St Peter Port
Guernsey's most populated parish and the Island’s capital town with its scenic harbour and rich architectural history. ‘The Town’ is the business, shopping and entertainment hub of the Island - as well as being the main port. St Peter Port has many particularly fine buildings within its environs (Castle Cornet, The Town Church, St James’s, the Market Buildings, Victor Hugo’s House, etc.) all representing a particular facet of Guernsey past. To the 100 or so cruise liners that anchor offshore every summer, the Town is an absolute gem.
St. Martin is located in the southeast of the Island and is widely regarded as probably the most sought after parish for property. Semi-rural yet close to the facilities of the Town, it includes spectacular coastal paths, cliff top views and sandy coves. It also features the Island’s third largest shopping centre.
This parish is located just west of the centre of the Island and borders the parishes of Torteval, St. Saviour, Forest and St. Andrew. Mainly formed by countryside, there is a small village in the centre with an unusual church. This is found towards the bottom of a small valley is one of the most unusual in the islands as it has been built with a sloping aisle. This has led to many wry comments during marriage ceremonies as the Bride & Groom need to walk uphill within the church to the altar and then downhill as they leave!
In area, Castel is the largest of the 10 parishes and occupies part of the centre of the island while extending down to some of Guernsey’s finest beaches on the West coast, where Vazon Bay is also renowned for its surfing and water sports. It also includes Albecq Headline and the golden granite rocks around Cobo where watching the setting sun from the sea wall with a lapful of fish and chips is about as good as it gets!
Known to the knowing as God’s own parish and by some measure the one with the most interesting history! Until 1806, Guernsey was formed by two islands. The Vale occupied territory on the mainland of Guernsey, the Vingtaine de l'Epine, as well as the whole of Le Clos du Valle, the separate Northern Island which was separated from the main island by way of a tidal channel known as the Braye du Valle. Le Braye du Valle was drained and reclaimed in 1806 through the building of the Rue Militaire linking the North to the garrison in Fort George – as part of defence measures against the threat of invasion posed by Napoleon. The Vale includes the island’s largest area of open land in the form of L’Ancresse Common, an 18 hole links golf course, beautiful beaches and many of Guernsey Neolithic archaeological sites.
St. Saviour is the Island’s most rural and secretive parish, ill served as it is by main roads! Rolling fields and quiet lanes lie around picturesque valleys leading down from the attractive parish church, past the reservoir with its waterside walks, to the old fishing community around Perelle Bay.
St. Sampson is one of two parishes sub-divided into two parts; the bulk lying on the east coast with a smaller section taking in L’Islet on the North West coast. The town of ‘St Sampson’ is the second largest on Guernsey and is also colloquially known as ‘The Bridge’ as it’s centred around one of the old causeways previously linking the two islands. Now a recreational marina, the harbour here used to be the export hub of Guernsey’s renowned granite industry which once supported over 250 working quarries and sent stone across to form part of the Thames Embankment. At its peak, Guernsey was exporting just under half a million tons of granite a year. The parish church is the Island’s oldest, and is meant to mark the spot where St Sampson first landed from Brittany.
‘The Forest’ is the highest parish on the Island and is the site of the recently refurbished airport and its award winning terminal building. Its Southern coastline is marked by 100 metre high cliffs and some of Guernsey’s most stunning views with outlooks as far as Jersey and Les Roches Douvres, the lighthouse mentioned in Victor Hugo’s ‘Toilers of the Sea’ which was written while he was in exile in Guernsey.
Considered to be the remotest of parishes and soliciting the most jokes about ‘the long commute to St Peter Port’, Torteval forms the South Western corner of the Island and is the other parish split in two. Proud of their own identity, Les Tortevalais have an independent spirit focused around a life hard earned from boat-building, fishing and the land.
St Andrew is one of the smaller parishes and is located in the centre of Guernsey - as such it is the only parish on the island which does not border the sea. Its small but much cherished church is at heart of district marked by small hills and valleys. One of these contains a famous landmark known as the ‘Little Chapel’ which was built by a de la Salle brother in 1914 as an ornate grotto. It is reputed to be the world’s smallest consecrated church. It is one of the Island’s main tourist attractions.