The definitive Guernseyphile, Gill Girard was born on the Channel Island after her father was evacuated during the German occupation, met the love of his life in Sheffield and then returned following the war. All this, as well as a lifetime spent on the island, qualifies her as something of a Guernsey specialist. Over the years, she has watched the island’s distinct culture bloom, and offers walking tours from The Old Government House Hotel & Spa and The Duke of Richmond Hotel. Here, the Guernsey guide walks us through the island’s many quirks, from its ever-changing coastlines to its popular folklore.
Why did you become a guide to Guernsey?
“After a local history class, I became hooked and realised that, in spite of my father’s enthusiasm, I didn't know as much as I thought about Guernsey. Once I had learned a lot more about our history, I felt I had to share it. My first guided walk was called ‘In Victor Hugo's Footsteps’.”
What does your typical tour look like?
“Many of my tours are bespoke so no two are the same, but most enjoy a walking tour of St Peter Port. We often start from the Liberation Monument where I talk about the evacuation, the occupation and liberation. Some of my family were evacuated and some stayed on the island, so I have many first-hand stories to pass on. We walk through the town’s cobbled streets, steps and alleyways while talking about Guernsey’s rich and colourful history.”
How has Guernsey changed over the years?
“In some ways, Guernsey has changed a lot but in many ways it’s still the same. The beauty of its coastlines and the friendliness of its people have certainly not changed. It’s quite a static population, so you see familiar faces daily. Although you don't know every one of the 63,000-strong population, it sometimes feels as though you do. Often on a walking tour through St Peter Port, I’ll nod ‘Hello’ to several friends and acquaintances as I go. On the other hand, you don't hear Guernsey French spoken as much anymore. I often heard it on my bus to school, but it’s rare now to hear it spoken in the street.”
Favourite place on the island?
“For generations, our family has spent long, summer days on the rocks we call the Terraces at Port Soif, which offer great swimming in summer. I also love the stretch of coastline between Vazon and Cobo on a sunny day: the colour of the coastal granite, the sea and sky are all stunning—and I enjoy the walk down the valley to Moulin Huet especially when the bluebells are in bloom.”
Can you share any odd facts about Guernsey?
“We are only 26 square miles but have one of the largest tidal ranges in the world at 33ft, which transforms our coastline roughly every six hours and makes the island feel a lot bigger!
Many of the houses in the western parishes have an unusual piece of granite protruding from their walls, known as Witches’ Seats. Residents built them on to their homes as acts of appeasement. The weird logic behind this was that instead of causing mayhem, witches would be tempted to stop and have a rest from their wicked ways!
According to local folklore, Guernsey was once invaded by a group of fairies, who were inappropriately excited by the beauty of the local women. This did not sit well with their husbands and sweethearts. The bloody battle that ensued inspired the name of Rouge Rue in St Peter Port, which translates as Red Road and refers to the spilt blood that flowed through the street.”
And lastly, why should we visit Guernsey?
“Everyone is surprised by the depth of Guernsey’s history and the variety of its coastline. You can visit a Neolithic burial chamber and five minutes later be looking at a Napoleonic fortification, having walked through old German trenches to get there. Additionally, we are within easy reach of the smaller Channel Islands of Alderney, Sark, Herm and Lihou, which all have their own character and are well worth a visit.”
Guide to Guernsey Gill Girard’s passion for the island is contagious. Experience her enchanting tours when staying at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Old Government House Hotel & Spa or The Duke of Richmond Hotel.