24 Hours in Guernsey

Fancy stepping back to a time when life had a more leisurely pace? Where people respect the countryside and where the sun shines a little bit more than in the Great Britain? Welcome to Guernsey, the second biggest Channel Island, sitting some 38 miles west of France and 100 miles south of the mainland of England.  The island, along with the small islands of Herm and Jethou, lies within the Common Travel Area of the British Isles and is not a member of the European Union, but has a special relationship with it, being treated as part of the European Community with access to the single market for the purposes of free trade in goods. Taken together with the separate jurisdictions of Alderney and Sark it forms the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

The main attraction on the island is the island itself.  There are some physical attractions such as Castle Cornet, occupying a strategic location at the edge of the harbour in St Peter Port which is good for a couple of hours, or the trio of museums – La Vallette Underground Military Museum, The German Occupation Museum and the German Underground Hospital Museum – that trace the occupation of the island in the Second World War, but many people will come in the warm months from April to September to enjoy the beautiful beaches (such as Vazon Bay or Shell Beach on nearby Herm).

If you are lucky then either the Football Club or Rugby Club, both of whom who play at Foote Lane around a mile from the town centre, will be at home, which is a decent afternoon’s entertainment.

For just a pound (even better that Guernsey has still retained the one pound note which ceased to be legal tender in March 1988 on the mainland) you can get a bus that tours the island to take in all of the popular sights on the island (all bus fares are £1 on the island for convenience).  The drivers are normally good at pointing out the locations of places of interest such as the ones above, but you may need to do your own investigations to find the four more unusual places of note below:-

  • The post box in Union Street in St Peter Port is the oldest cast-iron pillar-box still in use anywhere in the British Isles, and the only one on the island that isn’t blue.
  • The location of the world’s first underwater arrest, where Mr Kempthorne-Leigh was illegally harvesting ormers, a popular but protected mollusc, and was arrested by a scuba-diving police officer.
  • The sight, according to local folklore, where Guernsey was once invaded by a group of fairies, who were inappropriately excited by the beauty of the local women. This did not augur well with their husbands and partners. The bloody battle that ensued inspired the name of Rouge Rue in St Peter Port, which translates as “Red Road” and refers to the alleged spilt blood that flowed through the street.
  • The Hauteville House Museum, the very strange house that was home to Victor Hugo.
  • The Little Chapel, which is just as the name suggests, on the outskirts of St Peter Port.
  • The house of Martin Brady, the man with the slowest ever recorded human heart rate.

Virtually all visitors will arrive on the island via air, using the Island’s own airline, Aurigny, who fly daily from a number of UK airports including Gatwick and Stansted.  The route from Southampton Airport involves a scheduled 45 minute flight, meaning the plane is in the air for around 30 minutes, enough for even the most nervous flier.  A bus (number 95) makes the regular route to St Peter Port, taking around 20 minutes.  A cab will cost around £12.

As you would expect, Guernsey offers a wide range of accommodation for the night, with smaller Bed & Breakfast establishments opening up for the summer months.  The best hotels are the St Pierre Park Hotel, about 1.5 miles outside of St Peter Port and close to the Foote Lane Stadium, which also offers a decent restaurant (Victor Hugo Restaurant), health club and golf course, whilst the Old Government House in the centre of town is the island’s only 5-Star hotel. Other good places to stay include the Best Western Moores Central, on the High Street and just a two-minute walk to the sea front, whilst the Le Friquet Hotel is a perfect retreat outside of the bustle of St Peter Port.

In terms of suitable hostelries, as you would expect the majority of establishments in St Peter Port.  Stand out pubs, both in terms of location, friendliness and range of beers, include The Golden Lion in Market Street, Red Grill House in The Pollet and The Ship & Crown on the sea front.  In terms of decent places to eat, The Octopus which is a 20 minute walk out-of-town at Havelet Bay is great for seafood, The Boathouse has an unenviable location on the water’s edge, Da Nello is one of the best Italian’s in town and slightly further afield The Restaurant at Beaucette Marina has the location and the food.

One thing you can absolutely guarantee though is nobody ever leaves Guernsey saying they won’t be back.  It has so much warmth and beauty that it is the perfect destination, irrespective of the weather for 24 hours, albeit it isn’t quite a city.

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