UK / Europe

Channel surfing

The Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Pacific … they all conjure up images of clear, turquoise-tinged waters, sandy beaches, and tropical climates.

But the Channel Islands?  Err, maybe not.  At least that ‘s what I thought, until I visited Guernsey and Sark recently.

The Channel Islands are Britain’s answer to Cape Cod or Ile de Re, but their proximity to the UK is where the relationship ends.  This handful of islands are all independent, with their own laws and tax regulations (quite favourable ones, too, if you can afford to plunk down a pile of local currency for bricks and mortar on any of them).  And unlike so many tired, old English seaside spots, the Channel Islands aren’t the domain of the blue-rinse brigade.  They’re a cool destination frequented by a mixture of age groups, couples, singles and families.  And if you took a random poll in a pub, more than half won’t have been there before.

The islands straddle the UK and France, making daytrips to Breton spots like St Malo a doddle.  Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney are the most visited, while Sark and Herm pull the day-trippers, but are certainly worth more time, especially if, like me, you fancy a bit of car-free fun.

To get further afield, Guernsey makes a great base, especially for trips to Sark, only reachable by boat from either Guernsey or Jersey.  Boat services can be unreliable, due to weather, harbour traffic, and breakdowns, but Jersey more so, because of its position nearer to the Atlantic.

Guernsey itself is a piece of cake to get to.  Aurigny Airlines and FlyBe operate service from London’s Gatwick and City airports, as well as Southampton, with a one hour flight time.  Aurigny may not be a household name, but they win the prize for most chilled out staff.   More than a couple of people were overheard describing the boarding and flight experience as the opposite of two other well known airlines.

Let’s just say one’s Irish, and at the low end, and the other’s British, and likes to think it’s at the high end.  The complimentary bevvies on board the Aurigny flight were nice, but the real seller for me is the flexible ticket policy.  Changes are permitted up to two hours before flight time for only £25.   These folks know their audience.

To visit Guernsey itself, you won’t need to worry too much about the weather.   But, if you like to tick a few boxes in one trip, plan for spring and summer (May-early September) for the best chances of getting out to one of the smaller islands with the least disruptions, though anything’s possible.

Amy Hughes

Aurigny Airlines: www.aurigny.com

 

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