The Channel Islands might once have formed part of the Duchy of Normandy, but today they offer a perfect British island escape, with a few twists that makes them truly unique.
For many the small archipelago of the Channel Islands is well known for one thing: a very favourable tax status. Attracting not only hefty deposits but new residents too it means that as well as some stunning natural landscapes and beautiful beaches, there is also the chance for anyone visiting to sample all the comforts of home, and a few indulgent treats.
Jersey Cattle grazing
On the main island of Jersey, famous for its dairy and fine Jersey Royals – always picked by hand – there is much to do. With farmers’ markets selling the aforementioned dairy in its many varieties, there are music festivals to enjoy, outdoor film screenings, cycle tours and some wonderful low water walks.
This summer will be no different. If horse racing is your thing head to Les Landes Racecourse in Saint Ouen, on the picturesque North West coast of the island, where races run every couple of weeks from the end of June through to the end of August. If music and the thrill of a festival is more it, this year the first weekend of September sees the inaugural Weekender festival, bringing together local and global acts (with a focus on newer talent), including indie pop and rock from the likes of Blossoms and Sundara Karma. VIP lounge access is available so you can enjoy the diverse set of acts in comfort.
Radio Tower, Jersey
Jersey and its neighbouring islands’ unique position in the channel not only meant a back and forth tussle between the UK and France for centuries, it also made it the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German forces. Signs of this are clear, with fortifications to spot including the striking observation tower, Radio Tower, which can be rented through Jersey Heritage for an unusual base to stay in. A must for any enthusiast who prefers to stay in more traditional lodgings but still wants to get a feel for the island’s wartime past are the incredible war tunnels in Saint Lawrence showing details of the island’s resistance, co-operation and eventual liberation.
And back to those lodgings. If the unique Radio Tower with its breathtaking views doesn’t tempt, head to Longueville Manor, a beautifully-restored manor house. Make yourself at home in its Tower Suite, or for a little privacy opt for the two-bedroom cottage suite, housed in a 500 year old cottage in the hotel’s grounds. For a city centre base The Royal Yacht Club in Saint Helier is a good option, set by the marina and numerous popular cafés – and the evening activities of Weighbridge Place.
Explore the rugged coastline of Guernsey
For understated luxury in a 12th century setting head to Guernsey, and the Bella Luce. The Norman manor house offers a spa and a sophisticated take on classic British dishes, either in its elegant dining room or in the charming courtyard. While on the island visit Victor Hugo’s house, and see where the man who wrote Les Misérables lived and wrote while in exile, or charter a boat and explore the rugged coastline and spot seals and puffins amongst the wildlife.
There is plenty of wildlife spotting to be done, including Puffins
If, like the Barclay brothers, something more off the beaten track appeals (and you do not have access to a private island) Alderney offers a wonderful slice of island life on a smaller scales. With fewer than 2,000 inhabitants there are no bright lights and the pace is slow, the charm lying in its lack of development and conscious sophistication. Spend time getting back to nature, bird watching and puffin spotting (on nearby Burhou Island just over a mile from Alderney), and explore the island’s 2 dedicated nature reserves. Make your base at Braye Beach Hotel with views out to the white sand beach on your doorstep and venture to the small and pretty main town of St Anne.
As one of the sunniest spots in the British Isles and with a choice of islands to suit – from the buzz of St Helier, to Alderney’s relaxing pace – plan a getaway to one of these beautiful islands and have a jolly British summer spotting French street signs and striking blue post boxes as you go.
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