Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A weekend in Guernsey

The freshest crab, rich yellow butter, punchy cider and the sweetest tomatoes are just some of the things I associate with Guernsey.  As an island (one of the eight inhabited Channel Islands) Guernsey naturally has access to some amazing seafood but the warm climate also allows people (both commercially and personally) to grow an abundance of fruit and veg.  My parents moved to Guernsey eleven years ago, so I’ve spent quite a lot of time there.  The food is always a highlight.

The waters around Guernsey offer an amazing variety of seafood, including oysters, lobster, crab and sea bass.  The best place to buy crab from is the Crab Cabin, in the parish of Vale, where you can buy pots of freshly picked local crab.  Seafresh Fishmongers, on the fishing quay in St Peter Port, sells high-quality, local fish and shell fish, supplied straight from the fishing boats.  It’s also possible to hire fishing equipment locally, if catching your own appeals.

Classic 'Hedge veg' box.  I love the sign at the top.
If you visit Guernsey, you’ll quickly notice the ‘Hedge Veg’ boxes – these are boxes that people put out in the hedges in front of their houses, to sell the excess produce from their gardens.  Payment is made via an honesty box.   I love this system.  It really is the best place to buy fruit and veg for extremely reasonable prices.  Can’t see it catching on in London though!

The farmers market , held very Saturday at Sausmarez Manor, is a great place to pick up local produce, including jams, cheeses, bread and eggs.  When we were there last, there was also a French food market in St Peter Port.

Lovely garlic display at the French food market

One of my favourite things about Guernsey is the stunning coastline.  The dramatic cliffs give way to clear, blue waters and more than 20 beaches.  Several offer long stretches of white sand, others have rock pools to play in at low tide.  Many are easily accessible by car, others take a little more effort to reach on foot.  I love Fermain Bay: a ten minute walk through some very pleasant cliff-side woodland and you’re rewarded with a pretty little bay and a very popular cafe.  If you can bag yourself a seat, the best thing on the menu is the crab sandwich – packed full of locally caught, sweet crab.

It's that way

Fermain Bay

Fermain Bay Cafe

Cobo Bay, on the West coast, is the best spot to catch the sunset and people queue up for fish and chips, to eat whilst the sun goes down.  Vazon is Guernsey’s surfing beach and you’ll see people out all year round. 

Pembroke beach is another of my favourite spots – with its long sweep of white sand. 

Pembroke beach

Lancresse Common golf club overlooks the beach, so watch out for flying golf balls.  One of the reasons our dog, Molly, loves this walk is because she can steal them! 

Molly hunting for golf balls

There are a few cafes on the beach, including The Beach House, which is a gorgeous spot to take in the view over a glass of wine.    When you're on the coast, it’s worth hunting out proper Guernsey ice cream.  Disappointingly, many of the cafes now only seem to serve standard packaged ice creams or Mr Whippy-esque cornets.  Persevere, Guernsey ice cream is delicious and unbelievably creamy.

Cafe at Pembroke

As you make your way around the coast, you can’t help but notice the scale of the German fortifications – bunkers and towers pepper the coastline.  The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be invaded, and occupied, by German forces during World War Two.  Liberated on the 9th May 1945, the islands celebrate a national holiday each year on this day.  If you fancy a bit of a history lesson, there are plenty of places to learn more about the German occupation, including Castle Cornet, The Underground Museum and The German Occupation Museum.
I think Guernsey is a great place to visit for the weekend, or even longer.  It’s also possible to do day trips to some of the other islands, including Herm, Sark and Jersey.  Sark is my favourite and i’ll put up a blog post soon on our recent day trip to the island.
Eating out:
Stunning cliff-top location with views across St Peter Port and the other islands.  Contemporary restaurant, serving seasonal food, including seafood and excellent steaks.  Service can be very hit and miss.
Located in St Peter Port, with great views of the harbour and Castle Cornet.  Good selection of fish and seafood.
A traditional restaurant, with a wide selection of fish and seafood.  Ask for a window table, for views over the harbour.  It's best to eat quite early here, as service can be slow when the restaurant gets busy.
A brasserie that makes great use of local produce.  Fantastic puds.
There are numerous options for self-catering.  Otherwise, Fermain Valley Hotel and The Old Government House Hotel get consistently good reviews.  I understand that the Bella Luce has also been refurbished, although I haven't visited it myself.
Getting there:
Three airlines fly to Guernsey:
Prices tend to be broadly similar.  Flybe charges extra for hold luggage.
Condor Ferries offer regular services to Guernsey

Good sources of information:


  1. I have to fight the carnivore's corner here as I favour the steak sarnie at Fermain over the crab. Great minute steak served with homemade sweet chilli sauce in warm ciabatta is a Guernsey summer classic.

    A couple of other pointers: Fermain Bay Cafe is only open April-October, and while Cobo is the best place to EAT your fish & chips, Beeton's (located here - http://goo.gl/RnXhA) is consistently the best for the food itself. Gets rather busy but it's worth it.

  2. Ha ha, I still think the crab sandwich wins - you can have a steak sarnie anywhere. Useful additions though, thank you. xx p.s did you like the Molly pic?

  3. Hi there
    This is a wonderful commentary on Guernsey and I really enjoyed reading it. I am about to launch a travel / information website for Guernsey and would love to submit this article if I may onto my site as it reads brilliantly, with your permission of course. If you want a sneak preview of my site please go to www.mydestination.com/guernsey - not officially launched yet but it will any day soon once the admin team in the UK have made it SEO friendly and done thier final spell check. Then I am good to go. But would be very keen to keep in touch with you as feel it is time to put this gorgeous rock on the global map. Many thanks

  4. Hi Jayne

    Thanks for your kind words. Your site looks great - lovely photography.

    Very happy for you to use the article, with a link back to my site. Let me know if you need it in a different format.

    Best of luck with the website launch. And do get in touch if I can contribute anything else.



Thanks very much for stopping by. Always love to hear your comments. c