Charming, peaceful, vibrant and exceedingly pretty: Guernsey is the place to go if you're looking for a proper break - and as it's a mere hop across the Channel (40 minutes on a little plane from London), it's perfect for a long weekend filled with sea air and country walks. Families, hikers, golfers, couples and solo holidaymakers: you'll all find a genuine contentment on this beautiful Channel Island.
In fact, contentedness oozes from this isle - even its famous cows appear to be in a state of bliss. On a holiday here, you can't help but unwind: the pace is slow (don't even think about driving at more than 30mph anywhere on the island as it's simply not allowed), the people are friendly and the scenery life-affirming. And with the lowest crime rates and unemployment figures in Europe, it really feels as if you've travelled to a different world.
Part of the unique enticement of this island is its jumble of influences: it feels a little bit French and quite a lot British, and the relics from the German occupation during the Second World War add to its quirkiness. Where else would you find an eerie underground military hospital, some of the UK's best beaches, the house of an exiled author, the old stomping ground of a world-famous French impressionist painter, and a very special breed of cow?
When you arrive, an obvious allure is the iconic Castle Cornet in St Peter's Port. Here you can pick up some of the fascinating history of the island at the Maritime Museum and the Royal Guernsey Militia Museum, both of which are waiting to spill their secrets. Oh, and if you're visiting in the summer months, look out for the regular outdoor theatre performances in this magnificent setting.
A stroll around the port, overlooked by the castle, is also a must. This is one of Europe's prettiest and oldest harbour towns (the port has been busy since Roman times); with its cobbled streets and picturesque marina, you can while away the time enjoying the views from the terrace of a cafe or bistro bar. It's also here that you'll find Hauteville House, the former home of the author Victor Hugo during his 15-year self-imposed exile here, as well as the pretty Candie Gardens.
But one of the main reasons any visitor would come to Guernsey is to explore its countryside, coastline and beaches. Walking opportunities abound: there are nearly 30 miles of spectacular cliff paths, sweeping bays and rural lanes and paths through nature reserves, with a number of guided or self-guided tours on offer - go to Visit Guernsey for more info. A reliable bus service circles the island, and however you're getting around you'll find it all incredibly civilised and easy. Natural stops include Moulin Huet Bay, where Pierre-Auguste Renoir created some of his finest and most famous art, and beautiful Cobo Bay. Check out the slideshow below for some of the best things to see and do.
How to get there
Guernsey is accessible by air with Aurigny (www.aurigny.com), Blue Islands (www.blueislands.com) and Flybe (www.flybe.com) and by sea with Condor (www.condorferries.co.uk).
Where to stay
St Pierre Park is a golf resort set in 35 acres of grounds, just outside St Peter Port. With a pool, a spa and lovely views of the lake from the bedrooms, this is a relaxing hotel in a great spot. A classic double room at St. Pierre Park starts at £119.
Where to eat
Le Petit Bistro, St Peter's Port: a lovely French bistro with rather delicious onion soup among other traditional offerings.
If you do one thing while you're here, make sure it's...
...a guided cycle tour. We can personally recommend the Cider, Hills and Valleys tour with Donkeysdaysout. It costs from £17.50 per person and lasts about three hours - and you might even get to taste some of the fantastic organic local cider.
For more information go to Visit Guernsey.
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