The Cream of Jersey: golden beaches, dramatic cliffs and crystal clear waters
- Credit: Danny Evans
With its golden beaches, dramatic cliffs, crystal clear waters and a wealth of places to visit, Valerie Singleton discovers an island which has something for everyone
For an island only nine miles by five there is a remarkable amount to do on Jersey. Don’t be fooled by its size, the myriad of criss-crossing lanes that run between the major roads will get you lost before you know it. But that’s part of Jersey’s charm and you can’t really lose your way for long. Not only is this a very pretty island but everywhere is quickly accessible, so depending on the weather and tides you can choose your beach or activity accordingly.
This really is a ‘something for everyone’ island. There are museums, ancient castles and round towers; country houses and glorious gardens and a huge variety of walks to enjoy either guided or on your own. For those seeking more active pursuits there are a huge variety of water sports to try and miles of green lanes to safely explore by bike thanks to the 20 mile an hour speed limit. As for foodies they can indulge to their hearts content in the many excellent restaurants and cafés. There are also numerous music, food and flower festivals, including the famous Battle of the Flowers held in August.
Jersey’s coastline ranges from the miles of dangerous jagged rocks, revealed when the tide is out on the east coast (Jersey has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world of up to 12 metres), to sweeping sandy bays like St Brelade’s and St Ouen’s on the south and west. In the north, lanes wind down wooded valleys between cliffs to intimate coves and hidden harbours.
My four day trip started on board the 8am Condor Ferry out of Poole. We arrived late morning in a sun drenched Jersey and I immediately put down the car hood and set off to explore the island and get my bearings.
At St Brelade’s Bay, where loungers and wind-breaks were set up on the beach, I visited the 14th-century Fisherman’s Chapel and St Brelade’s Church. There are remnants of early wall paintings at the chapel and the church has some striking Victorian stained-glass windows. Another must see church is St Matthew’s Glass Church which features glass work created by René Lalique in the 1930s, including the font, altar rail, cross and pillars, as well as the windows and screens.
I followed my visit to St Brelade’s Bay with a stroll through the peaceful grounds of the Jersey Lavender Farm, not far from St Aubins village. I was a little too soon to see the lavender in bloom, but by late July the fields will be vibrant with colour.
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Further round the coast I discovered the Corbiere Lighthouse; set on rocks, and surrounded by crashing waves, it’s a dramatic sight. The lighthouse, which is reached via a causeway when the tide is out, is set on a point between the south coast and St Ouen’s Bay, which runs almost the length of the west coast. It’s a great spot for photos.
Turning inland, I stopped at the La Mare Wine Estate in the grounds of an 18th century farmhouse. I was too late for lunch in the Vineyard Restaurant so decided that instead of doing one of the 45 minute wine tours, to relax outside on the café terrace overlooking fields of slowly ripening vines. The vineyard shop was well stocked with bottles of their award-winning wines and homemade chocolates - so I did a bit of stocking up myself!
Jersey, which is part of the Channel Islands, has a fascinating history. Situated only a few miles from France the Channel Islands were part of Normandy before William conquered England. When the French connection to England was lost in the 13th century Jersey decided to continue allegiance to the English Monarch. The island’s castles and fortifications are a reminder of when its close proximity to France created tension, but across the island you will notice that nearly all the place names are in French.
For history fans the Neolithic passage graves and burial mounds at La Houge Bie are very special and reveal that Jersey has been inhabited for thousands of years. A more recent aspect of Jersey’s history is its occupation by the German army during the Second World War. A chilling reminder of that time can be found carved into the hills behind St Aubin’s Bay. Here tunnels, initially for a munitions store and then a hospital, were created by using slave labour. I took the 1950’s Jersey Tunnels Bus, a lovely half hour journey through a beautiful valley to the Jersey War Tunnels.
Off the long main tunnels there are different rooms, each featuring superb displays which explain the history of Jersey’s occupation from invasion to liberation. There are still some sections of unfinished tunnel, atmospherically lit to project shadows on the walls and with the intermittent sound of exploding dynamite, they really give you a sense of what horrendous conditions the prisoners endured. It’s an unsettling place, but one not to be missed.
Something else not to miss is the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Set in 32 acres of rolling parkland it is home to many animals which are on the endangered species list. Information boards tell you about the work the Trust is doing to save species such as the Westland lowland gorillas. I spent ages watching an enchanting 10-month-old baby gorilla called Indigo in the spacious open air gorilla enclosure. The steamy reptile house is also a must, as is feeding time at the fruit bat roost.
In the Dodo Restaurant I bumped into Lee Durrell, Gerald Durrell’s widow and Honorary Director of the Trust. Lee told me she had recently finished compiling the Gerald Durrell Story, a new addition to the park. When I mentioned that I’d missed seeing my favourite lemurs she immediately offered to take me to the Kirindy Forest area of the park where they have animals found in Madagascar. So off I went on my own personal tour!
Driving along the sea front on my last day, I glanced over a wall to see animals I realised I hadn’t seen up till then – though not quite as exotic as Madagascar’s lemurs – they are very special to the island - Jersey cows.
Condor Ferries operates a year round service to Jersey and Guernsey through Poole, Weymouth and Portsmouth. Prices start at £49.50 per person based on a car plus two travelling one way only. Returns start from £200 for two. Day trips start from £30. For more details visit their wesbite condorferries.com or call 0845 609 1024
Where to stay
Valerie stayed at Eulah Country House, just outside St Helier - overlooking St Aubin’s Bay. There are 10 rooms ranging from £105 - £185 for one person and from £125 - £230 for two with full English breakfast. For more details visit eulah.co.uk or call 01534 626626.
Travelling around Jersey
Parking Paycard: A book of parking tickets can be bought in garages, supermarkets and newsagents. Simply scratch off the date, time of arrival and length of stay required.
Jersey Visitor Pass: This pass allows free entrance to 17 attractions. Prices start from as little as £42 for a 2 day pass which has a value of over £200.
Liberty Bus Pass: This is Jersey’s local bus network and the pass allows you to hop on and off where you like. Prices start from £7 for a day (family of 4 £18) to £28 for 7 days (family of 4 £56). More details libertybus.je
For more information visit Jersey Tourism website at jersey.com or call Jersey Toursim on 01534 448877
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust This beautiful 32 acre Wildlife Park, 4 miles north of St Helier in Trinity Parish, is dedicated to saving threatened species from extinction. (durrell.org)
Hamptonne Country Life Museum Discover six centuries of Jersey’s rural life at this museum in St Lawrence Parish, set in a house and farm dating back to 15th century. (jerseyheritage.org)
Jersey War Tunnels Features the Captive Island exhibition and history of the occupation until liberation in May 1945. (jerseywartunnels.com). Pick up the 1950’s bus to here from St Helier: Adults £5 return Children £3 (jerseybustours.com).
La Mare Wine Estate Vineyards set in the grounds of an 18th century Jersey granite farmhouse in St Mary Parish, the estate produces a range of wines, Jersey Apple Brandy and luxury chocolates. (lamarewineestates.com)
Samarès Manor Gardens These gardens, in St Clements Parish, include one of the most comprehensive herb gardens in Europe.(samaresmanor.com)
Eric Young Orchid Foundation The orchid display house, situated in Victoria Village, Trinity Parish, features planted landscapes using traditional Jersey granite, logs and branches, to show off the orchids extravagant and exotic beauty. (ericyoungorchidfoundation.co.uk)
Mont Orgueil Castle This fortified castle in Gorey has protected Jersey for over 600 years against French invasion. Explore the network of staircases, towers and secret rooms to discover hidden treasures. (jerseyheritage.org)
16 New Street Now owned by the National Trust, this 1730s townhouse brings Jersey’s Georgian history to life. (nationaltrust.je/place/16-new-street)
La Hougue Bie One of Europe’s finest and most complete passage graves reveals life in Jersey’s Neolithic community 6,000 years ago. A medieval chapel sits on top of the prehistoric mound. (jerseyheritage.org)
Mark Jordan at The Beach
Situated just a stone’s throw from picturesque St Aubin’s Harbour, this restaurant has a relaxed, casual atmosphere and unrivalled views of the bay. Local seafood a speciality. Gluten-free available.
3 courses for £27.50 using Jersey products (evenings only)
Set lunch menu £19.50 for 2 courses / £24.50 for 3 courses
With its large al fresco dining area Café Zephyr offers a fabulous brasserie menu starting from breakfast through to evening with dishes ranging from hot Oriental salads, sushi and sashimi to their signature dish, Chilli Squid. (theroyalyacht.comrestaurants/Cafe-Zephyr)
The Oyster Box
Family-friendly beach bar and restaurant on the promenade of St Brelade’s Bay. Menu ranges from gourmet burgers to local lobster.(oysterbox.co.uk)
The Crab Shack
The Crab Shack (one at St Brelade’s Bay, next to Oyster Box, and one at Gorey) is part of the Jersey Pottery group of restaurants. The menu ranges from Fish ‘n’ Chips to a Jersey Chancre crab served with a wooden mallet to crack DIY style. (crabshackjersey.co.uk)