We’ve just spent a wonderful 4 days on the island of Guernsey, where we were so generously hosted by our lovely friends who have lived, worked and raised their family here for almost 40 years.
Leaving Tigín on a ‘sleepover’ in a campsite in St Malo we took the 2 hour ferry crossing to the island, with our bikes. The capital St Peter Port made quite the first impression, Victoria Tower and Elizabeth College on the skyline and layers of old granite buildings tumbling over the hillside down to the harbour front. One of the first things I noticed were the stunning floral displays, along the quay, in window boxes, on roundabouts, in planters..everywhere. These are a regular Summer feature of the town, although it is looking particularly festive as the island was in the middle of hosting the bi-annual Island Games, where 24 island teams from all over the world, some 2,200 athletes, compete in 14 different sports.
We took a drive down two way, single track, narrow lanes to Jerbourg, a peninsula on the South East corner of the island and walked along clifftop paths, in glorious sunshine, with views over a turquoise sea, to Jersey in the distance and the small beaches and inlets below us, including Moulin Huet Bay captured in the famous painting by Renoir.
A 45 minute ferry ride to the nearby island of Sark was like stepping back in time. Narrow lanes with high hedges, full of wild flowers. There are no cars allowed, only horse drawn carriages, bicycles and the occasional tractor made their way up and down the clay roads. The rise up from the harbour is steep and a tractor drawn people movers, known locally as the ‘toast-rack’ brings recent arrivals up to the ‘main street’ where a 200m stretch of tree lined road called The Avenue has shops, galleries, bike hire and cafes. A little further on is a small visitor centre and next door a tiny prison. Next is the little church, followed by the medical centre, outside which stood a red panniered electric bike, which declared itself to be “Sark Medical Practice, Emergency Response Team’, we later encountered the island’s tractor drawn ambulance on the harbour. Tourism and agriculture is the way of life for the 500 or so inhabitants of the 5 km square island and ingenuity seems to be their hallmark.
Back on Guernsey we visited a tiny mosaic-ed chapel, watched the sunset on the West coast and saw the remnants of the German occupation of Guernsey during WWII. Exploring the countryside with its patchwork of small fields and lanes is easy especially for walkers, cyclists and even horse riders. Criss-crossing the landscape is a signposted network of linked lanes, paths and roads called ‘Ruettes Tranquilles’, perfect for ‘life in the slow lane’. In fact it might be the best way to explore the island as many of the cars here suffer from a chronic case of granite rash, inflicted by the stone walls of the narrow lanes. There also seems to be quite an extensive (mini) bus service connecting all parts of the island.
There are so many beautiful beaches to swim from or coastal paths to investigate, forts, castle, underground bunkers and Martello towers…. There are places of wild beauty and the power of the ocean evident from any coastal vantage point. But throughout the island, even in the town, there is a lovely gentle pace that encourages you to slow down, take a breath and smile. And that is what we did during our stay on lovely Guernsey. Strategically we have left a number of rocks unturned, mostly because the sea state prevented us making the crossing to Herm, but we hope return some day to explore further!