Exploring the Channel Islands

Godfrey Hall is an award-winning UK based travel journalist and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has been in search of elves in Iceland, traveled to the depths of central Australia and been off the beaten track in Bulgaria.

A Touch of Gold

Just off the coast of France, close to the Cherbourg peninsula you will find the Channel Islands. A unique group of islands which includes Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Sark and Alderney, they are a tax-free zone and not members of the European Union. Although English is spoken on the islands and it has strong links with the UK it has its own heritage and is very different in many ways to mainland Britain. You will find different currency on the islands with Guernsey and Jersey issuing their own notes.

The islands have an independent health service and it is known in Britain as a wealthy place to live.

Yachting is very popular and one of the main businesses is banking.

Causeway to Corbiere Lighthouse (Godfrey Hall)

Causeway to Corbiere Lighthouse (Godfrey Hall)

Places to See

Each island has its own character. The largest is Jersey. The capital is Saint Helier where you will find a range of shops and department stores including Marks and Spencer. Just off the coast by the harbour is Elizabeth Castle. This is connected by a tidal causeway and is well worth visiting as is the Durrell Conservation Centre inland. Here you will be able to see gorillas, howler monkeys and magnificent Livingstone’s Fruit Bats. There are also plenty of spectacular beaches and coves around the island. One of the most spectacular points is the Corbiere Lighthouse which again has a tidal causeway.

Guernsey is about one hour north of Jersey and is much smaller. The pace of life here is much slower and the roads can be very narrow. The main town is St Peter Port which has an attractive harbour and main street. Many tourists prefer this island as it is much quieter.

Otters at the Durrell Wildlife Centre (Godfrey Hall)

Otters at the Durrell Wildlife Centre (Godfrey Hall)

The small island of Sark is quite unique in that it doesn’t allow any cars. Horse drawn vehicles are the main mode of transport however you do see the occasional tractor. The island can be reached from Guernsey and Jersey.

A short distance from Guernsey is Herm which is great for walking and bird watching. Much smaller than the others, it is possible to stay on the island.

Alderney is close by and can be reached by plane and ferry. Not as popular as the main islands, the main town is St Anne which has a very French feel about it. The island has a charm all of its own and is a favourite with walkers.

I have a personal preference for Jersey as it is bigger and there are more things to do. Visiting Sark is like landing on another planet! The two main islands are linked by fast ferry and also plane.


The main island, Jersey, has a large number of high class hotels and smaller bed and breakfast establishments. If you are looking for something central and in a wonderful position then you should try the Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel which is close to the small ferry terminal overlooking the marina, harbour and Elizabeth Castle. You should ask for a sea view room when booking. The service and food are excellent and the rooms are well equipped with all the latest technology. Elsewhere on the island there are some very upmarket hotels including the five star Longueville Manor with its luxurious rooms and high class meals. There are also plenty of cheaper establishments with wonderful views and friendly service.

Guernsey has a range of hotels ranging from the five star Old Government House and Spa in St Peter Port to boutique hotels scattered around its rural parishes and smaller family run hotels. On traffic free Sark, there is La Sablonnerie Hotel, whilst on quiet and peaceful Herm there is the comfortable White House Hotel. For those visiting Alderney there is the Georgian House Hotel in St Anne the capital and the Braye Beach Hotel with its spectacular views.

Food and Drink

The Channel Islands are known for their seafood and there’s nothing more delicious than a local lobster or Jersey crab cakes.

The milk on Jersey and Guernsey is famous for its richness and Channel Island cream is always a treat on fresh local strawberries.

Harvesting Jersey Royal Potatoes (Godfrey Hall)

Harvesting Jersey Royal Potatoes (Godfrey Hall)

Jersey is also known for its Jersey Royal potatoes. These are grown in sheltered spots close to the coast. They are constantly being picked and new ones sown during the season. Small and sweet they are best served boiled or steamed with a sprinkle of parsley and a pat of butter. Another local dish is Jersey Black Butter which is often spread on toast or can be eaten as chutney. It is dark brown and is made from apples, herbs, cider and sugar. You will see it for sale all over the island

A number of Channel Island restaurants serve shellfish known as the Ormer which is a rare mollusc. The flesh is widely considered to be a local delicacy and it can be consumed raw or cooked in a variety of different traditional dishes mainly on Guernsey. Due to dwindling stocks, the harvesting of Ormers is strictly controlled to just a few months a year in the winter. In Guernsey this takes place during specific low tides when many local people can be seen heading for their favourite low water location, wading out into the cold sea to overturn rocks to find this rare delight.

Rhubarb Soufflé at the Ormer Restaurant (Godfrey Hall)

Rhubarb Soufflé at the Ormer Restaurant (Godfrey Hall)

Mussels are also very popular and some of the best I have tasted were at the White House Hotel on Herm,

Another local dish in Guernsey is Guernsey Gâche. This special bread is made with raisins, sultanas and mixed peel. In the local language gâche means cake.

There are a number of Portuguese families living on the islands so you may also come across some wonderful custard tarts which are well known in Portugal. Known as pasteis de nata, they are really good with a cup of coffee.

If you staying in Saint Helier on Jersey then you should try the Seafish Café at Liberty Wharf where you can try a range a local fish or crab cakes. Also close by is the Michelin Star Ormer restaurant which is ideal for special occasions. Seafood is again one of its specialties.

Seafish Café, Liberty Wharf (Godfrey Hall)

Seafish Café, Liberty Wharf (Godfrey Hall)


All over the Channel Islands you will find traditional pubs and inns where they often make their own entertainment. These can include local groups and singers. In the main town on St Peter Port on Guernsey and Saint Helier in Jersey you will find a number of clubs offering a good night out. These include Fusion in St Peter Port and Rojo and the Havana Night Club in Saint Helier.

If you are on one of the smaller islands then take a look at the posters outside churches, village halls or in the shops. These will give you an idea of what is happening. Otherwise talk to the local people. I have often been in far flung places, got talking to someone and ended up at a church concert or an event in the village hall.


There are a number of ways to get to the Channel Islands including regular flights into Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney from airports in the UK and France. Ferry boats provide a service onward to the smaller islands of Sark and Herm.

St Peter Port, Guernsey (Godfrey Hall)

St Peter Port, Guernsey (Godfrey Hall)

Another alternative is the Condor Fast Ferry which operates from Poole in Dorset. This service stops in Guernsey and then goes onto Jersey. There is also a fast ferry connection between St Malo in France and the islands. You may also like to combine a trip to the Channel Islands with a visit to France. Brittany Ferries operate an excellent service into St Malo, Caen, Le Havre and Cherbourg (mid May 2015 onwards) from the UK. Ferries and flights also connect Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney.

Further details of the islands can be found at www.jersey.com and www.visitguernsey.com.

Ferry services can be found at www.condorferries.co.uk and www.brittanyferries.com.

Flights www.jerseyairport.com and www.guernsey-airport.gov.gg.

Fly.com Expert Tips

How To Get There: Traveling by sea, you can take a four hour ferry ride onboard the Condor Ferries from the south coast of England from Poole, Portsmouth and Weymouth. If you prefer to fly, there are over 40 airports across the U.K. that offer service to Jersey during the summer months including Aer Lingus Regional from Cork and Dublin, British Airways from London Gatwick, and easyJet from Glasgow, Liverpool and Gatwick. There are 12 daily flights to Jersey from the London airports of Gatwick, London City, Southend and Stansted with flight times of less than an hour.
Best Time To Visit: The temperature in the Channel Islands are mild year-round – warm in the summers and cool in winters, without going to the extremes. However, because of its location in the North Atlantic ocean, weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for storms, wind and fog. However, it is said that the Channel Islands get more sunshine per year than the U.K. The best time to visit will be April to October (mid-September to mid-October being the best times) where there’s less chance of rain and more opportunities to take advantage of the sunshine and beaches, with August being the busiest month. While it will be quiet the rest of the year, note that a lot of historical sites might be closed at the time.

Sample Fares: Calendars display lowest roundtrip fares over the next 90 days to London from:
* All fares are roundtrip including all taxes and are accurate at time of publication. For updated pricing, conduct a new search on Fly.com.


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Featured Image: Corbiere Lighthouse, Jersey (Godfrey Hall)

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