Visiting Guernsey - What to See and Do
(Guernsey Airport GCI, Channel Islands)
The number two island in the Channel Islands archipelago, Guernsey
lies in the English Channel, being closer to the French coast of Normandy than it is to England
. The Channel Islands are a British Crown Dependency, and Guernsey has its own currency, the Guernsey Pound, which is not accepted as legal currency in the UK. Of note, this archipelago forms the last bastion of the ancient Dukedom of Normandy.
This is a small island with a population in the region of 65,000 people, many of whom speak French, as well as English. Outside the urban area, residents speak the Norman-French dialect, Guernesiais, which is still taught in the island's schools. St. Peter Port is the only town, being home to a small port which hosts ferry and catamaran services to the nearby islands of Jersey
, Alderney and Sark, St. Malo in France
, and Weymouth
on the south coast of England.
The Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans during WWII, and remains of the heavy German defences are still found all around Guernsey's coastline, with a few open to the public. The warm climate attracts visitors, but the island's main source of revenue is as a tax haven and financial centre. Buses, taxis, bicycles and on foot are the only ways to travel between attractions.
Ten things you must do in Guernsey
- Castle Cornet has loomed over St. Peter Port and its harbour for over 800 years, and nowadays hosts four museums - the Maritime Museum, the Story of Castle Cornet, the RAF 201 Squadron Museum and the RGLI Regimental Museum. The fortress is set in ancient gardens dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
- Guernsey's beaches are unspoiled, sandy and mostly free of crowds and noise, being a great summer daytime attraction for families with children. Building sandcastles and paddling while mum and dad relax with several good books are favourites, and barbecues or a fish and chip supper while watching the sunset are the perfect way to end the day.
- The beaches along the island's west coast are well-known for their surf breaks and sailboarding opportunities, with generations of residents joining visitors to catch a wave. The best spot for surfing is Vazon Bay, and for beginners there's a surf school just off the beach.
- Boating, fishing and sailing are all popular activities here. You can choose between chartering a private boat with a skipper or joining one of the regular boat trips around the island. If you are planning a day of fishing, the local skippers will take you to the best offshore location at all times of the year.
- A day trip to the intriguing island of Sark takes you back in time to the only feudal fiefdom still operating in Europe. This tiny island has its own laws, parliament and dialect, and is ruled by its Seigneur. It is also peaceful, stress-free and beautiful, with cars prohibited, no street lighting and horse-drawn vans being the only way to travel.
- Dining out in Guernsey is a real treat, with a great choice of gastro-pubs, fine dining restaurants, cafes, bistros, eat-in fish and chip shops, and brasseries serving international and local dishes. Prices are more reasonable than you would expect, and the ambience and service are charming in a refreshingly old-fashioned way.
- Guernsey is famous for its dairy industry, especially for the rich cream and butter produced here since time immemorial. The best way to experience this is the traditional Guernsey afternoon tea, served in tearooms all over the island. Expect freshly baked scones smothered with lashings of thick cream and homemade jam, or a slice of delicious traditional fruit cake spread with freshly churned butter.
- Adventure sports enthusiasts and outdoor activity buffs don't have to miss out here, with the island's amazing coastline and 10-metre / 33-foot tidal range giving great coasteering and kayaking. Guide-led swims and cliff-climbing are equally popular and, for walkers, the entire island with all its stunning sea views can be easily covered in just a few days.
- For a unique British history lesson, Guernsey's fascinating German Occupation Museum has the best display in the Channel Islands of WWII relics, photographs, dioramas and audio-visual aids. This unusual attraction was opened in the mid-1960s, while the entire history of the five-year German occupation is told by islanders who had lived through this era and worked against it in many subtle ways.
- Stroll around St. Peter Port, enjoying the fishing-village feel to much of this town, admiring the historic homes and 12th-century church, before visiting Victor Hugo's house where he wrote his novel 'Toilers of the Sea', set in the village of St. Sampson. In the afternoon, make your way to Rocquaine Bay, with its Maritime Museum dedicated to the area's many shipwrecks.