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Quiet beaches, warm seas and woodland walks: Why Jersey makes for the most invigorating autumn break

Antonia Windsor finds solitude and food festivals on the biggest Channel Island during a stirring shoulder-season holiday

Tuesday 10 October 2023 15:23 BST
<p>A view over St Brelade’s Bay</p>

A view over St Brelade’s Bay

Half a mile of golden sand stretches towards a calm sea. The desert-like expanse is broken here and there with a dash of colour – over by the pink granite sea wall, two mature women blow up their neon swim floats, further down a dog walker throws an orange ball, and at the shoreline a man in a wetsuit drags a red kayak into the water. The sun is warm on my face as I ponder an autumn dip.

Jersey is a joy for wild swimming. With 44 miles of coastline there’s a beach for every mood and hour of the day. This particular one is my favourite, not least because you can step out onto it from a choice of three hotels that line the bay. I’m wearing a white bathrobe that bears the embroidered monogram of St Brelade’s Bay Hotel, the oldest and most characterful of the trio, which is tucked into a lush hillside at the western corner. Yesterday, in the early morning sunshine, I had a refreshing swim in the heated outdoor pool and felt like I was squeezing out the last drips of summer, while all around me the garden was beginning to turn golden. Today I looked up the sea temperature: 18C, the same as the air and so I happily crossed the road for a salt-water swim.

Even in summer, the beaches of this southerly Channel Island are rarely crowded. But now, as the seasons shift, they are serenely still.

Autumn can still see sunny skies and warm waters at St Brelade’s

From the water, I watch a jogger come to a halt and begin the round of yoga poses known as sun salutations. She is unselfconscious because she thinks that nobody is watching; and, apart from me, nobody is.

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I experience this exhilarating solitude myself later as I crunch through the fallen leaves on the floor of the island’s “forgotten forest”. I grew up in Jersey, but only recently discovered the arboretum that surrounds St Peter’s Val de la Mare reservoir. Within the space of a few hundred metres you can encounter giant American redwoods, Japanese cypresses and Australian bottlebrushes and eucalyptus trees. The trees were donated to the island by the Moores family in the 1970s and planted in memory of their son Nigel, who had died in a car accident. After several years they were completely forgotten and allowed to grow to full size without any human interference. At this time of year, the trees are at their most splendid, with the deciduous trees thrown into relief against the evergreens.

Autumn is my favourite time of year in Jersey, not just because the summer tourists have departed, the sea is warm and the landscapes are looking particularly fine. But also because there’s a glut of local festivals and traditions. In celebration of the island’s cider making, Hamptonne Country Life Museum hosts the La Fais’sie d’Cidre over the weekend of 14 October. The granite cider press is hooked up to a shire horse, there’s apple bobbing for the kids and you can sample a Jersey wonder (a twisted donut-like sweet treat that each island family has its own recipe for). Of course you’ll also want to try some local cider; I suggest La Robeline’s Cidre de Jerri, which is made in the Normandy style, where a second fermentation in the bottle produces the fizz. If you don’t make it to the island in time for the festival, you can pick up a bottle or two of this apple alchemy from farm shops and supermarkets.

Jersey is bathed in golden hues as summer ends and autumn begins

New for this year is the Delicious Dine Out festival, which is running from 1 October to 12 November. The festival brings local ingredients to the fore, with special menus that centre on local produce. At the town-centre restaurant Samphire you can order a three-course lunch for £39 and feast on a starter of soft-poached Jersey hen’s egg, with baby gem, chorizo jam and crispy potato; a main of Jersey skate wing with curly kale and peppercorn sauce; and a dessert of lemon posset with glazed Jersey figs and local honey ice cream.

The Moorings Hotel in Gorey, meanwhile, is offering a three-course menu for lunch or dinner for £35, which includes a starter of hand-dived scallops with Jersey leek puree and foraged Jersey seaweed butter, a main of local lobster spaghetti, and dessert of Jersey cream and strawberry shortbread, among other options. And the popular Tennerfest runs from 1 October to 30 November and sees a host of restaurants offering fixed-price menus from £10 (many hover around the £20 mark).

Seabass and sunset for dinner at Nude Dunes

After my day of exercise, I decide to indulge in a plate of sea bass with crushed potatoes and broccoli at Nude Dunes, a new restaurant built right into the sea cliff at La Pulente. And, because it’s autumn, I don’t have to wait for a table – and the sun sets dramatically outside the window.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Travelling flight-free

Take the train to Poole from where you can catch Condor Ferries (you can take bicycles and pets on the ferry). Journey time is about four and a half hours and if you are lucky you might spot a dolphin or two out of the window in the waters between Guernsey and Jersey.

Travelling by air

Blue Islands, easyJet and British Airways, Aer Lingus and Jet2 fly to Jersey from 20 UK airports.

Staying there

The four-star St Brelade’s Bay Hotel offers a full leisure centre with heated indoor pool, gym, spa and steam room, along with lush gardens, an outdoor pool (open until the end of October) and a sea-facing restaurant.

More information

Further inspiration for autumn adventures visit the Jersey tourist board website.

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