Guernsey: Speed up to take it slow

A new jet service from Gatwick to Guernsey means it’s even easier to enjoy the delights of this Channel Island on a short break. Sarah Baxter hops across the water for a long weekend of relaxed activity and gourmet delights

Guernsey is fond of speed. In a 2013 survey of UK regions, the Channel Island ranked second-highest for ownership of fast cars. And this month, regional carrier Aurigny has started using Embraer E195 jets on its Gatwick-Guernsey route, shaving five minutes off the flying time and increasing the number of available seats.

You may get there faster – but be prepared to take it slow when you arrive. The speed limit is just 35mph and no one seems in much of a rush. “The people are just more laidback,” Paul Brady, sales manager of St Peter Port’s Duke of Richmond Hotel, told me over crabcakes. “Many companies – Pizza Express, Burger King – failed here. They didn’t introduce change gradually; they didn’t work the Guernsey way.”

So, after a quick flight, I was hoping for a relaxed long weekend. On arrival, guide Elizabeth Gardener-Wheeler took me on a (leisurely) tour of the wedge-shaped island: it’s vaguely triangular, the south coast cliffs sliding down to sandy shallows in the north. Our drive passed wide beaches, Guernsey cows and parish churches. We entered the Déhus Dolmen, a neolithic tomb dating back to 3500 BC and drove to the Little Chapel, a grotto-like shrine, built in 1914 and now encrusted with shells and porcelain.

Elizabeth is not a native Sarnian, but fell in love with the island. “I’ve been here for over 20 years,” she said. “I’m even a member of the Guernsey Occupation Society – they say I’m an honorary donkey!”

Sorry? Elizabeth explained, first that Guernsey locals are called donkeys (“they’re stubborn and persevering”), and also that she’s fascinated by the island’s Second World War history. The Channel Islands were the only British territory occupied during the war. Nazi forces commandeered the island from 30 June 1940 to 9 May 1945 – it was a time of curfews and privation.

Torteval loop hole tower Torteval loop hole tower (Sarah Baxter) The evidence of this period is still conspicuous. Aside from the jumble of guns, uniforms and 65-year-old preserved plums on display at the German Occupation Museum, military bunkers and trenches scar the island; Martello towers, built in the early 19th century to keep Napoleon at bay, are topped with Nazi extensions. The level of fortification for such a small outpost is startling – over 66,000 mines were laid here. For Hitler, little Guernsey was a big prize: a strategic brick in the Atlantic wall, a potential staging post for a mainland offensive and ideal rallying propaganda – German troops on British soil.

The next day, I maintained an easy pace. A booklet of local Tasty Walks – scenic hikes, all with restaurants or cafés en route – provided my inspiration, and I headed south from St Peter Port to trace the island’s most dramatic seaboard. I was up early, and the capital’s cobbled streets and boat-bobbed marina were quiet. Castle Cornet, which has stood guard over the harbour for nearly eight centuries, was at peace – its five museums not yet open for the day.

I had no plan other than to walk. If you had energy and time enough, you could make a loop of Guernsey: it’s a 39-mile circuit. I doubted I’d get that far, but the sun was shining, the Channel glinting and the path – passing pools where Victor Hugo once bathed, and leading up into bluebell woods – was inviting.

I’d expected Guernsey to be charming, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be quite so spectacular. The cliffs, up to 100m high, were cloaked in furze and wildflowers; they dipped to secretive bays and shattered into the clear green-blue. No wonder Renoir was so fond – he painted the Moulin Huet area several times after a visit in 1883.

And there was that history too: 15 loop-hole towers were built around the island between 1778 and 1779 to deter French incursions – poignant reminders of past ugliness amid the beauty.

My shore-hugging walk was linear, and to return to St Peter Port I’d intended to detour to a bus stop when I’d had enough coast. However, given the island’s bijou proportions, I realised I could just walk back, heading inland via a shimmy of ruettes tranquilles – narrow lanes with a 15mph speed limit. This also gave me a chance to shop. Many islanders sell “hedge veg” – home-grown produce, ranging from carrots to tomatillo chutney – from their verges; you pay via an honesty box. By the time I got back to town and settled into a sea-view bar with a local Breda lager, I’d ticked off exquisite bays, a German cemetery, military defences, thatched cottages, pickled beetroot and some 2.5 billion-year-old rock. All without being in a hurry.

I had no intention of speeding up on day three. I’d thought about taking the fast ferry to tiny Herm Island (just 1.5 miles across) but instead chose a slower vessel.

A 'hedge veg' stall A 'hedge veg' stall (Sarah Baxter) Ant Ford-Parker of Outdoor Guernsey met me at Petit Bôt Bay, which – when I’d passed by the previous day – had been just a smidgen of shingle; now, the low tide revealed a sweep of soft sand. We carried kayaks to the water’s edge and pushed off.

We paddled lazily eastwards, wending through a scatter of rocks, nosing into channels, navigating close to cliffs of nesting gulls and steering around seaweed-frilled obstacles. It was as if Disney had designed a kayak ride, so perfect were the twists and turns; I half expected the Black Pearl to burst from the depths.

Alas, no Jack Sparrow. Just a snack. “Guernsey has 200-odd types of seaweed, and they’re all edible,” Ant said, scooping up a handful of what seemed to be floating spaghetti. “This one – thong weed – is the best; I put it in pasties.”

So Ant and I drifted, nibbling the salty bootlaces and startling oystercatchers as we went. We paddled a bit, paused to revel in our fish-eye view, paddled a bit more. No rush, just taking it slow.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Aurigny (01481 822886;  aurigny.com) flies to Guernsey from several UK airports. Embraer E195 jets operate four times a day on the Gatwick-Guernsey route, reducing some flight times to an underan hour; fares start at £39 one way.

Condor Ferries (0845 609 1024; condorferries.com) operates between St Peter Port and Jersey, Poole, Weymouth and Portsmouth.

Staying there

The Duke of Richmond (01481 726221; dukeofrichmond.com), in St Peter Port, has comfy beds, attentive staff and a great restaurant. Doubles from £145 B&B.

Visiting there

Outdoor Guernsey (01481 267627; outdoorguernsey.co.uk) offers a range of activities; a two and-a-half-hour kayak trip costs £35pp.

More information

visitguernsey.com

News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Service Charge Accountant

    30,000 to 35,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: We are currently recruiting on...

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?