The islands of Guernsey have long been a perfect weekend escape for Londoners and Parisians. The islands draw city people with its bucolic setting of flower fields and dairy farms, scenic walks along cliff paths that bear witness to breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic, golden sandy beaches that touch the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, pretty ports and marinas packed with yachts and boats, and cobbled streets and open squares amidst a tapestry of architectural styles. Add to that friendly people, scarce crime, café terraces, boutiques of shops, historical castles and museums, and gourmet seafood cuisine and fine bistros, and there is really not much to dislike about the Guernsey islands.
The history of the Bailiwick of Guernsey dates back to the Ice Age, shortly after which the islands broke away from the continental mainland of Europe. There is evidence that the islands have been settled since Neolithic times, and used to serve as a trading post in the days of the Romans. In 1066, the islands became a part of the English kingdom ruled over by William the Conqueror. During WWII, the British decided not to defend the islands and moved the residents to the mainland. The islands were subsequently occupied by the Germans. The Bailiwick of Guernsey is today a self-governing group of islands that have cast themselves as a financial center with its low tax rates and zero sales taxes, though they remain substantially dependent on tourism nevertheless.
These islands offer plenty of things to do. For good exercise, there are many walking and hiking trails that crisscross the coastline and countryside. Cycling, diving, fishing, surfing, sailing, and yachting are popular pursuits as well.
Flower lovers will absolutely adore these Channel Islands. There are some 450 different flowering plants in the islands with many wildflower varieties blooming along cliff paths, flower fields, wooded valleys, country lanes, and cottage gardens. The islands of Sark, Alderney, and Herm are known as the floral islands with their numerous botanical gardens, the latter island is award-winning and famous for its Guernsey Lilly.
The islands are also great place for bird-watching, being home to a number of nature reserves and natural habitats that serve as sanctuaries for birds. Many try to catch a glimpse of the rare Whooper Swan, Spoonbill, or the Green-Winged Teal and, failing that, can settle on the joys of spotting the numerous Gannets, Shags, Cormorants, Little Egrets, Kestrels, and other various birds.
The islands are also a great place to check out some historical and cultural sites. There are archaeological sites of burial chambers, castles like the Cornet, German bulwarks and fortification remains from WWII, and museums like the Maritime Museum, Militia Museum, and Guernsey Gallery and Art Museum.
The food in the Bailiwick of Guernsey is also first-rate. There are a host of high quality restaurants with all types of international cuisines from Indian, Turkish, Italian, and Spanish to traditional British restaurants. The seafood, however, takes centre stage, fresh off the local shores. In the summer, you can enjoy al fresco dining – eating out at cliff top or old farmhouse restaurants. And the beaches are saddled with fresh fish and chips stands, its flavors as good as that you’ll find in any sit-down restaurant.
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