All information in this blog post is correct as of the publishing date, 10.12.18.
Traditionally, the most popular time to take Guernsey short breaks and holidays may be the summer, and it’s easy to see why – from lounging on any of the island’s 27 beaches to trying out extreme water sports or savouring local seafood and a glass of wine al fresco, there are all sorts of activities that make this beautiful destination perfect for enjoying in the warmer months.
In this guide, however, we will aim to show you that Guernsey is also a hugely rewarding place to visit once the weather has turned cold, with the second-largest Channel Island offering lots for guests of all ages, tastes and energy levels to make the most of, whatever the temperature is outside. Guernsey really is a 365 destination…
Where to visit
Whilst tours of this ancient house are only held during the busier holiday seasons, there is plenty to do all year round at the magnificent Sausmarez Manor. Highlights for winter visitors include seeing the Subtropical Gardens, the ArtParks sculpture garden, the workshop of a talented copper, tin and silversmith, and braving one of the fantastic ghost tours!
You will probably already know that the Channel Islands were occupied by invading Nazi forces during World War II, but you may not have been aware of Guernsey’s excellent German Occupation Museum. Here, you can find out all about this particularly difficult period of the island’s history and explore an extensive collection of occupation-era artefacts.
Those interested in both history and art will enjoy a visit to the Guernsey Museum, which is set within the stunning Candie Gardens. As well as several permanent exhibitions, the museum’s latest seasonal displays showcase works by renowned landscape photographer Mark Power (until 31 December 2018) and some of the world’s finest nature photographers (‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018’, 25 January – 17 March 2019).
Whatever the time of year, it is always worth visiting the unique Little Chapel in the central parish of St. Andrew. Possibly the smallest functioning chapel in the world, this iconic miniature building was painstakingly constructed by a French monk in 1914 and is beautifully decorated with pebbles, seashells and pieces of china.
The Guernsey Tapestry is proof of the amazing feats that can be achieved when a local community comes together to demonstrate its pride for their home. Created to help mark the island’s millennium celebrations, the tapestry is made up of 10 hand-stitched panels, each of which represents one of Guernsey’s different parishes.
Recently under new ownership, Oatlands Village is a family-friendly attraction that features a unique mix of retail outlets, great places to eat and fun activities like mini golf, roller-skating and go-karting. Oatlands is evolving all the time, and future visitors can look forward to enjoying highlights such as a covered trampolining area and an ice rink.
Pirate Bay at the St Pierre Park Hotel golf club is a classic – and incredibly fun – 12-hole crazy golf course, which putters of all ages will love. Some of the obstacles you will have to navigate include unfriendly pirates, tricky water features and even an erupting volcano! After you’ve finished your round, why not having something to eat at the adjoining Nineteen Bar and Grill?
What to do
Guernsey is renowned for its breath-taking natural beauty, so those who are physically able should be sure to get out there and explore the island’s coast and country – as well as introducing you to some stunning scenery, a vigorous walk will also warm you up in no time! Whether you are an experienced hiker or just want a gentle stroll, and whether you would rather take in views of stormy seas or tranquil countryside, there are many different routes throughout Guernsey that will provide you with a walk to remember.
If travelling on two wheels is more your sort of thing, you will be pleased to hear that Guernsey is an absolute haven for cyclists. With 11 dedicated routes to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice when deciding which part of the island to discover; and, what’s more, Guernsey’s ‘Quiet Lanes’ network gives priority to cyclists (along with pedestrians and horse riders), limiting motorists to a maximum speed of 15mph.
Keen golfers will be delighted with the range and quality of Guernsey’s greens and fairways, with the various local nine and 18-hole courses all happy to welcome visitors throughout the year (although, given their popularity, booking ahead is usually advisable). The Royal Guernsey and La Grande Mare golf clubs are recommended venues for the more experienced, whilst the nine-hole courses at St Pierre Park and on the nearby island of Alderney would perhaps be best for those who firmly class themselves as ‘fair-weather’ players!
Where to eat
If a gale is blowing outside, surely the best way to see the local landmarks of St. Peter Port, Castle Cornet and Havelet Bay is from the comfort of the cosy Copenhagen bar and grill, which is casual in terms of its atmosphere but exquisite in quality. The restaurant is next to the Best Western Hotel de Havelet and guests can even reach it without getting wet via an underground tunnel!
It will not surprise you to learn that the food at Octopus, on the south side of Havelet Bay, is largely seafood-based (although there are some excellent alternatives on the menu, including steaks and salads), but what we most love about this restaurant is the fantastic sea views that come free with every meal! And, of course, the crashing waves and spraying surf look even more epic in the blustery winter months.
Another much-loved local eatery that offers spectacular views of St. Peter Port and Havelet Bay is Slaughterhouse, which gets its name from being set in a former abattoir building. Whether you want a big meal, a bar snack or just a quick drink, this is a consistently great choice.
For a change of scenery, be sure to head over to Rocquaine Bay, on the west coast of the island, where you will find the charming Imperial Hotel and Restaurant. With a no-nonsense yet high-quality menu specialising in modern British fare, the Imperial’s dining area is particularly cosy in the winter and boasts wonderful sea views.
Overlooking the beautiful beach at Cobo Bay, further up the west coast, is the Rockmount. This modern yet traditionally-inspired gastropub is the perfect place to settle down to a hearty winter warmer, with both the food and drink providing the ultimate ‘comfort dining’ experience – how does pie and mash with a pint of locally-brewed real ale sound?
What would holidays be, whatever the time of year, without a little indulgence? If you’re looking for somewhere to savour a sumptuous afternoon tea, there is nowhere better than Guernsey’s only five-star hotel, the Old Government House. Treat yourself and reserve a seat for the ‘Exclusive Afternoon Tea’ package, which will let you relax in front of the restaurant’s roaring log fire as you sip your welcome gin cocktail upon arrival, followed by a glass of Lanson champagne and luxuriant delicacies like the unique 18ct gold tiramisu.
The popularity of craft gin has increased beyond all recognition in the last few years and, whilst it may be lovely enjoying an al fresco G&T on a sun-drenched bar terrace in the balmy summer, the Bella Luce Hotel and Restaurant in the parish of St. Martin offers an indoor experience that gin connoisseurs will appreciate in every season. The renowned Wheadon’s Gin is distilled in the cellar of the hotel itself and, for just £45 per person, residents and guests can book in for the fabulous ‘Gin and Dine’ package; the evening, which is held every Wednesday and Friday from 6 PM, includes a special ‘Gintroduction’ history and tasting session, followed by a delicious three-course meal in the Bella Luce’s award-winning restaurant.