. He recreated a scale model of the Basilica at Lourdes and painstakingly encrusted it with thousands of pebbles, seashells and colourful pieces of broken china. Inside, there is only space for the priest and perhaps three people. This is quite possibly the world’s smallest church!

4. Fascinating museum

In 1940, Hitler’s forces invaded the islands and the occupation of the next five years was a time of restrictions, isolation, censorship and dire food shortages. La Valette German Underground Museum is housed in a complex of air-conditioned tunnels, built by the Germans as a fuel storage facility for U-boats. The main topic of the museum is life under German Occupation and the museum also contains military and occupation memorabilia.

5. Fairies and witches

Guernsey is chock-a-block with myths and legends. Tales of phantom pigs and snow-white horses, the devil and fairy rings flourish. Everywhere you go there are dolmens, the stone burial chambers built above ground. One of these, Le Dehus, has a ghostly face carved into one of the stones. There is an abundance of witches’ magic resting stones, too, as well as creepy ruins and roads named after werewolves.

6. Great castle

The 13th-century Castle Cornet was home to the island’s governor and his family. During the last throes of the English Civil War, it was the last remaining royalist stronghold. Then, in 1672, unfortunately for the governor’s wife, an explosion in the gunpowder store blew off the top of the tower and she was killed. Today, there are several museums within its precincts, including one devoted to all things seafaring. There are glorious gardens to waft round, too, but bear in mind the ear-splitting canon that is set off every day at noon by costumed soldiers.

7. Good shopping

Guernsey doesn’t disappoint shopaholics. In the capital, St Peter Port, there is an interesting variety of quirky shops as well as branches of some mainland chain stores, with bargains to be had on items such as jewellery, cameras, perfume, computer software and alcohol. Many goods are priced competitively in Guernsey, as excise duty rates are lower than in the UK.

8. Literary connection

The town gained instant fame in 1855 when the exiled Victor Hugo made his home at Hauteville House. He spent 15 years there and during that time was inspired to write three novels, the most enduring of which is Les Misérables. He was obviously delighted to be in Guernsey, describing it as ‘the rock of hospitality, this corner of old Norman land where the noble people of the sea reside.’

9. Great food

Don’t even think about leaving Guernsey without sampling bean jar, a deliciously moreish rich stew; or gache, the local finger-licking fruit loaf, traditionally eaten smothered with rich, golden Guernsey butter. Gâche mêlée, an alluring local apple cake, also makes your heart sing. And you just have to savour a bumper bowl of seriously fabulous moules (mussels), among the freshest you’re likely to find anywhere.

10. What's missing

And the 10th reason to visit Guernsey? It’s because there are no McDonald's, Pizza Huts or Starbucks, no theme parks or zoos, no traffic jams (maximum speed limit is 35mph) and no chaos on the railways, because there are no trains.

Where to stay

The Best Western Hotel de Havelet is located on a hill on the outskirts of St Peter Port. This comfortable hotel has an indoor pool with sauna and Jacuzzi, a sheltered patio and glorious gardens.There is also ample car parking. Rooms are from £48 per person per night.

Waves, which opened in May 2009, is an opulent apart-hotel only 50 metres from Vazon Bay, popular with surfers. Enjoy a slice of luxury living including complimentary bar, concierge and a breakfast hamper delivered to your door each day. Price from £60 per person per night.