The most exciting thing about travelling is arriving at a new destination. Every street, every town, every restaurant is there for you to explore. Two weeks ago I visited a new place that had been on my bucket list for years: Guernsey. Here are my thoughts on Guernsey and my tips to spend a beautiful weekend on this island.
Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands, an archipelago located off the French coast of Normandy and comprising also of Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou and Brecqhou (plus several other uninhabited islands). These islands are not part of United Kingdom, though they are all British Isles, and governed under the Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey.
Guernsey is a wonderful holiday destination to relax and unwind. The island has a unique character, unlike anywhere else I have ever been before in Britain. Getting there from UK is easy with daily ferries and direct flights from several UK cities. Aurigny Airlines flies from London Gatwick to Guernsey and the flight takes just 35 minutes.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey is English speaking and you don’t need a passport to travel here from the UK or Ireland. The currency is the British Pound and they even have their own set of beautiful notes.
Where to Stay in Guernsey
We stayed at Bella Luce Hotel, a family run boutique hotel that is part of Small Luxury Hotels Group. It’s located in the parish of St Martin, close to St Martin’s Village, to the South Coast cliff tops and to the airport.
Bella Luce is set in a historic Norman manor house surrounded by a beautiful garden with outdoor swimming pool. We were welcomed to the hotel by the warm and friendly staff and accompanied to our double bedroom overlooking the garden. I loved the quiet location and comfortable bed and pillows, as well as the modern bathroom with bathtub and shower.
Bella Luce is the perfect setting to get away from it all and experience the real Guernsey. The breakfast is served in the restaurant and guests can choose from the buffet or the à la carte menu. We loved the brioche French toast with cinnamon sugar and berries; and the Egg Royale (particularly the hollandaise sauce made with Guernsey butter). The island is renowned world-wide for its cows and the rich flavour of their milk.
Where to Eat in Guernsey
We started our holiday in Guernsey with a 5-course tasting dinner at Bella Luce, skillfully prepared by Head Chef Simon McKenzie and his team. The restaurant specialises in Modern European cuisine with seasonal dishes that showcase the best local produce. The in-house sommelier paired each dish with fantastic wines from Italy, France, Chile and Argentina.
We also had the chance to taste a few gins produced in traditional copper stills by Bella Luce’s owner Luke Wheadon. Wheadon’s Gin are made with rock samphire foraged from the nearby cliffs, mandarin limes grown in a local glasshouse, and other carefully sourced botanicals. Gin tasting sessions are available for groups on request.
On our last evening in Guernsey we had dinner at La Reunion, set in one of the most spectacular parts of the island. The view from the first floor restaurant is spectacular!
As the sun set over the Channel, we ate locally-caught seafood and drank delicious cocktails – my favourite drink was the Italian Job with fresh cucumber, gin, elderflower cordial, amber rum, lime juice, black pepper. We loved the mussels and fries, and the homemade ice cream.
On Sunday we had lunch at The Crow’s Nest, a bar and brasserie housed in a historic building overlooking the harbour. My husband ordered a classic fish & chips which was delicious, while I enjoyed a big portion of seafood linguine.
What to Do in Guernsey
Stroll around St. Peter Port
The capital city of Guernsey, St. Peter Port, is located on the east side of the island facing the smaller islands of Herm and Sark. Ferries leave daily from the port in the direction of United Kingdom and France.
We spent Sunday afternoon walking around the harbour and the narrow cobbled streets of the picturesque old town. Every street is an Instagrammer dream with its beautiful buildings, flowers hanging from the windows colorful bunting running across from side to side. No wonder St. Peter Port is considered one of Europe’s prettiest harbour towns.
You will find all the usual high street chains you would find in UK alongside some lovely independent shops for clothing, accessories and food. I wished I had more time to spend here, but unfortunately most of the shops were closed on Sunday afternoon.
Eat at Seafront Sunday Food Festival
Our visit to Guernsey coincided with one of the four mini-festivals that take place from May to August. The Seafront Sunday Food Festivals focus each month on a different type of produce: locally caught, locally grown, locally reared, locally produced.
The festivals are part of the island’s efforts to highlight local food, efforts that will culminate in the Guernsey Food Festival next month, on 15th – 24th September. There’s no better time to visit Guernsey and make the most of all the events planned: from the Big Guernsey Market which will turn the Crown Pier into a street food village, to live food demos, from producer tours to themed dinners showcasing signature dishes from Guernsey’s finest restaurants; from wine tastings to a Beer & Cider Festival.
I loved tasting locally produced foods and beverages during Seafront Sunday food festival. The town seafront was pedestrianised for the day and some of the best producers and chefs were there to showcase their products. We learnt all about the local gastronomy with Ross Gledhill from Taste Guernsey.
One of Guernsey’s most famous delicacies are the oysters from Herm island and Rocquaine Bay. You can taste these at the Guernsey Food Festival too.
Travelling for me is all about tasting the best local food and when it comes to Guernsey there’s no better time to visit than the annual food festival.
Hike to Moulin Huet and Saints Bay
We decided to hire bicycles from our hotel (£15 for a day) and cycle to St. Peter Port, rather than taking a taxi. I love cycling, but in Guernsey I would recommend choosing electric bikes, as the route from the port to the south of the island is VERY steep. Once we made it back up to St. Martin, we cycled around the rural lanes and Ruette Tranquilles (follow the green signs). We hopped off the bikes to hike on the path to Moulin Huet Bay (where French painter Renoir painted 15 famous pieces) and Saints Bay, a beautiful sandy cove surrounded by sheltering cliffs.
Take a trip to Herm Island
There is so much to explore in Guernsey, but if you have the time, you should consider visiting the nearby island of Herm for a few hours. The ferry from St. Peter Port takes just 20 minutes! The car-free island will surprise you with its golden sandy beaches and wild cliff paths.
The village centre has two shops, a pub, a cafè and a hotel. It’s a tiny village for a tiny island: there are only 67 residents here, including Jonathan Watson, CEO of the Herm Island Ltd. I enjoyed talking to Jonathan about life on Herm, especially in winter when all the restaurants close for a month, about the school with 6 students, about how people who want to move here have to first meet the residents for a chat to ensure they all get along.
We ate a delicious lunch at The Ship Inn brasserie (part of White House Hotel), where dishes feature locally foraged ingredients such as sea lettuce, elderflower and rock samphire. I loved the oysters and the fish cakes.
After lunch, my husband and I went for a leisurely walk around the island, following the path north from the village.
In about 20-25 minutes we reached the beautiful sandy beach of Shell beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Britain. I wished I had brought a towel and swimsuit as the weather for perfect for a quick dip in the crystal blue water!
We kept walking south towards the next beach, equally beautiful but smaller, at Belvoir Bay. From there it’s just 15 minutes to walk back to the village from the south side.
The highlight of my day trip to Herm was visiting the Herm Oyster Farm and meeting Justin de Carteret for a tour of the oyster beds.
Herm oysters grow quickly in this area, thanks to the waters of the Gulf stream, which are rich with nutrients. Herm has the second largest tide difference in the world: the water rises up to 10 metres in the afternoons. Seven knots of water tide push in the oysters every day and make them grow quicker. Oysters can grow to 80 grams in just twelve months (instead than 3 years as I learnt at the oyster farm in Ile de Ré).
Justin checks on the oysters regularly and when they reach the weight of 66-85 grams, they are harvested and taken to St Malo to be sold in the French market. The bigger oysters are generally sold in Guernsey. It was fascinating to meet the team behind Herm Oysters, who do a fantastic job to keep this local treasure alive.
There are many more things to do in Guernsey, but of course two days were not enough for us to discover it all. Other activities you can do include a tour of Castle Cornet, a fortress that has stood guard over St. Peter Port for more than 800 years; a swim at La Valette bathing pools; or a visit to the island home of Victor Hugo, now a museum.
Have you been to Guernsey? What are your favourite sights on the island?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Guernsey Tourism Office. All opinions are my own.