The island of Guernsey belongs to the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a group of islands in the English Channel that includes Sark, Alderney, Herm, Jethou, Burhou, Lihou, and Brechou. The island’s capital is St. Peter Port. Guernsey is the largest and most prominent of the islands in the Bailiwick. Guernsey’s landscape is tranquil and idyllic, characterized by high cliffs on the south coast and pretty bays along the sandy beaches of its west. The island is an absolute treasure chest of scenery – wooded valleys, blooming flowers, orchid fields, secret coves, and golden beaches. It is no wonder Victor Hugo chose to make this island his refuge.
Historians believe Guernsey was created by rising sea levels around 6000 BC, which cut off the island from continental Europe. Neolithic farmers settled the coasts of the island, evidenced by the sculpted dolmens and menhirs (standing stones) that dot the island. Over the last millennium, the island has been fought over by the English, French, Spanish Aragonese, and the German Nazis. In WWII, Guernsey Island was the second most fortified area in all of Europe and today much of the German fortifications remain intact for visitors to explore.
Getting to Guernsey should not be a problem. The island has an airport and year-round ferries arriving from London, St. Malo, France, and the other Channel Islands. While the island can be used as a base for exploring the other Channel Islands like Alderney, Sark, Herm, and the Bailiwick of Jersey, Guernsey itself offers enough to do that there easily might not be time for the other islands.
Water activities like sailing, swimming, yachting, surfing, and fishing can be had at the numerous bays and beaches of Guernsey. L’Ancresse in Vale, which is in the northern end of the island, is perhaps the best. It is an award winning sandy beach with first-rate facilities along with cafes and restaurants. The Cobo in Castel is another award-winning beach and is located by a large sandy bay. At the northern end of the beach, there is a Cobo Village Center where you’ll find fish and chips shops, restaurants, and hotels. Other notable beach and bay areas include L’Eree in St. Peter Port, the Portelet Bay in Torteval, the Petit Bot in Forest, and the Moulin Huet in St. Martin’s, the latter is attractive for its sandy coves, wooded alleys, and water lanes.
There are a number of cultural and historic sites you can visit as well. The Victor Hugo House, for example, is in St. Peter Port, where you’ll find the well-preserved home he lived in for fourteen years of his life. Military sites abound like the Fort Hommet, where you’ll find a restored WWII gun site, the Germany Occupation Museum, which outlines the history of the German occupation of the island during WWII, and the Pleinmont Observation Tower, which was built by the Germans as a naval lookout. And there are cultural sites and museums like the Guernsey Tapestry, which is an exhibit of tapestries illustrating the last thousand years of history on the island, the Castle Cornet, an ancient royal fortress harbored in St. Peter Port, and the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery, which exhibits various Victorian artifacts and art.
Guernsey is full of botanical gardens and nature reserves as well. The Sausmarez Manor in St. Martin’s, for example, is home to a subtropical garden and art park exhibiting the works of many sculptors. For bird-watching, hikes, and cliff walks that will lead you in and around the unique flora and fauna of Guernsey, you can try the Cliff Paths on the south coast of the island, the Fort Hommet Headland in Castel, the Vale Pond & C.J McCathie Nature Reserve, La Claire Mare in St. Pierre du Bois, or the many other environmental sites of Guernsey.
The best part of Guernsey is perhaps its traditional cuisine, recognized as first-rate and renowned for its myriad seafood dishes. Dishes involving the chancre fish or the spider crab are considered to be the best in the world. Other dishes involving ormers and the gastropods found off of Guernsey’s coasts are equally mouth-watering. The lobster, bass, and mussels dishes are more standard but just as delicious. If you are lucky enough to be in town in July, the entire island holds a month-long seafood festival and its many restaurants concoct special seafood menus.