For the second time in four months we were in St Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and for the second time in four months we had arrived by cruise ship on a Sunday. On our first visit we had been on the Sapphire Princess and with it being our first visit we’d explored quite a few of the tourist attractions that the city and its surrounding areas provided (see: Guernsey posts). This, our second time in St Peter Port, was on the P&O Cruises ship Arcadia, and the reasonably close revisit to the island along with the short cruise duration resulted in us deciding that we would simply see what we could see from a casual wander.
The morning had started very well for us – if you’ve read the previous post then you’ll already know that we had the utter joy of experiencing some unexpected dolphin-watching from our cruise ship balcony – and with the weather appearing to be bright but not too hot (just how we like it) we took the tender boat from Arcadia across to the mainland and started our walk. Our previous visit to St Peter Port had taken us generally south of the city along the cliffs and exploring the castles and other fortifications and museums in that direction. For this trip we headed due north along the shoreline instead. Checking maps we knew that northwards and slightly inland there were some gardens; we didn’t know how interesting they would be nor whether there would be anything else to see there other than greenery and flowers but it was a general target to head towards.
The gardens we were heading for were the Candie Gardens.
[The] restored Victorian Candie Gardens offer spectacular views across St Peter Port harbour and our sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glass-houses in the British Isles, which date back to the late eighteenth century. In the gardens, aside from the beautiful flowers, lawns, and fish ponds, you will find a museum, art gallery, and a cafe housed in a Victorian bandstand.
At the entrance there was a handy map of the gardens’ layout and we decided from this that we would walk the upper garden area first then come back through the lower garden before returning to our somewhat anticlockwise wander around St Peter Port.
Entering the upper garden we were drawn firstly to the statue of Victor Hugo (unveiled in the gardens in 1914) and then to the view over the waters off St Peter Port that showed both our cruise ship Arcadia and the CMV cruise ship Magellan at anchor.
The reason for Victor Hugo’s statue being on the island was that he spent 15 years living there in exile. During his time on Guernsey he wrote Les Miserables, among others.
Passing the bandstand we then noticed that the Guernsey Museum was open (for some reason we hadn’t thought it would be) and it was hosting a Geek Weekend. As somewhat geeky people ourselves we had to take a look and spent an engaging half an hour looking through the rooms that had been set up to show off model railways, amateur radio systems, wargaming, fantasy clothing, and collections of Star Trek spacecraft. We spent quite a while talking to the railway expert even though it’s not something that really interests us normally; there’s something infectious about listening to someone talk about what they love, though. Because there were quite a few families with young children around I put away my camera and didn’t take any photos. I don’t have a cast-iron rule about taking pictures when children are present but generally speaking, and certainly if indoors rather than out in public, I lean towards not triggering someone’s unfounded fear and protective instincts in favour of a quiet life. In addition to the rooms for the geeks we checked out the main museum areas too, some of which was very interesting indeed, especially the parts describing local folklore and the island’s own language.
Back outside we then took a walk through the lower gardens. While the upper gardens were mostly just lawn and borders the lower gardens were an explosion of flowering colours.
Exiting Candie Gardens we started heading southwards as there was nothing apparently of interest north or west from our location. St Peter Port is on a hill so we were some way back from the shore and the main part of the city and quite high up at this point. We took a meandering route that set us towards another garden on the map, the Sunken Garden, but this turned out to not look that exciting as we approached so we made do with a couple of photos and carried on our way.
We found ourselves at the top of the Clifton Steps and decided that this would be a good place to descend towards the centre of St Peter Port in search of something interesting. The steps were pretty steep and I certainly wouldn’t want to walk up them very often but they did provide some occasional lovely views out across the harbour.
Golden Lion Pub
At the bottom of the steps it had been our hastily-made plan by this point to head off in search of Victor Hugo’s house since we’d seen the statue in Candie Gardens and knew it wasn’t far away but it had just turned noon and we found ourselves right by the Golden Lion pub which was just opening. A quick glance at each other and we decided without speaking to pop in for a quick drink before carrying on. This turned out to be a good move on our part as the bar staff were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about local ales, ciders, and gin, all things we like even when they’re not local but which we will go out of our way to experience when we’re travelling somewhere new. Not only did we get to see and hear about all the local offerings we tried them all too thanks to third-pint sampling paddles. Sitting outside in the sunshine initially our paddles attracted some attention from other visitors to the island and we tried to persuade them to try some drinks inside too but I’m not sure that they did. We used our samples to choose our favourites for a larger drink and have that inside once the heat trap outside the pub became too much and it was here that we realised that Victor Hugo’s house was closed so… we stayed for one more round. And another.
St Peter Port Harbour
Eventually, we decided we’d take a quick look along the St Peter Port harbour area before taking the tender boat back to Arcadia. Whether this was a regular occurrence or not I can’t say but there was a market taking place by the waterfront so we wandered up and down it for a few minutes before spending some of our Guernsey money change on a locally-written-and-illustrated children’s folktales book referencing some of the local creatures of mythology we’d read some details of previously in the Guernsey Museum in Candie Gardens. Just to be clear, the book was a gift for my niece. We then headed to where we would need to pick up the tender, stopping for some photos of the boats in the harbour as there’s something very appealing about boats in calm waters under clear blue skies.
All that then remained was to board the tender and commence the 10-minute ride back to our waiting cruise ship.
At some point I’m sure we’ll visit St Peter Port and the rest of Guernsey on a day other than Sunday and while it’s true that we didn’t get up to an awful lot on this visit we had seen and done plenty on our previous visit to the island’s capital back in May so feel perfectly fine with this. It would be nice to see what other attractions there are in the city during a normal working day and Victor Hugo’s house is still on our list of places to visit plus there are plenty of places on the rest of Guernsey we haven’t even touched on yet.