Guernsey – which sits closer to France than it’s government in London – is a rugged offshore island that’s villages feel like a throwback to ancient rural Britain, and contemporary towns are fashionably and vivaciously modern. As the only part of Britain to be taken by the Germans during world war two, and heaving with the remnants of its castle-filled medieval days, Guernsey makes a pleasant, sunny, offbeat taste of Britain, full of interesting history. It even has its own version of the pound.
While there are plenty of other British beaches, you’ll have to go down to Gibraltar to find one as likely to have sunshine as Guernsey’s. When you’re not soaking up the rays, there’s a lively culture that focuses around semi-sustainability. Expensive imports are eliminated where possible, and some of Guernsey’s most enjoyable experiences are centered on consuming the products of the many island cows, or watching the local bakers and candle makers at work. Guernsey’s schools even teach Norman-French Guernsais, a local language that struggles on against the predominance of English.
Picturesque capital St Peters port is all winding, cobbled streets making their way down abrupt hills to the water front, where there’s a pretty harbor dominated by tiny yachts and dented fishing boats. Head away from the towns, and the stretches of green hills take you to secluded beaches, cafes in the unlikeliest of homely hilltop locations and towering cliffs.
The nearby islands of Alderney – the minuscule home of dramatic breakwaters and the annual old-school fun of Alderney week - and Sark – an entirely car free island – offer interesting day trips, as well as attractive rural holiday spots in their own right, while tiny Lihou is a real ‘been somewhere your friends can’t even point to on a map’ location, and can only be reached with the tide at its lowest ebb.
Guernsey’s summer is a heady mix of sunshine and countryside that the rest of Britain only serves up on sporadic good days, and if the rural lifestyle is your thing, it’s worth a visit just for that. If not, then there are always the castles, island culture and all those boats to keep you happy.