Guernsey, a British Crown dependency in the English Channel, is one of the Channel Islands. It’s known for beach resorts like Cobo Bay and the scenery of its coastal cliffs.
A busy port since Roman times and one-time home of Victor Hugo, Guernsey’s capital, St Peter Port, is the prettiest town in the Channel Islands with fine Georgian and Regency houses, tumbling terraced gardens, winding streets and hidden leafy alleyways.
This is a tender port. Be warned that sometimes ships have to miss this port due to the high swells of the sea.
And history lovers will be in their element exploring Castle Cornet, the last Royalist stronghold of the English Civil War and now home to several museums and theatrical events.
Guernsey is very pretty. Some beautiful beaches and easy to get around. Such a lot to see and do and so little time.
For the less able, St Johns ambulance let you hire a wheelchair free of charge if you notify them in advance and they will meet you at the harbour with it!
The best way to discover the true beauty of Guernsey is on foot, exploring the Ruettes – tranquil, quiet lanes that are dedicated to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
For a great view of the sites try a bus trip. Take the No. 91 bus around the island. It normally runs every hour from the bus terminus, if there is a ship in port they put a bus on every 20 minutes so even if there’s a queue you won’t have to wait too long. The trip lasts about 90 minutes and is a real bargain at £1. However, if you want to get on and off along the route then an all-day ticket is £4.50. The terminus is a few hundred metres along to the left as you leave the area where the tender moors. Sometimes the driver gives you a running commentary of the history of the island and pointed out the local landmarks. The driver also pulled in at various beauty spots on the island to allow passengers to take photos. Halfway through the trip, he announced that we were approaching the public toilets and offered the passengers a comfort stop! If you do decided on the bus trip be careful, the buses are small to negotiate the narrow and winding roads and get full and many people are left waiting at stops along the way.
Castle Cornet; it dominates the entrance to the harbour with its massive grey outer walls. To make the most of this, try a guided tour, you will be entertained, educated and amused for an hour and a half. After your tour continue your walk round the Castle, enjoying the wonderful views of Guernsey, Herm and the sea. There are 5 museums, each very different, but all very interesting, and lots of little semi hidden gardens in the Castle. Also, do not miss the noonday firing of the cannon, the scarlet clad officers give a great display. All in all, an excellent way to spend half a day, However, be warned, flat, comfortable shoes needed, there are lots of steps and cobbles to negotiate. Cost £10, or £9 for 60+. (2016). Afterwards carry on along the breakwater to the Lighthouse for stunning views of your ship at anchor.
Fort Grey was a bastion against Napoleon and is now a fascinating Shipwreck Museum while the German Occupation Museum gives a vivid account of island life during WWII.
The German museum is just up the road, no need to pay excursion prices, easy walking distance. And less than a fiver to get in, P&O charge around £40 just to be taken a 3/4 min trip from harbour to museum.
The Underground Military Hospital is worth a visit if a little eerie. However, give the aquarium a miss.
Hauteville House; Victor Hugo’s house. It is within walking distance from the harbour, but mind you, it’s uphill. His house tells so many stories about this man – his beliefs and his worries. The house is strange and wonderful almost gothic style tastes in furniture and soft furnishings and wonderful inscriptions and messages hidden in many places. Now, you have to book a visit, on-line, for the guided tour, Full price (over 27 yo) : £8, Reduced rate (18-26 yo, teachers) : £6, Free : under 18, unemployed, disabled. The gardens however are free to explore. (Closed September – April)
Candie Gardens; In a splendid location looking out to sea, the gardens are a restful and interesting place to visit. There is the museum together with a cafe, the upper gardens with a splendid statue of Victor Hugo and then the lower gardens – a real sun trap. Although it is quite a climb to the top of the hill, and a good 15 mins walk, the gardens are quite worth it.
For a lunch recommendations then try, le petite bistro; situated on a corner just one street back from the main road as you disembark the tender. The lunch menu was served between noon and 2pm but the adjoining Le Petit Cafe advertised a great menu with no time restrictions. The two establishments are connected by an opening on the inside so it’s possible all menus are available in both venues. Then there is the terrace cafe, overlooking the harbour it also does lovely food.
When you have finished sightseeing, do leave time for shopping, as Duty Free Guernsey offers some of the world’s best bargains on cameras and electrical goods, jewellery, perfume and wine (please note opening times might change during the weekend)
It is also possible to visit the Island of Sark. A 40 minute ride away by ferry from Guernsey. Visitors arriving at Sark can choose either to walk up the footpath or take a seat on the “toast-rack”, the tractor-drawn bus. There are no cars on Sark, only tractors, bikes or horses and carriages. It has quiet pretty corners and breath-taking vistas. You can visit the Occupation and Heritage Museum, watch chocolates being made, or walk to the famous La Coupee that links Big Sark to Little Sark in the south. The pace of life is leisurely and relaxed and the perfect place to get away from it all. I can recommend the P&O excursion, ‘Isle of Sark’ £46pp (2015). You are taken by tender to Guernsey and board straight onto the Sark Ferry. On here you are given a map, return ferry tickets and return tractor bus tickets, for good views there are places to sit outside at both front and back of the ferry. You need the weather for this excursion but worth every penny.
Much better to go on an organised excursion to Sark than try a DIY. Sometimes there are problems with the tides and at least if you are on an organised excursion they have to get you back to the ship.
By Peter Dagnall
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