Channel Hopping: Jersey Travel Review
Far from the sleepy land of Bergerac, Jersey is swiftly creating a new alter-ego of an energetic outdoor paradise for thrill-seekers, just an hour from London. Mark Southern discovered a hidden gem of an island, with a big future.
As first published in MoneyMaker Magazine, 2012.
For many of us the Channel Islands are mere dots we fly over when heading to more seemingly glamorous destinations. Depending on your preference, they’re either quaint memories of simpler days or expensive tax havens, but are most definitely not weekend hotspots.
At least,that’s what they want you to think, for things are not what they seem in Jersey, in particular. A new wave of outdoor pursuit and extreme sports fans are leaving their London offices at 5pm on Fridays, and sneakily making their way to City Airport, where they quietly board one of the multiple daily flights to the island for a weekend of indulgent outdoor action. It’s enough to make Jim Bergerac’s side parting fall out.
Closer to London than Cornwall, enjoying better weather than the English South Coast, and possessing the most beautiful and empty sandy beaches you will ever see, it’s no surprise that Jersey is such a prime location for the pursuit of adrenalin-pumping thrills. In fact, the only thing that ought to raise eyebrows is why it took us so long to realise.
But a realisation is exactly what is occurring, as discerning sports enthusiasts head to the island to try everything from kite-surfing on enormous and deserted beaches, rock climbing above the crashing waves, and even white water rafting. For those of a non-aquatic nature, the horse riding and quad biking is terrific fun, and the golfing is superb, whilst those wanting sky-based adventures have an eclectic choice of everything from paramotoring to skydiving, which is the most popular activity around, they provide you with a teacher and the necessary gear, and if you are a skydiver professional in a Helmet Hunt or gear hunt you can find here the right place to get everything you need for the occasion.
Numbers of sports tourists are growing, but are still minimal compared to more obvious locations like north Devon and Cornwall, and the island’s famously hospitable welcome has adapted to make it a welcoming haven for even the most hardy of thrill-seekers, with a range of first class accommodation and restaurants open for any occasion.
Situated on the west coast, The Atlantic Hotel is one such residence, standing proudly upon the brow of a cliff, with a golf course cascading down its side, and the eponymous ocean draping its watery carpet as far as the eye can see. With even an iota of encouragement huge midnight blue waves crash over each other and into the rocks below, with the raw and ancient power contrasting beautifully with the sleek contemporary lines of the hotel, with its manicured greens and swimming pool overlooking the primal ocean.
The hotel’s rooms are sharp, modern interpretations of a classic luxury, and the ambience is quietly and confidently self-assured and welcoming. A warm and friendly service is delivered from the moment guests walk through the doors, and it’s clear to see why it wins so many awards.
The food on the island is almost ludicrously good compared to its size, and The Atlantic excels itself here. The in-demand restaurant is overseen by executive head chef Mark Jordan, who having come to the island with an already significant reputation has increased it by some margin, winning multiple plaudits along the way. Expect to enjoy the freshest sea food you’ll ever taste here, along with the best of Jersey’s local produce, with his internationally-recognised tasting menu, all set in the calming blue and white dining space. It’s a joyful dining experience, and at its best when the darkness falls, the wind gets up and the waves bounce off the moonlight below. It’s frequently cited in the most dramatic hotels in the world, and its Ocean restaurant most certainly deserves its prized Michelin star.
Travelling around the island requires a car, but weekend tourists who don’t hire bikes to stretch their legs and see a little off-piste Jersey are missing out. Arthur Lamy has been cycling the island’s routes with mainlanders for decades, and is the perfect guide to learn about everything from the where’s best for afternoon tea to Jersey’s fascinating and occasionally grim history, including the wartime occupation by Nazi Germany. For those wanting as authentic and gripping experience as you’ll ever witness on a bicycle, it’s not to be missed.
But it’s the outdoor sports that are making the island so attractive right now, and it is here that Jersey really comes into its own, offering as wide a range of pursuits on one small island as you will ever see. Whether you like going fast in any of an up, down or forward direction, you’ll find something here for you and, at just one hour from what is the quickest exit point out of London, it’s simply perfect for a weekend to forget the city completely.
The Atlantic Hotel is available all year around, along with its Michelin-starred restaurant, Ocean. www.theatlantichotel.com
Bike tours are available all year around via www.cycleinjersey.com
For a full list of sports to enjoy in Jersey visit www.jersey.com
Blue Islands fly out of London City airport to Jersey eleven times a day. Flights take just over one hour, and service is uniformly excellent. www.blueislands.com