The captivating Channel Island of Guernsey wows on first appearance. Sailing into the postcard-perfect town St Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey, cruisers are greeted with a pristine coastline lined with golden sand beaches, colourful buildings and a medieval castle looming over them. However, Guernsey has a lot more to offer than just a picturesque town and beautiful beaches, as you’ll soon discover, being packed full of historical and cultural attractions as well as great restaurants and shopping – Guernsey is a tax-free haven, so you’re guaranteed to pick up some bargains on your cruise stopover.
Why cruise Guernsey
The second largest island of the Channel Islands is a great option for British cruisers those wishing to enjoy the delights of the continent without having to leave the country, boasting beautiful beaches, sea cliffs and unspoilt coastlines. The island’s history is as dramatic as its landscape, being the only British territory to have been occupied by German forces during WWII. Guernsey’s picturesque capital St Peter Port is an increasingly popular stopover on a British Isles cruise, with 118,000 cruise ship passengers visiting each year. The port’s cobblestoned streets are lined with museums, galleries and boutique shopping.
What to see and do in Guernsey
Situated on an outcrop overlooking the harbour, the 800-year-old Castle Cornet has become an iconic landmark of Guernsey, involved in several key historical events including the French Invasion of 1338 and the English Civil War. Today, it houses no less than five museums and four period gardens. At midday you will hear the resounding daily firing of the gun and the castle also plays to host to a number of key events throughout the year.
Famous French writer Victor Hugo resided in Guernsey at 38 Rue Hauteville for 14 years during his time in exile from France. While living there, he wrote some of his most prominent works, including Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris. However, it is Hugo’s genius as a designer and decorator that is showcased throughout this extraordinary house, which recently underwent an 18-month-long, €4.5 million restoration.
German Occupation Museum
Guernsey was under Nazi occupation during the Second World War and many of Hitler’s fortifications, bunkers and trenches remain on the island to this day. To get a picture of what life was like under German rule, you can pay a visit to the German Occupation Museum in Guernsey, which is dedicated to this fascinating period of history and displays an extensive collection of original occupation items and artefacts.
La Vallette Underground Military Museum
Set in a complex of tunnels built by German forces to house their U-boats, this museum covers Guernsey’s military history, including World War One, the German Occupation during the Second World War as well as the island’s own militia. For history buffs, another interesting site in Guernsey is the German Underground Hospital and Ammunition Store, a haunting tunnel complex covering 7000sq m that was built by slave workers.
Like its sister island Jersey, Guernsey is a popular spot for hiking due to its stunning coastal scenery. Despite being small in size, the island has amazing variety when it comes to its landscapes, boasting flower-filled meadows, rugged cliffs and golden-sand beaches. Guernsey also hosts two dedicated walking festivals each year – one in May and the other in September.
Head to the beach
Along with its history, Guernsey is also famed for its spectacular beaches, many of which could be mistaken for those found in the Med. Great for families, the horseshoe-shaped Port Soif Bay has golden sands and spectacular sunsets. Alternatively, Vazon Bay is Guernsey’s largest beach and is particularly popular for watersports. If you wish to practise your surfing skills, the Guernsey Surf School is based at the bay.
Need to know when travelling to Guernsey
Getting around in Guernsey
The town is accessed by tenders, which dock at Albert Pier, located along the centre of the seafront. From here, the town is in front of you and can be easily explored on foot. Alternatively, the island’s Petit Train offers a sightseeing tour of Guernsey’s capital, taking in key sites including the castle, bathing pools, the town church square, parliament and court buildings, and the harbour and seafront. If you wish to venture further afield, then there’s also a bus service in operation.
When to go to Guernsey
The British Isles cruise season runs between March and October, with the summer months of June, July and August being the peak holiday period with the warmest weather. Guernsey has a number of festivals and events throughout the year, highlights of which include the Summer Flower Festival in June and the Guernsey Food Festival in September.
The currency in St Peter Port is the Guernsey pound (GGP).
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