The largest of seven islands in the Bailiwick of Guernsey archipelago in the Channel Islands, heritage-rich Guernsey delivers international financial clout in scenic surroundings.
Residents do not have far to roam: Guernsey is only about 65 sq km large, being some 15km by 10km. However, the island lies just over 100km from the coast of southern England and 40km from Normandy on France’s northern coast, meaning it is well placed for a weekend break, not to mention a day trip to one of its bailiwick neighbours.
Those who make the 50-minute ferry journey from Guernsey eastward to Sark may be rewarded with views of Herm island’s puffins. The nature reserve of Lihou is even closer to home, accessed at low tide by a cobbled causeway on Guernsey’s west coast.
Surf and swim
The island’s small size also means locals are never too far from one of its 27 beaches. Surfers favour the west-coast Vazon Bay, while the sheltered southern bay of Petit Bot attracts swimmers. Families enjoy rockpooling at Moulin Huet, a cove that inspired the French impressionist painter Renoir on a visit there in 1883.
A British crown dependency, Guernsey is not part of the UK or the EU. It makes its own laws and fiscal policy: personal income is taxed at 20 per cent and no VAT is levied. There is also no capital gains or inheritance tax.
As part of population control measures, there are restrictions on who can join the island’s 62,500 residents: a certificate or permit is required to live and work there. Many of those who do make the move are drawn by Guernsey’s finance sector, centred around the capital Saint Peter Port; the sector accounted for just over a fifth of employment in December 2017. The island lays claim to being the closest global finance centre to London (it is an hour’s flight from London Gatwick airport).
Boasting a low crime rate, a relaxed pace of life and an island-wide speed limit of 35 miles per hour (56kph), the island is viewed as a safe and welcoming place to raise a family. Guernsey offers a choice of state and private schools, and enjoyed an overall pass rate of 99.8 per cent in 2018 for A-levels (equivalent to high school diplomas), compared with 97.6 per cent for England.
Slices of history
With plenty of heritage sites to explore, Guernsey makes a fascinating home for history buffs. The film adaptation this year of the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society gave an idea of life on the island under occupation by the Germans during the second world war. The legacy of this period is remembered at sites such as the German Occupation Museum and the German Underground Hospital.
Other places of interest include the 1780-built Clarence Battery, part of Guernsey’s principal fort during the French Revolution, and Hauteville House, the former home of French writer Victor Hugo, who was exiled on the island between 1856 and 1870 during Napoleon III’s rule in France.
In Les Vauxbelets valley, the charming porcelain and pebble-decorated Little Chapel is a smaller version of the grotto and basilica at Lourdes in southern France.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Alamy