For a holiday with a difference with enjoyment being the key objective, head for the Channel Islands. Island hopping with 5 islands in close proximity, each with something different to offer guarantees a holiday to remember. There is no need to worry about having to hotel hop as several of the islands can be covered from one destination. An ideal choice as a base is the island of Guernsey. Second largest of the Channel Islands, it has the islands of Herm and Sark as a backdrop and Jersey is within sight as is Alderney on a clear day.
Guernsey is a delightful island, just big enough to explore in its entirety in a short break, infinitely interesting and beautifully kept with coastal vistas that will keep you oohing and ah-ing with every step. It doesn’t feel British but rather more French from an architectural point of view. Its streets may all bear French names but British it is in all other respects. Its capital is St Peter Port, a charming and vibrant town that offers the delights of a harbour, old quarter and newer shopping district with lots of original boutiques, galleries and a varied selection of cafes and restaurants reflective of a continental, cosmopolitan lifestyle. It was the place to which Victor Hugo fled and where he penned his most famous piece of work – Les Miserables. His former home, full of character and quirky for its day, remains as it was then and is open to visitors.
Outside of St Peter Port, the island is patterned with country lanes that lead to secluded coves and all sorts of individual attractions, including The Little Chapel, a charming masterpiece of Mosaic tiling that was built during the Second World War, Sausmarez Manor with its beautiful sculpture garden, ancient burial mounds and surprisingly, a number of gold and silversmiths where you will find exquisite pieces of original jewellery, all tax free. It is worth bearing in mind that Guernsey is a VAT free haven for shoppers and there are some wonderful bargains to be had.
The coastal scenery is spectacular with lots of beaches and coves to discover as you wend your way around the island. Particularly beautiful is Bluebell Woods where at the right time of year, you can be whisked away in to a nether purple blue world that takes your breath away.
In summer the island is a hive of activity with live theatre and cultural events that provide entertainment for all ages. Guernsey’s history is long and varied and its heritage very rich. It is a pretty island too, with well-kept hedgerows and litter free countryside, abundant with flora and fauna and it’s particularly famous for its freesias and clematis.
From St Peter Port harbour it is a short ferry ride to the neighbouring islands of Herm and Sark, both with something very different to offer and just the right size for an enjoyable day out. Sark is traffic free so the only way to explore it is by horse and carriage, bicycle or on foot. It is like taking a step back in time with the added bonus of being designated the world’s first Dark Sky Island. This is the place to go to see the stars at night in all their splendour. Herm, also virtually traffic free, is an island oasis full of subtropical flowers and long stretches of unspoiled, white sandy beach. It is a little timeless world and the perfect place to spend a day and enjoy a delicious lobster lunch.
An ideal base from which to make the most of these island delights is the Fermain Valley hotel. Located just outside St Peter Port, it sits overlooking the Fermain Valley, considered one of the best spots on the island. From the hotel you can walk down the verdant valley to the beach front and enjoy a glass of wine or a meal at the Beach Café, nominated as one of the world’s top beachside cafes by Conde Naste Traveller magazine. From there you can walk a short distance into St Peter Port or head in the opposite direction and walk the cliff paths to drink in the magnificent scenery. The Fermain Valley hotel is a 4 star luxurious establishment with 2 AA Rosettes for good food and it also has a lively informal eatery in the form of The Rock Garden. Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, sauna, 2 spacious lounges, a library perfect for snuggling up in with a good book and a private cinema for guest use that includes a huge selection of DVD’s. Its decked terraces are ideal spots for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea where you can relax for hours, happy to while away time admiring the beautiful view down the valley and out to sea.
Getting around Guernsey is simple. Many people elect to walk or cycle around which you can do safely as the top speed on the island is a mere 35 mph, 25mph in coastal areas. Cyclists have right of way over traffic. The bus service is ideal for island touring and you can cover the whole island for the grand sum of just over £1. Several walking festivals are held during the course of the year and there are plenty of walking maps available to ensure you see the best of the island scenery.
Guernsey is also an island in bloom the year round. It has its own mini Battle of Flowers parade and a choice of gardens to view, both private and public.
Fermain Valley has a sister 4 star hotel in Alderney, the Braye Beach, located on a sandy beach by the island’s harbour breakwater. Twin island stays can easily be arranged by the hotel’s helpful reservation team and there are short break, twin island holiday offers available. Three or four days in Guernsey followed by a couple of days in Alderney will enable you to get a taste of 4 of the Channel Islands. With Condor ferries, the journey over to the largest of the islands, Jersey, takes less than an hour. Jersey feels a lot larger and is certainly a lot more commercial that the other Channel Islands but it is still well worth a visit in its own right.
If you want to get away from it all without having to travel a huge distance then the Channel Islands offer the perfect solution. These islands are little individual gems that deserve to be discovered and explored and like many people, you will discover that one visit is never enough – their charms will draw you back for more.
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