St Peter Port
My Great Grandfather was born on the island of Guernsey in 1867. He married my Great Grandmother Harriet Jane from Alderney in The Holy Trinity Church in 1890, before they moved to the mainland and settled in Woolston, Southampton. He returned to the island years later and unfortunately died there during the occupation years in 1943. With such family links it is hardly surprising that Guernsey has always played an important part in our lives.
The first time I visited Guernsey I was just a twinkle in my mother’s eye, but later, as a small child, we stayed at The Fermaine Valley Hotel, set in its own secluded valley and yet well positioned for St Peter Port and all the amenities. I have fond memories of walks along the breathtaking coastal paths and visiting little sandy coves. In those days all we needed was fresh air, sand, sea and a few interesting rock pools to satisfy our curiosity. On a recent visit we lunched at the Fermaine Bay’s terraced restaurant and were impressed with the hotel’s modernised transformation.
Through my eyes as a child, the little ferry to Herm was magical, like being transported to your own desert island, with a shell beach to while away many a happy hour. The longer trip to Sark was just as fun, although I remember looking longingly at the many horse and traps, wondering why ‘our family never did things like that’. We returned to Sark a few years later for a week’s holiday in May, staying at The Aval du Creux. We initially flew to Guernsey, but the transfer by ferry was another unforgettable
experience. As a family of walkers, there was certainly plenty to occupy our time on the island. On the day of our departure the waiters presented us with posies of flowers. ‘Throw them over the side of the ferry as you leave, to promise you’ll return,’ they explained. I’ve only recently fulfilled that promise and Sark has actually changed very little over the years.
I did not return to Guernsey until I was a young adult, when I stayed at a hotel in St Martin’s, which was tucked away down a tiny lane leading towards the stunning cliff top walks. We used a bus for quite a lot of this trip, hiring a car for only one day. The
busses are frequent and the service comprehensive, making all the resorts and places of interest easily accessible. I remember visiting the Pearl and Freesia Centres and the famous tiny shell chapel during this stay.
A few years later, when I was beginning to research for my novel and my parents were delving into our family history, we booked a dual centre break, staying for three nights on Alderney before flying to Guernsey. We stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of St Peter Port, renting a hire car to travel around the island with ease. It was a busy few days, spending a lot of time in the Records Office, The Priaulx Library, The Guernsey Museum and newspaper archives.
A couple of years after that visit I travelled there once more, only this time it was on my own, taking the slow ferry from Portsmouth. I chose this method of transport to experience the journey my Great Grandparents made all those years ago, making the seven hour ride part of the holiday and my research. I stayed at Les Cothills, which is now a very comfortable and friendly Christian Guest House, especially suitable for a single female traveller. I would certainly recommend Guernsey as a destination for solo travel; a friend of mine even camped there once, on her own. I always felt safe, there was plenty to do and many places you could eat and visit without feeling uncomfortable.
We last stayed on Guernsey in 2009 when we were over in The Channel Islands for the book launch of my novel ‘Riduna’.
We journeyed by Fastcat from Poole and camped at Les Fauxquets Valley, a quiet inland site, excellent location and superb facilities. During this trip we rediscovered Lancresse Bay to the north of the island and Jedburgh Point to the South and generally enjoyed the relaxed freedom that only a camping holiday can give. (I have written an article about camping on Guernsey which was published on The Visit Guernsey Diary Blog in September) We also enjoyed the cultural experiences of The
Folk Museum in Saumarez Park, Sausmarez Manor and the Victorian Shop in Cornet Street. During our stay we hopped over to Alderney by plane for three nights, the only regular form of transport from Guernsey to Alderney, as far as I know.
Guernsey is one of those places which is special in all the different seasons. The spring flowers are a delight, with white and red campion mingling with blue bells along the coastal walks. Summer on Guernsey is generally a touch warmer than the UK, being that much further south, and quiet places can easily be discovered, even in its busiest season. The food is excellent and people
friendly, making each stay pleasurable and yet unique.