“Travel writer Tina Ediss has been coming to Jersey since she was a teenager. As an adult she brought her family who loved it too. Here she shares her passion for the island”
From my table in the trendy gastro-pub, I have a great view of Gorey Harbour and the imposing profile of Mont Orgueil Castle.
The castle has been guarding Jersey’s east coast since the 13th century when it was built to protect against the French. These days, its role is to welcome the many visitors who explore the ancient rooms and learn of life in medieval times.
In the harbour, the tide is so far out that the boats, instead of bobbing, are held fast by the seabed, their bows pointing out to sea as if they are raring to go just as soon as the time is right. Lunch is a creamy risotto with wonderful scallops sitting on the top like jewels. They are deliciously fresh. The pub, the Castle Green, buys them from a diver who has carefully picked the shells by hand from the seabed in Rozel Bay, just around the coast.
Easy to reach, Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. Its 45 square miles have a lot to offer, making it the perfect destination for families and adventure seekers, as well as those seeking solitude and a chance to unwind.
I fell in love with it as a teenager, then brought my children when they were small. They still remember days at Jersey Zoo, now known simply as Durrell after the founder Gerald Durrell. Now the children have grown up, my husband and I still come to Jersey for the walks, the food, great hotels, the scenery and the sea.
It’s the sea that has shaped the island, carved out the bays and created the wonderful beaches and opportunities for diving, fishing, boat trips, kayaking and other water sports.
Jersey’s beaches have personality and attitude. The beaches and bays of the north and north east are best for rock pooling, while those in the south and west tend to be sandy.
This variety means there is somewhere special for everyone, from the challenge of extreme sports to the curious satisfaction of leaving your footprints in the sand.
Rozel Bay on the north east is a pretty fishing village but it doesn’t just rely on its looks. One of the main attractions here is the Hungry Man Café. When I say café, I really mean kiosk, but their crab sandwiches are just about the best you can get.
Bonne Nuit Bay, almost in the middle of the north coast, is as charming as it sounds. It translates to good night, something tired sailors could be sure of when they sought the shelter of the harbour.
Jersey doubles in size when the tide goes out and as the waves draw back, freshly washed rocks and boulders are revealed. I join a guided walk out to Seymour Tower at the very grand sounding Royal Bay of Grouville.
It can be dangerous, the rocks here are usually covered by forty feet of water and the tides come back unevenly so you do need an expert to show you the way. Besides, their knowledge adds so much more to this journey to the bottom of the sea.
Seymour Tower dates from the 18th century. You can see a lot of Jersey’s history on the coast in the shape of numerous castles and forts, towers and fortifications, built through the centuries to protect the island from invaders.
You can also see the remains of fortifications from the Second World War, when the Channel Islands became the only part of the British Isles to be occupied. Pick up the story in the Jersey War Tunnels, an underground complex originally built by slave labourers which now houses a moving interpretation of the Occupation.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Occupation, a subject covered in the recent series The Channel Islands at War, written and presented by John Nettles. John of course is well-known as the former Jersey TV detective Jim Bergerac. Shown in the 1980s, the programme certainly raised the island’s profile – and the number of visitors tempted by tantalizing glimpses of Jersey’s countryside and coast.
I spend the last day of my trip at a place that’s been my favourite since I first came across it in the 1970s when we camped nearby. St Ouen’s Bay (pronounced won) is a wide sandy beach, the island’s biggest, on the wild west coast. I was a bit of a hippy in those days and there’s something about the sweep of the bay, the sound of the sea and the wind in my hair that makes me feel young and carefree again.
I watch the high-energy sports going on all around me; the surfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers and blokarting – wind-powered gokarting. I read a while, fall asleep for a while, stroll along the sands, have a paddle and work up an appetite for lunch at Big Vern’s Beach Café, where I listen as excited surfers talk about catching the waves. I begin to think that maybe I should book some lessons - but really I’m happy to watch everyone else.
I am aware that I am wasting time - and I just love the luxury of indulging in such laziness.