There’s just something about holidaying on an island. Whatever that ‘something’ is, it makes all of your previous land-locked holidays seem, well, not quite as nice. But this time, forget palm trees and piña coladas. This time, think cows and crab. This time, think Guernsey.
Just off the coast of Normandy, Guernsey is one of the five Channel Islands (the others being Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Herm). With a flight time from London of around an hour, Guernsey is the ideal short-haul destination if you’re looking for spectacular scenery (scenery that you could easily mistake for a tropical much-further-south island), delicious food and good ol’ fashioned R&R.
There are enough beaches, restaurants, attractions and history to last you all summer, but it’s small enough to enjoy the best of the island in just a few days. Although a six-week summer stay on Guernsey would have been my preferred way to visit, my trip fit in the latter category – two nights at the boutique Fermain Valley Hotel.
The Fermain Valley Hotel is approached by a single-width downhill lane and only comes into view after you’ve turned onto the short circular drive. But, the hotel might not be the first thing you notice. Instead, your eyes will most likely wander to the breathtaking panoramic views of Fermain Bay and the sea beyond – one of the hotel’s many boasting points.
Offering a variety of accommodation from Silver to Platinum, each of the 45 rooms are individually designed, and cater for all travellers, whether going solo or with the whole family. All rooms include a complimentary decanter of sherry, fresh fruit, Sky-TV, 24-hour room service and luxury White Company toiletries. If you’re lucky, you might have found availability in a balcony room overlooking the bay below. Whatever your room of choice, it’ll be lovely. I know ours was.
With two restaurants, a swimming pool, sauna, 3D cinema and gorgeous gardens – plus a complimentary shuttle bus service to town – and just a short 10-minute stroll to the pebble beach below (though a bit longer to navigate the steep hill back up), its location and amenities are second to none.
The rooms at the Fermain Valley are located over two separate and unique buildings: The Venue¬, the newest part of the hotel, boasts 13 bedrooms, a Mexican restaurant and the hotel’s very own (and Guernsey’s only) live escape room; and the main hotel, featuring 32 bedrooms, indoor swimming pool, sauna, Greek restaurant, steakhouse and tea rooms.
We stayed in a Gold room, with a gorgeous view over the valley towards the sea. The balcony was a treat – the perfect escape on a warm evening when the kids were in bed (to sip some of the lovely complimentary sherry).
I particularly liked the fresh, comfortable décor – it seemed to be an indoor reflection of what Guernsey was like outdoors – fresh sea air, golden sunshine and carefree and really helped bring that sunshiny feeling in. Of course the kids couldn’t survive without WiFi, which was free and fast, and mum and dad thoroughly enjoyed the cosy bathrobes and late-night room service when the kids were snoozing away.
Food and drink
Fermain Valley Hotel might be a bit of show off when it comes to dining, being home to three of the island’s best restaurants, plus a bright and airy tearoom. Their award-winning chefs have created mouthwatering menus offering delicious local dishes, with something for the whole family.
The Rock Garden Steakhouse
Serving the finest steaks from Herefordshire-reared fillets to Brazilian rib eyes, The Rock Garden Steakhouse’s ethos is to provide taste bud hedonism, and they truly deliver that promise. Start with some Guernsey crab cakes, splurge on Chateaubriand for two or a 350g black gold t-bone, and end with cheesecake with poached apricot and cinnamon crumbs, while the kids enjoy rock and roll mac and cheese and indulgent cheese fries with baked beans. Food heaven.
Ocean Green Eats
Ocean Greek Eats offers a Greek-inspired menu with delectable Mediterranean dishes, open all day for light bites or lunch and dinner for the full menu. On colder days, dine inside the cosy restaurant, or on one of those beautiful sun-filled island days, make the most of the sunshine outside on the sheltered terrace with stunning views of the bay below. From homemade lamb ravioli to riso seafood pasta, there’s something to suit all tastes.
Fresh food, delicious drinks and lively music combine to create Buho, the hotel’s Latina cantina. Try Buho for a breakfast less ordinary, and try the huevos benedictos with chilli and chorizo, or avocado ‘colacado’ with mushrooms and chilli on toasted sourdough. For dinner, the whole family can dive into a portion of Buho nachos overflowing with refried beans, cheese, guacamole, jalapeños and your choice of street food filling; or, how about something slightly more adventurous like the pan-fried wild sea bass with slow-roasted cactus?
The Valley Tea Rooms
A holiday in the UK wouldn’t be complete without indulging in afternoon tea once or twice. Escape the stress of everyday life and enjoy an impressive range of homemade cakes, biscuits or a full afternoon tea with a variety of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes.
Without a doubt, a guided tour of Guernsey is a must. There’s so much history to learn, and the best way to cover all the bases is on a tour. The whole family was quickly absorbed into the colourful past, unique traditions and stunning scenery of the island. Learn interesting facts about Guernsey, from ‘hedge veg’ (local products sold in small boxes or stalls outside private residences – honesty box and all), Guernsey’s famous cows and goats, to the interesting ties to Victor Hugo and even Paul Revere (the American patriot).
I was utterly fascinated by the history, from the ancient burial grounds (4000BC!), to the newspapers and letters published during the German occupation, to the 3rd-century Roman shipwreck found in St Peter Port harbour. And let’s not forget the scenery! Almost everywhere you look there’s either a jaw-dropping view of cliffs and sea, or a street lined with beautifully kept homes and endless rows of overflowing flower baskets.
St Peter Port
With its cobbled streets, boutique shopping, quaint cafés and endless historical sites to boot, the island’s capital is a holidaymaker’s dream. Whether you fancy a day at a castle (Castle Cornet), tea and cake amongst the flowers (Candie Gardens), a spot of literary history (Hauteville House, the home of Victor Hugo), or a search around one of the many museums (the Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery and La Vallette Underground Military Museum are worth a visit), St Peter Port has something for everyone. There are plenty of guided walking tours available, or if you’d rather be chauffeured, hop on ‘Le Petit Train’ at the harbour for a narrated driving tour, hitting all the top spots.
This impressive castle has guarded Guernsey’s harbour for over 800 years. Explore the battlements and marvel at the breathtaking views towards the other Channel Islands. A trip to Castle Cornet gives you access to four museums, four period gardens, the refectory and shop, and kids can join in the children’s trails or enjoy living history performances (from Easter to Sep).
Day Trip to Herm
Herm Island is a place like no other: no cars, no crowds, just beautiful beaches, views galore and pure, unadulterated relaxation. Visit Shell Beach, a 20-minute walk from the harbour, and let the kids run free and wild while you soak up the sun. Hire a canoe and explore the coast, or stop at a beach café for an ice lolly or a snack. Have a pint of Herm’s own golden ale at The Mermaid Tavern, and don’t forget to stop and pick up a souvenir at the Herm Shop.
Rooms and suites at Fermain Valley can be booked from £160/night double occupancy.
Address: Fermain Lane, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1ZZ
Phone: 0800 316 0314