The Channel Islands are not a low-budget destination, plainly, and my visit there with Linda was no orthodox shoestring adventure. I spent £241 in the Channel Islands over three days, including airfare and transportation. This tally included a worthwhile hotel splurge at Le Friquet on Guernsey (£96 per night for a double; thus £48 in my budget) as well as a few budgetary missteps. For those staying in hotels, it's possible to do this itinerary for as little as £200; for couchsurfers, this itinerary could be followed for even less.
We flew first to Jersey, where we spent a night at an unremarkable b&b along the beach near the center of town. It ran £62 per night, an expenditure that seemed reasonable given the local market and the hotel's proximity to the pedestrianized core of St. Helier. After arriving on Monday we grabbed a quick lunch and then hopped on a bus for La Corbière, the southwestern corner of the island, where we hiked around, both on the Corbière Walk and freestyle. Magnificent. We stopped at a hillside pub with views of the Corbière Lighthouse and caught a bus back to St. Helier in the early evening.
La Corbière Lighthouse, Jersey.
Later we explored St. Helier, which in my view is a fairly unremarkable place, though it does possess some cute corners. These include the area around Hill Street and the side streets leading to Havre des Pas.
One completely fascinating thing about Jersey is its significant Portuguese population. (There’s also a Portuguese population on Guernsey, but it’s less noticeable than Jersey's.) You see Portuguese flags all over the island, mostly hanging out of windows but also in cars. I've done a little research since returning and it looks as if seven percent of the population of Jersey is of Portuguese background. The migration began in the 1950s and has drawn migrants disproportionately from Madeira.
The next day, after wandering around a little bit—and grabbing a cheap lunch from Marks & Spencer—we took the ferry to Guernsey.
From the moment of our approach, Guernsey's St. Peter Port was already casting spells. The city makes a beautiful architectural imprint, its austere gray buildings hugging an incline. We took the bus to Le Friquet, through tight country lanes winding their way first through prosperous suburban settlements and then through green areas popping with flowers. Le Friquet’s grounds are gorgeous, and its swimming pool was a lovely place to spend a few idle hours.
Later in the evening we took the bus back into St. Peter Port. We had a fine dinner at a place called La Crêperie, replete with cider served very charmingly in heavy porcelain cups. “So dry,” I said to the waitress after a gulp that sucked all the moisture out of my mouth. “I think of it as medium dry,” she replied. Surprised, I stammered out something about the English ciders I’d been drinking. “Well, yes," she acknowledged, "it is dry. Not like ciders from England.” My cider was followed by a thick slab of homemade paté, a savory galette, and a tasty crêpe, reasonable though not ultracheap at the set menu price of £12.50. Afterwards we walked down narrow stone stairways cut between buildings and looked around St. Peter Port. Bordered by hillside parks and churches, St. Peter Port is incredibly cute.
My plan had been to bum around Guernsey on the following day before heading to the airport in the late afternoon. But when Linda and I chatted about our options we quickly decided to go to Herm for the day. The following morning, we woke up, scarfed breakfast, and took a taxi to the port, where we boarded a packed ferry for the twenty-minute journey to Herm. What followed was one of those perfect days of childlike abandon that pierces adulthood only too rarely. We hiked around the island, stopped for refreshments, and swam in the incredibly cold sea, which reminded me of frigid northern California swimming adventures. The island is very beautiful, with hiking paths ringing its coastal perimeter. I wished that we'd booked a night on Herm, if for no other reason than for the experience of walking around the little island after all the daytrippers had left.
Herm beach and trail.
Inland view of Herm.
Brush and beach.
Despite the expense of the jaunt—which, I note with some amusement, barely exceeds the Frugal Traveler’s current Grand Tour daily budget of €100 per day—it was a high-quality few days of travel. The three islands are all twee, self-consciously so in each case, yet their physical beauty, historical quirks, and pleasantly sunny weather make them very appealing places for a short getaway, especially from London.
Budget Breakdown: Basics
Here’s more or less what it will cost to get to the Channel Islands from London following an itinerary like ours. By omitting nonessential taxis, the transportation total would have come to £116, which is not bad for roundtrip air, two ferries, many bus rides, and one unavoidable late night taxi.
London Luton-Jersey flight on easyJet: £27.08
Taxis on Jersey: £11 (two journeys)
Bus on Jersey: £2.50 (two rides)
Jersey-Guernsey ferry on Condor Ferries: £25.75
Bus on Guernsey: £1.80 (three rides)
Ferry to Herm and back: £9
Guernsey taxis: £13
Guernsey-London Gatwick flight on Flybe: £42.96
Inexpensive b&bs will run about £30 per person for a double, slightly more for a single, and the most barebones supermarket and takeaway dining will cost around £15 per day.