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In truth, I wasn’t really too sure what I was expecting of Jersey. It was not somewhere that had been on our radar, yet all of a sudden we were booked and going! To make things crystal clear, in this post we are talking about things to do in Jersey in the Channel Islands, not the Jersey in America. A 50 minute flight from the UK’s Southend airport won’t get you to the U S of A….
If we think of Jersey, most of us think of an island full of the older generation. We imagine that it is this sleepy place with not really much going on. I thought the same and when, because of the flights available, it meant we were having 5 days there, I was worried we may get bored. In fact, we both took a couple of books with us, thinking we would be having lazy days around our hotel’s pool, chilling out and relaxing. Neither book had so much of a page turned! Read on, let me tell you things you may appreciate knowing about a short break in Jersey.
So lets start with how we got there. Jersey is situated about 85 miles off of the UK coastline, and just 14 miles from France. It is part of the British Isles, although has its own laws and Government. You can fly straight into Jersey from most of the UK’s airports. Its just a one hour flight, and slightly less from London airports. We flew with Easy Jet from Southend, and it was up, across and down on the Jersey runway within 50 minutes. Perfect! You can also get a ferry with Condor Ferries from Poole or Portsmouth. The crossing takes around 4 and a half hours, and runs from each port once a day. A great option if you are not a fan of flying.
Jersey is only tiny, just 9 miles by 5 miles, so can be navigated very easily. There is a very thorough and reliable bus service running throughout the island, via Liberty Buses, and you can reach pretty much anywhere on the island using these. Nik and I used the bus service for the first two days, and this ended up being a result! We took the bus to a couple of the main tourist attractions, which was great as if we had gone in the car we hired, even if we had been lucky enough to find a car parking space, it would have been pretty pricey for parking. On the bus it was just our fare. Every bus journey you take costs just £2 if you pay by contactless, so is really inexpensive. However, if you are going to use the busses for a couple of days, you can buy a pass that allows you unlimited journeys, for around £7 per day. This works out even more cost effective.
On our third day, we hired a car. I cannot tell you the laugh it gave me seeing my 6ft 4 husband folded into a tiny Peugeot 108. There is no point getting a bigger car, as the entire Island has an absolute maximum speed limit of 40 mph, and some of the lanes are teeny tiny! We were glad of our small car when we were trying to squeeze past busses and tractors! We hired the car for three days from Soverign Car hire on the island, who were great but sadly closing their business at the end of the year. Zebra Cars in St Hellier are equally as good, or of course you have the chain companies like Europcar. We paid £100 for three days of hire, which was pretty reasonable as that included all insurances and fuel. The use of a car just meant that we could go off the beaten track a little, which is exactly what we did.
There is lots you can do on Jersey to satisfy your inner history geek. We got round to a few of them, but ran out of time to do a couple of the others that we fancied, such as Elizabeth Castle. You can buy a Heritage Pass – (details here) that make visits to these sites more cost effective if you are planning on visiting a few. In the interest of full disclosure, The Jersey Tourist board gifted us this pass as I was visiting some of the sites as part of their Visit Jersey campaign.
Mont Orgueil Castle
I blooming loved this castle. Set on the fishing harbour of Gorey Bay in St Martin, the castle is packed full of fabulous history. Built over 800 years ago, this medievil fortress casts its watchful eye out over the bay, out towards the French coastline. There are so many rooms, stairways, nooks and crannys to explore in Mont Orgueil, I would suggest allocating a full half day to explore here. I mean, how upset would you be if you came away without seeing the Wheel of Urine, The Dance of death statue or the Witches prison? Also, allowing yourselves the time means you get chance to have lunch in one of the gorgeous restaurants or cafe’s around the bay too……
La Hougue Bie
This site has one of the 10 oldest buildings in the world! The neolithic passage grave, with its chapel standing above, is both calming and awe inspiring. It appealed to my hippy heart as they found that the passage grave, built 6000 years ago, perfectly aligns with the sun rise. As the sun makes its way up the sky, it shines down the grave passage way, lighting it and the interior up. That fascinated me. How in tune with nature pre-hisotoric man was. Standing in the tomb, (which is probably to be avoided if you are claustrophobic), sun illuminating the tomb within, made me feel like I could feel all of natures wonder right there. It was a weird experience.
The tiny chapel, built at the top of the mound covering the passage grave, was just like something out of Vikings (if you have not seen that show, watch it, its amazing) Two 15th century paintings are still visable on the walls of the chapel. Fascinating to see.
The War Tunnels
Everyone that we spoke to on Jersey recommended that we visit the war tunnels. It is an amazing site that tells the true story of war time Jersey, as well as the people and the islands role. The tunnels, built by a forced labour that was often extradited from their home lands. Under the brutal direction of the Nazi soldiers, it is an interesting, and a little harrowing part of recent history to say the least. The tunnels gave me an insight into the war that I had not previously heard. Poignant, chilling, but important to know, I would suggest a couple of hours at this site.
Grosnez Castle Ruins
The last part of this 14th Century castle is situated right on the headland in the North West corner of the island. Although there is not much left of the castle, its a beautiful part of the island with far reaching views. Seeped in history, it has an eerie calm about the area, and you only need about half an hour there, so worth a visit. We were up on the headland in Jerseys forecast storm that had hit, with high winds. Ideal time to go onto the headland I feel…..
Firstly, the beaches, for the most part deserted, are probably the thing that surprised me the most about Jersey. You could see a photo of many of them and think they were straight out of the Caribbean or somewhere equally as exotic. We took advantage of having the hire car to explore them all! We literally set out from our hotel, (which I told you about in this post, My recommended stay in Jersey) and drove the coast road all the way round the island. We did quite a meandering drive, stopping when and if we fancied, so it took us two days to explore the entire coast. Our favourites beaches and bays were as follows;
We loved it here. A very traditional fishing village, Rozel Bay has a relaxed, laid back feel to it. Although the beach here is not brilliant, (its a mixture of sand and shingle), its a very protected bay so swimming in the sea here is safe. There is also a pier that you can spend some time just sitting on, looking out over the endless ocean and enjoying the view. It was gorgeous and felt very traditional and uncommercial. We also had a walk around the village and the homes are so gorgeous. A mix of stone, cottage type properties and french inspired white washed homes. Rozel Bay is also home to the famous The Hungry Man cafe, so you can grab some lunch before heading off again.
Ahhhh Plemont bay…. We went here to see the caves that we had read about, but sadly, it was an incredibly high tide so you couldn’t get to them. The caves are not huge, but we really wanted to go in them, nature nerds that we are.
Not to be completely beaten, we did go down the stairs to the beach, and there are rocks there that you can sit on and enjoy the ocean that is right at your feet. Nik and I did this as we are both huge lovers of the Sea, and it was some of the most relaxed hours we spent on Jersey. There is also a really lovely cafe at the top of the stairs to the beach, with panoramic views over the bay. We had a cup of tea and scone up there and it was a perfect spot to take a breath before moving on.
St Ouens Bay and Le Braye
In my opinion, the most beautiful beach. It has miles, (3 of them in fact) of pure white, powdery soft sand that would be at home on any paradise island. St Ouens is popular with surfers as the currents are quite strong here, the beach is unspoilt and beautiful. We had a beautiful sunny day when we were here, so you even got the treat of sparkling turquoise waters.
You can also see the gorgeous white lighthouse at Corbiere from St Ouens. The light house is well worth driving round to. When the tide is low, the causeway out to the lighthouse is walkable so you can go out there and be up close and personal. Just be warned, a certain two people did not keep their eye on the turning tide and may or may not have had to whip off their trainers, roll up their jeans and make a run for it through the rapidly covering causeway…..
Le Braye is the most sheltered part of St Ouens, and is stunning! I went for a stroll on the beach and I was the only person on it. In fact, it was so beautiful and untouched, that it reminded me of the beaches in The Whitsundays in Australia. If you are a beach lover, Le Braye is your place. I do think it would be busier in the summer months when the children are off scholl, but on a sunny day in June we had the entire stretch to ourselves.
Ahhh see, I bet you thought I was going to be talking cosy country pubs and golden Labradors here didn’t you. Well, you may be surprised to learn that St Hellier has some pretty fine speak easy style cocktail bars, to rival any in London. Although there is so much to do in Jersey, it can be thirsty work and you have to rest sometimes… so of course we tried out a few of these bars for you…
The Blind Pig – The Blind Pig is a well hidden gem. No I mean, it really is well hidden. We had to ask many people where it was before we found it! Set behind an unassuming, ordinary door that gives nothing away, you step inside to a 1920’s beaut of a place. A small but perfectly formed bar that opens at 7pm, it is a must visit
Ce Sior – I can fully recommend the Cherry Bakewell inspired cocktail here , ahem…. I may have had to try a couple, you know, just to make sure it really was my recommendation… Ce Soir is a plush, velvet draped bar of Parisian decadence. The cousin from Paris of The Blind Pig, the minute you step inside it feels very Moulin Rouge. There is a small seating area out the front of Ce Soir (meaning “this evening” fyi) where you can enjoy your drink with the bustle of St Hellier’s harbour in front of you.
Project 52 – This is another bar that is set up a cobbled street, with a front door that does not really disclose what it is the door to. A gold edged staircase takes you up to the bar, where you will find apron wearing bar tenders ready to take your drinks order. There is a members only bar at Project 52, but the public bar has an elegant and ornate feel about it. Beautiful bar.
St Hellier, is the capital of Jersey, so a busy and bustling place. Full of shops, the harbour and the usual coffee shops, there is an abundance of places to get food and drink. In our opinion, these three bars were a little different, so definitely worth a visit. We loved them.
To be honest with you, we didn’t really take full advantage of Jersey’s beautiful restaurant’s. It has a huge foodie scene, and is incredibly proud of its food. Seafood and fish are a big part of the menu in Jersey, (especially oysters) but as I am Vegan and Nik does not eat fish, we are probably not best placed to talk about the food scene. There seemed to be three fish restaurants that came highly recommended. The Oyster Box, Drifters Beach Bar and Bistro and Faulkner Fisheries.
Having said that, we ate some beautiful meals in Jersey. Food at Longueville Manor, (actually voted top fine dining in Jersey) where we stayed was exceptional, and we found some fabulous cafe’s and restaurants (The Hungry Man in Rozel Bay was a delicious bargain) as we travelled around. Jersey has an abundance of good food on offer, so my advice would be to have a google, go on trip advisor, or visit the Visit Jersey website to find where you fancy.
So, what do you think? Have I surprised you? There is truly so much more that you can do in Jersey. Much more than I thought for sure! You can even do a little trip to France or Channel Island hopping should the mood take you. Beautiful beaches, fabulous food scene, culture and shopping, there really is something for everyone. Nik and I both agreed that a short break to jersey really is the perfect short break. We are even looking to return to our beloved Longueville Manor in October so we will explore a little more!