Need a break with the kids where you can escape the stresses and strains of city living, fast food restaurants and computer games? With its old world charm, stunning beaches, natural beauty and low crime rate, Guernsey gives you the chance to experience life at a different pace whilst still offering an abundance of family friendly activities. Sarah Parfitt, a freelance journalist from Berkshire, reveals why her family keep coming back to Guernsey.
One of my most treasured childhood memories is of our family holidays in the Channel Islands. I still vividly recall my parents packing my brothers and I into the car, heading down to Weymouth and catching the ferry across to either Guernsey or Jersey. My mother and I used to spend the journey outside on the deck, so we could feel the spray of sea air on our faces – it was intoxicating, and signified the start of the holidays for me. Now more than three decades on, my husband and sons have the “Guernsey bug”, and have replicated that same journey with Condor Ferries on a couple of occasions. With all the paraphernalia you need to take with young children, it is definitely the easiest and most stress-free way of travelling and it feels like a real adventure.
Where to visit:
With kids, there is nothing simpler or better than a day at the beach and in Guernsey, you are really spoilt for choice. The island boasts more than 25 beaches ranging from the beautiful sandy beaches on the west coast to the rocky coves on the south of the island. Our family favourite is Cobo Beach where the kids love making sandcastles, playing in the rock-pools, dipping their toes in the sea and having an ice-cream on the beach. One of the highlights of our trip last summer was a sunset picnic at Cobo whilst sipping a glass of bubbly – the views of the Atlantic Ocean were magnificent.
We took Joshua and two of his little friends, for a candle-carving workshop, and they absolutely loved it. Candlemaker Peter, who is patience personified, guided them through the whole process and Joshua’s candle now has pride of place on our mantelpiece back home in Cookham. Guernsey Candles produces thousands of candles each year, some of which are available in their shop and everyone is welcome to take part in their workshops – they have wheelchair access and can also facilitate workshops for the visually impaired. Their youngest student to date has been three and their oldest 85!
Where to eat:
Our personal favourite was the Brasserie at the Old Government House Hotel and Spa which is located in the heart of the island’s capital, St Peter Port. Steeped in history, it’s a really special place for an intimate family lunch or dinner with an impressive children’s menu and lots of personal touches and a veritable charm. Amusingly, despite the extensive choice on the menu, Joshua had a Paddington Bear moment and went for the jam sandwiches! For families, not on a tight budget, it offers stylish suites or interconnecting bedrooms with children’s toy hampers and babysitting facilities.
If you fancy something quirky, family friendly and different, we highly recommend the Saumarez Park tearooms, centrally located in the parish of Castel. You can wander around the park, visit the playground, see the ducks, visit the Folk Museum or even do the nature trail to Cobo and then chill out with the kids in the tearooms.
One good rainy day option is a visit to Le Friquet Home of Garden Living, which is a gardening centre in an octagonal design with an indoor and outdoor play area. It has two family friendly restaurants – the Terrazzo Italian restaurant and Café Des Amis plus a special children’s menu and baby changing facilities and toilets. One other bonus – Le Friquet has a pet shop with lots of birds, fish and other small animals, where kids can burn off lots of excess energy – the only slight problem is convincing them not to take all the animals home!
Top tips from local families:
“One of our favourite all year round spots is Pembroke beach. We even go there in the winter for walks, wrapped up warm as it can be pretty windy.” Tina, St Peter Port who has a 2 year old daughter.
“You can’t beat Petit Bôt Bay on the island’s south coast with kids because it has a nice, sheltered beach and depending on how old your kids are, there are also some breath-taking cliff walks nearby.” Leon, father of two from St Martins.
“One of the highlights of the summer for me are KPMG Castle Nights at Castle Cornet. There is something to suit every taste – classical, jazz, contemporary, folk and even entertainment for the kids. It’s sponsored by KPMG, so it doesn’t need to cost you a penny.” Jean, St Peter Port mother of two.