Beautiful scenery, sandy beaches, clear waters and culinary delights – you might think these things are some way away from us here in Leicester, but we’ve discovered a real gem just an hour away as we delved into the delights of the Channel Islands.
When East Midlands Airport invited us to pop over to Guernsey with them for a social media takeaway, we couldn’t say no. After all, “Gabby Goes To Guernsey” has such a ring to it! And boy am I glad I said yes.
Not just living up to expectations but surpassing them by far, the charm of the Channel Islands needs to be experienced first hand. Luckily, with flights 5 times per week from East Midlands Airport with Aurigny, and a flight time of just 1 hour, you can be there in no time at all. Plus there’s the ever improving East Midlands Airport to enjoy on your way through. Did you know they now have a gin & tapas bar overlooking the planes, called Proof? Sample some of the finest local gins and pair them with locally sourced dishes – the perfect start to your trip!
Ok, so first things first, location. The Channel Islands may be British but they’re actually located just off the northern coastline of France and on a clear day you can see the coast in the distance across the sea. The street names are French and you benefit from the European increase in temperature, which is always handy when you’re so near to the beach. The whole of Guernsey is just 9 miles long and 3 miles wide and enjoys splendid beaches reaching right around the coastline. Then the buzzing centre of St Peter Port offers a harbour setting, with fabulous restaurants, waterside bars and a vibrant shopping district.
The street names are French and the cobbled streets transport you far away in your mind. In St Peter Port you can sit and watch the cruise ships come in, view the house where Victor Hugo lived when he finished Les Miserables, immerse yourself in the history of the island’s German occupation, or head out to sample the island’s excellent cuisine. For a short break it offers everything you could need.
Where to stay: The Bella Luce is located a 10 minute ride from St Peter Port in a beautiful countryside setting. A country house feel welcomes you in and the bedrooms are simply stunning. However, the real gem of this hotel is located downstairs in the restaurant… their very own gin distillery. Yes, the hotel’s owner, Luke, began distilling his own gin just a few years ago in a small copper still, and now has a wonderful distillery located inside the hotel for his award winning Wheadon’s Gin. Whilst staying at the hotel do not miss out on one of Luke’s brilliant gin sessions, where you’ll not only learn about the art of creating your own gin, but have a masterclass in flavours that will leave you never looking at gin in the same way again. After your gin session why not enjoy a meal in the hotel’s restaurant, where they serve Modern European cuisine. But if there’s something special you fancy, just let them know, as with 24 hours notice they’re happy to accommodate any requests, especially if it means an excuse to enjoy some of the island’s fresh seafood.
Whilst chatting to locals in Guernsey we asked about the other neighbouring, much smaller, islands. “Herm is beautiful. It’s like a Caribbean island” one local told us. “It’s a secret little piece of paradise”, said another. Slightly dubious but increasingly intrigued, we hopped on a boat from St Peter Port and the short 20 minute ride takes you over to Herm. The boats leave once per hour every day between 8.30am – 8pm (depending on season).
No cars, no traffic on the island, a population of just 60 (yes, 60!) people, one hotel, one pub and just 1.5miles long, by 0.5 mile wide. When they said it was a little piece of paradise, they weren’t wrong. Completely blown away by this beautiful island, from the incredible sandy beaches, to the far reaching views across the water, you could be anywhere else in the world. It’s hard to believe you’re just an hour’s flight away!
With there being no traffic on the island there’s an incredibly peaceful atmosphere. Walking the whole way round the island there were groups of youngsters surfing, elderly couples enjoying the views and even a few locals working in the beach cafe and gift shops. Visiting in September we missed the summer rush, and whilst I imagine it’s far busier in the high summer months, I’ve never visited anywhere that gave me quite such a sense of calm before. The Mermaid Tavern, located near to the boat dock, offers casual family friendly dining and entertainment, whilst The White House next door caters for the higher end.
Where to stay: There may only be one hotel on the island but you can also choose to stay in one of the self catering cottages, a log cabin or the island’s campsite. To see the full range of options visit the Herm Island website. We decided to see what the island’s only hotel had to offer as we checked into The White House. Fabulous balconies from the rooms offer stunning views across the water, with the front terrace, swimming pool and tennis courts all still sitting against a beautiful backdrop. The hotel offers afternoon tea and evening meals either in their fine dining restaurant, or a more casual menu in the bar. As with the Bella Luce the staff were keen to assure us that with 24 hours notice they’re also happy to provide any dishes requested. Fresh lobster? No problem! The food in the restaurant was superb quality, so don’t worry about the size of the island – they have absolutely everything you could want right here.
As we departed Herm Island the next morning we saw the first boat of the morning come in, as workers unloaded bags of fresh laundry and boxes of ingredients for the hotel. Of course, with no traffic on the island nobody here can just nip out to the shop.
Jumping onto the boat with Herm behind us as we headed back to Guernsey it was hard not to reflect on how such a little piece of paradise could still be quite such a hidden gem. Would I go back? Absolutely. In fact, it’s already in the diary for next year!
Aurigny fly to Guernsey from East Midlands Airport 5 times per week. Flight time is 1 hour and prices start from £65 return. Check the latest availability via the Aurigny website.
With thanks to East Midlands Airport, Luke Wheadon and the team at the Bella Luce, Visit Guernsey and The White House Hotel in Herm.