Family UK holidays

How to go time travelling with your kids in Guernsey this summer

Last updated 21st November 2023

Turns out the Channel Islands are a timeless classic. How so? Take a look at what happened when Jane Anderson and her teenage daughter returned to Guernsey and Sark after a decade, for a week of wellness, wild swims and making new memories.


Scarlett at 9, Cobo Bay, Guernsey

The last time I visited Guernsey in the Channel Islands with my daughter Scarlett, she was nine years old and enjoyed dressing up in medieval costume at the 800-year-old Castle Cornet in St Peters Port and leaping off rocks in Cobo Bay. Ten years on, we returned to see if this little island, just 30 miles off the coast of Normandy, yet more British than afternoon tea, could be as magical an experience for a mum and her 19 year-old-daughter.


Castle Coronet, Guernsey Harbour

Time travel for responsible types

One aspect that’s shifted in the last decade is our climate awareness, and instead of taking the short flight to this British Crown Dependency, the second largest of the seven inhabited Channel Islands, we saved our carbon miles and opted for the train from London and Condor ferry from Poole to St Peters Port. It’s definitely worth booking the fast ferries and the lounge passes for maximum comfort.

You know you’re getting close when you sail past the island of Alderney and soon after reach Guernsey’s pretty harbour with a clear view of Castle Cornet’s battlements, sparking childhood memories for Scarlett.


Fermain Valley Hotel, Guernsey

Book yourself a treehouse in the Channel Islands

Picking up our hire car from the airport (there’s no car hire at the ferry), it was a joy to tootle along the country lanes with the radio on. The maximum speed here is 35 miles per hour and nothing is more than around a 20-minute drive away.

We soon found Fermain Valley Hotel, perched seductively at the top of a stunning wooded valley running down to the sea. The hotel tumbles over different levels, and is home to four new treehouse cabins where your private decked terrace is literally in the treetops with tantalising glimpses of the sea. We lucked out in Treehouse number 4, with its wood-clad interiors, industrial lighting and old-fashioned telephone and radio, plus lovely yoga mats should you want to downward dog on the terrace. We opted instead for a warm soak in our private outdoor jacuzzi listening to birds in the tree canopy.

Get into the swim of things at La Vallette Bathing Pools

On our mother and daughter trip, wellness was a priority – Scarlett taking a break from her university work and partying. We both adore outdoor swimming and made a beeline for La Vallette Bathing Pools on the edge of St Peter’s Port. These four tidal bathing pools, which are free to use, have undergone many renovations since their creation in 1865. We loved their brutalism, the sea crashing over the walls, and the views of sister islands Herm and Sark. The designer changing rooms with hot showers made the experience a joy, as did the modern café overlooking the pools with good coffee, sandwiches and cakes and a wood burning stove to cosy up to after a cold dip. For something fancier such as local oysters, head to Octopus just along the road into town.

Score sensational vintage finds in St Peters Port

Post swim, we took the opportunity to stroll around St Peters Port seeking out its second-hand shops which is another passion of ours. We hit gold at the Health Connections Charity Shop on Smith Street which felt like a curated vintage store. I came away with a gorgeous black velvet dress (which in my mind could pass as The Vampire’s Wife) and Scarlett chose a lacey skirt and blouse.

As Scarlett is studying fine art at university and is a big fan of craft, we headed to the Guernsey Tapestry Gallery which displays the Bailiwick of Guernsey Millennium Tapestry, illustrating a thousand years of local history. It transported me back to a trip to the Bayeux Tapestry when she was very little.

Spot Les Misérables in St Peters Port

Next up was a wander around Hauteville House where French writer and politician, Victor Hugo, stayed during his exile here in 1856. Like a work of art itself with clashing textures on every wall, ceiling and floor, it was thrilling to learn he wrote Les Misérables in this very spot.

Lavish afternoon teas, long walks and wild swims

Back at the Fermain Valley Hotel, we indulged in a lavish afternoon tea, stands piled high with delicious sandwiches, cakes and scones. We devoured half, and packed up the steak sandwiches and chocolate brownies with a flask of mint tea, and wandered down through the Fermain Valley past giant bromeliads and camellias to Fermain Bay with its watchtower station and towering cliffs either side. Despite the squally weather, we took a bracing dip and ate phase two of our afternoon tea on the beach in a light drizzle. The weather was reliably changeable, the ocean turning from grey to jade green within the hour but it didn’t dampen our spirits as we packed up and followed one of Visit Guernsey’s many helpful self-guided walking routes along the rocky coastline.

Another wellness highlight meant stepping away from the tourist trail and joining a relaxing hatha yoga session with the Alice Marshall at the very swish Cobo Community Centre. It was a lovely mother/daughter moment, accompanied by local ladies.


Jane & Scarlett kayaking sea caves, Sark, Channel Islands

Can you visit the Channel Islands without seeing Sark?

On our first trip we’d visited the beautiful island of Herm where we’d marvelled at Shell Beach, which in the August sunshine rivalled any Caribbean stretch of sand, despite the cold water. This time we opted for 45-minute ferry ride to Sark, dolphins leaping alongside us as we neared the small dock next to impressive cliffs.

Before climbing the steep Harbour Hill to the diminutive village, we joined Outdoor Guernsey for a kayaking experience out of Creux Harbour. With warm wetsuits and good tuition, Scarlett and I navigated narrow gullies and ventured into dark sea caves in our two-woman kayak.


Cycling Sark, Channel Islands

Catch the ‘toast rack’ tractor or cycle on Sark

Car-free Sark is home to just a few hundred souls, but you can catch the ‘toast rack’ tractor up and down Harbour Hill for a small charge and rent bikes from A to B Cycles at the top, but beware of cycling back down the hill. If the local constable catches you, there’s a £500 fine. The tiny high street features the lovely Sark Yard for soft floral pillowcases and colourful knitwear. We loved lunch by the outdoor pool at the Stocks Hotel and our cycle to La Coupée – the must-see causeway that joins Big Sark and Little Sark. Like a set out of Lord of the Rings, the cliffs fall away either side, plunging down to beautiful sandy bays and turquoise sea. The road was built by German prisoners of war in 1945, a poignant reminder of the Channel Islands’ wartime legacy.


Pembroke Bay, Guernsey, Channel Islands

Fantastic food is another Guernsey highlight

Back on Guernsey, Scarlett and I stayed a few more days in the self-catering Bay Apartments Guernsey near gorgeous Pembroke Bay, taking long strolls along the beaches and rocky outcrops, exploring the rock pools and chatting before her return to uni. These one, two and three-bedroom self-catering apartments have recently been refurbished and if you like smart and functional with lots of space, they are just the thing. A small indoor heated pool is great for families with younger kids, as is the ramshackle basketball court by the side.

The food on Guernsey was definitely a highlight for both of us. Top of our list were the brunch at Good Rebel in St Peter’s Port with lots of veggie options, and dinner at the Puffin & Oyster overlooking Grand Havre Bay with tasty local fish.  Our final night’s fine dining at La Reunion was a memorable mother/daughter meal with a tuna and crispy rice noodle starter the best thing Scarlett had eaten in a while.

Views of the sunset over Cobo Bay made it even more special – the very beach she’d jumped off rocks a decade earlier. How time flies when you’re having fun.

Plan your Guernsey family trip

How to get there

Condor Ferry, Poole to Guernsey takes from 3 hours. Up to 7 crossings a week from £360 return (2 adults, 2 children).

Where to stay

 Fermain Valley Treehouses (sleeps 2) from £385 per night

Book Fermain Valley Hotel 

The Bay Apartments Guernsey, 2 bedroom apartment, (sleeps 4) from £850 per week

Book The Bay Apartments

For more information see Visit Guernsey and Isle of Sark