Small, sunny and secluded, Guernsey is perfect for a weekend retreat. Here’s how to sample the best of this Channel Island in less than 72 hours.
Guernsey is the kind of place where locals smile and greet each other in the street. Community and island pride is at the heart of all 10 of Guernsey’s parishes, and though a mix of Norman, English and German influences is evident, the island refuses to be a knock-off of any of these places. Crown dependent, yet self-governing, Guernsey is not a part of the UK nor the EU: it has its own Guernsey pound, its own language and a legal system that mixes English and Norman laws.
The island does not shy away from its complicated past but rather celebrates it during events like the Heritage Festival in spring and the Tennerfest in autumn, during which Guernsey's dedicated chefs serve up seasonal three-course meals from just £10. Only 25 square miles in size, this Channel Island has a lot on offer, from azure seas and rewarding clifftop walks to a plethora of historical attractions, good food and lip-smacking gin.
And then there’s the natural beauty. A refuge for Victor Hugo and an inspiration to Renoir, it’s rugged and wild in the south, with caves, rock pools and steep cliffs characterising the coast. Sweeping marshlands and sandy beaches offer exceptional sunset views in the west. Inland you’ll find everything from winding country lanes and picture-perfect farmlands to lush green forests adorned with bluebell carpets.
Here’s how to get a taste of the island on a weekend break.
Get there: Guernsey’s airline Aurigny operates daily flights from various airports in the UK, including London Gatwick, Manchester and Bristol, as well as Grenoble in France. The flight time from London Gatwick is only 45 minutes and the airport is located just minutes from St Peter Port.
Check-in to: Old Government House Hotel. Opulent and elegant, this historic hotel is right in the thick of it. All the main attractions, shops and restaurants in St Peter Port are just a short stroll away from the island’s only 5-star hotel and the adjacent spa offers excellent, good-value treatments. To kick back and relax in a beautiful countryside setting, try Bella Luce Hotel – an independent, family-run luxury hotel in St Martin.
Walk around: St Peter Port. Inspired by the events of the occupation and the liberation of the island, the screen adaptation of international bestseller The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society premiered in 2018. Trace the steps of the characters with a stroll down Smith Street where the Germans paraded after the occupation, then head to Castle Pier to see Guernsey from the sea just like Juliet did upon her arrival.
Continue your walk along the seafront towards the Liberation Square. As you pass by the harbour throughout your trip, note how the tide changes: the difference between low and high tide can be as much as 30 feet. Stop at the Liberation Monument and take a moment to reflect upon the sombre occupation years.
Dine at: The Brasserie Restaurant (at the Old Government House Hotel). Set in the sunny convservatory overlooking the private gardens and the harbour beyond, the restaurant loves to shine a spotlight on local specialities and seasonal produce.
Have a pint at: The Ship & Crown. It’s only fitting to finish your first day in Guernsey where much of the island's history was shaped. Order a pint of the local cider, Rocquette, and browse the historic photographs adorning the pub’s walls.
Have a doughnut at: Senners Bakery. If you happen to know a Guernsey local, you will have heard about this bakery and its legendary doughnuts. Get there early, tuck into a jam doughnut (or two) and buy some Guernsey gâche – a traditional fruit loaf – to take home.
Learn about history at: German Occupation Museum. A remarkable private collection, the Occupation Museum is the life’s work of a Guernseyman born on the island during the occupation. The museum tells the story of the island between June 1940 and May 1945. Linger in the civilian room and the occupation kitchen for a unique insight into what day-to-day life was like alongside German troops.
Take to the countryside: on a Tasty Walk. A collection of 18 self-guided trails, Guernsey’s Tasty Walks help travellers explore some of the island’s best natural features all year round. Climb the rugged cliffs and see the German bunkers or discover Victor Hugo’s Guernsey.
Lunch at: Hotel Jerbourg. The beautiful clifftop location allows for stunning views of Sark and Jersey across the water. Order the best crab sandwich you’ll ever have and bask in the sunshine before heading back down to St Peter Port.
Shop at: the Old Quarter. Once you’ve combed through the quaint antique and craft shops here, head down the high street for a mix of popular brands and local boutiques. Stop by Randalls Arcade Corkscrew for a bottle of local gin and get a Guernsey jumper from The Guernsey Shop. If you’ve time, stroll to Nelio’s Deli to buy the award-winning Torteval cheese.
Dine with a view at: Octopus. Perched on the south side of Havelet Bay, this restaurant is worth it for the views alone. Overlooking the harbour, the bay, Herm, Jethou and Sark, it’s the perfect setting for a special dinner. Order any fish or seafood dish like a bucket of oysters or local lobster. You can't go wrong with mussels either.
Taste gin at: Bella Luce Hotel. It's home to Wheadon’s Gin, one of the three gin distilleries on the island. The Wheadon family have been producing and distributing alcohol on the island for more than a hundred years and when you book a gin tasting session, you’ll learn about how their gin is made and how the marine environment has influenced the booze distilled on Guernsey.
Visit: Hauteville House. Victor Hugo's former home and refuge is much more than just a writer's residence. The house, which has just reopened after lengthy refurbishment, was designed by the writer himself and its layout and interiors are packed with symbolism meaningful to Hugo. Visit the desk where he wrote Toilers of the Sea and the ending for Les Misérables, and journey deep into the mind of a genius.
Lunch at: Le Nautique. If you haven’t noticed yet, it’s all about seafood in Guernsey. At the heart of St Peter Port, Le Nautique is the perfect place to indulge on what the depths of the Channel have to offer. Crab, dived scallops, brill and monkfish are all on the menu here.
Marvel at: The Little Chapel. On your way to the airport don’t miss an opportunity to see this unique creation. Built in 1914 by Brother Déodat, who aimed to create a miniature version of the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, it’s made from thousands of broken crockery pieces.
Staying on for longer?
For stunning views: climb Victoria Tower. Built in 1848 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s visit to the island, it’s now open to the public. Pick up the tower key from the Guernsey museum at Candie Gardens and head up the steep and narrow spiral staircase to the viewing platform. The climb is tough but worth it once you see all of Guernsey in the palm of your hand.
For an unusual beach walk: go to Lihou Island. Located off the west coast, Lihou is a small island only accessible via a causeway at low tide. As you walk round the island, see if you can spot all 150 species of birds that live there and don’t leave without paying the Priory ruins a visit. A swim in the Venus pool – a natural rock pool deep enough to jump in – is a must for the fearless. Just make sure you've checked the tide times and can make it back to Guernsey safely.
For wildlife: go island-hopping. If you have a few more days in Guernsey, take the opportunity to explore some of the other Channel Islands. To the north of Herm you’ll find a colony of Atlantic grey seals while the island’s golden sandy beaches and clear blue waters are perfect for a swim.
When the sun goes down, head to Sark (pictured above) – in 2011 it became the world’s first dark sky island. Stargazers and photographers flock here as the absence of street lights and cars gives way to countless stars and dashing meteors against the backdrop of the Milky Way.
The furthest of the islands, Alderney, is small and secluded with plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, including puffins, gunnets, seals and blonde hedgehogs.
For delicious steaks: eat at Slaughterhouse. On the edge of Guernsey harbour, this bar and restaurant has given an old slaughterhouse a new lease of life. Come here for a 26-ounce Scottish tomahawk for two, juicy burgers and slow-smoked barbecue ribs.
For more information head to Visit Guernsey.
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