Travel review: The Channel Islands
We were like the cat that got the cream as we soared high in the air and enjoyed spectacular views of The Channel Islands.
Just 24 hours earlier Guernsey and Jersey had been on high alert as the bad weather of recent weeks battered both places, resulting in the locals protecting their properties with sand bags at the doors.
But all was calm as we sat aboard the 15-seater Trislander for the short hop from Guernsey to Jersey. We’d earlier had a smooth journey from Manchester to Guernsey on the islands’ airline Aurigny. It’s a fun airline, with friendly staff, free tea and coffee on board and inside the terminal, and it has a good record for punctuality, which all goes to prove why it deserved to win the best short haul airline award from Which? magazine.
Aurigny has not rested on its laurels though, because as well as the popular Manchester flights, it is to take over the defunct Flybe flight from Gatwick, using a newly acquired Embraer E195 regional 120 seater jet, set to be delivered in June and which will offer better seating, capacity and baggage space. The Brazilian made jet is also renowned for being able to land in poor weather and will help boost the airline further.
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The advantage of the Trislander though is you are soon off and into the terminal and on your way. And after a short drive down Jersey’s notoriously narrow lanes,Kenny, Ruaridh (6), Flora (4) and I arrived at our base for the three day trip.
Our hotel, Grand Jersey, is slap bang in the heart of the island’s capital St Helier and boasts spectacular views of the Bay of Mont St Michel and the island’s Elizabeth Castle, which has defended Jersey for more than 300 years. The castle is accessible on foot during low tide and by boat when the its high tide and many an hour can be enjoyed pottering round the 1590 monument, which was home to Sir Walter Raleigh when he was governor of Jersey from 1600 until 1603.
The hotel oozes luxury, with tastefully decorated bedrooms and suites, classy bars and a Michelin starred and three AA rosette restaurant, which as well as top notch lunches and dinners, also serves up home-cooked breakfasts which keep you going the whole day long.
There is a private cinema which guests can use to watch their favourite films and an indulgent spa , which boasts treatments, a swimming pool and sauna and steam room, as well as a top gym.
A good night’s sleep is guaranteed and you’ll need it too, as there is so much to see and do! Families are catered for with Durrell Wildlife Park, one of the best. The park was founded more than 50 years ago by the late author and naturalist Gerald Durrell and you can see more than 1,400 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in 32 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland. Everything is nicely set out and it’s a pleasure to potter round and Ruaridh and Flora were impressed with the hot chocolate in the café too!
From animals to castles and a short drive around those lovely narrow lanes, allowing a chance to take in the breath-taking scenery on route, and you soon find yourselves at Mont Orgueil Castle, which for more than 600 years protected Jersey from French invasion.
It was a tad windy when we strolled round, but Ruaridh and Flora had a ball dressing up as knights and princesses, although they could not beat their old mum when it came to the sword fighting! The view over the Goery harbour and the water are spectacular and there are lots of hidden treasurers to discover.
Being February, lots of the attractions, such as the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, depicting life over the years on the island, the war tunnels which tell the story of the occupation of Jersey during World War II and the Maritime Museum were closed until the season starts in earnest in late March. But the one advantage of visiting early in the year is that you get the beaches to yourselves! We had a wonderful time exploring St Brelade’s Bay with its horseshoe shaped beach and nearby St Aubin’s Bay which boasts a lovely harbour.
The children too were happy that mum didn’t drag them around too many museums and instead they had the chance to visit the Aqua Splash, which boasted flumes to pull mum down (I had to close my eyes during the first shot on the fast flume!), a wave machine and lots of toys for Flora to enjoy as Ruaridh bombed about in the pool and I sneaked off to the sauna and steam room.
From water onto dry land and a visit to Jersey Bowl and a shot at ten pin bowling. After a flukey first strike, I was soon relegated to bottom slot and surprisingly Flora at four proved to .be the best and smashed over 100 in between munching chips and drinking blackcurrant and water!
After a little child TLC, I managed to persuade the family to do something mum wanted and off we went to my now favourite place on Jersey, the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. The smells and colours of this wonderful haven for orchids will live with me forever. Eric, who has sadly died, started the foundation to grow orchids and his collection shows some wonderful flowers from around the world, set in a beautifully peaceful greenhouse.
There’s so much more to Jersey and our trip was just a taster of what’s on offer. From the surface we scratched, it seemed to have it all, beautiful beaches, lovely views, an array of attractions and luxury food, drink and hotels. And of course, the Jersey cow, who supplies that delicious milk to make the even more mouth-watering butter and cream to enjoy with scones and tea as you sit and drink in the beauty of this small, but perfectly formed island!
It may be small, but Jersey is packed with things to do and see and there is something on offer for everyone. Jersey Tourism has a website dedicated to make sure you make the most of your trip, whether it be enjoying the natural outdoors, the island’s heritage or mouth-watering cream teas and seafood dishes. The Jersey Pass cuts down on costs to see the most popular attractions and the calendar is always busy in Jersey, with festivals and events throughout the year. Log onto www.jersey.com to help plan your stay.
Accommodation: For five star luxury right in the heart of the capital, St Helier, Grand Jersey Hotel and Spa is an ideal place to stay. There are some excellent offers available, especially in the quieter months and there are 123 bedrooms and six suites to choose from. Log onto www.grandjersey.com
Transport: Old-fashioned treatment with modern prices mean a smooth journey to The Channel Islands, courtesy of Aurigny Airlines. Just voted the best short-haul airline by Which? magazine, by beating off the likes of Ryanair, Easyjet and Flybe, the airline flys from Manchester to all the islands via Guernsey, log onto www.aurigny.com