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.
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 Coronet in St Peter’s 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.
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 Coronet’s battlements, sparking childhood memories for Scarlett.
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 Peter’s Port
Post swim, we took the opportunity to stroll around St Peter’s 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 Peter 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.