High above the eastern end of St Brelades Bay, the gleaming white Biarritz Hotel looks down on clean white sands. A private pathway provides quick access to the beach below.
Jersey is almost France, almost abroad, a mere 14 miles from Brittany. There are apocryphal stories that locals take their boats across to France to pick-up a Sunday morning pain-au-chocolat.
Place-names, language and customs recall Jersey’s centuries as part of Normandy. Look out for the Visites du Branchage during July and September when inspectors check that landowners have cut back branches overhanging roads.
Flourishing palms show that Gulf Stream warmed St Malo Bay, where Jersey sits, has a micro-climate, warmer than England‘s South Coast that lies 85 miles away.
When the tide goes out, St Brelades Bay stretches even further towards the horizon. At low tide, Jersey’s territory expands by 30%.And for the record, St Brelade was a 6th century devout wandering Celt.
Family-run for over six decades, the Biarritz Hotel has a reputation for superb service.
A friendly welcome tells us about meal times and facilities before taking our bags to the room.
Our dual aspect, premium room has large sliding doors opening out onto a balcony spacious enough for sun-loungers, chairs and a table.
Furnishings are light-pine, curtains are of gentle pastels. A statement fern wallpaper on one wall contributes to a bright seaside ambience. If you still need a reminder of where you are, there is a nostalgic yesteryear Jersey tourism poster on the wall. In addition to a chest of drawers, there is a dressing table. On warm days, chilled water from the fridge is particularly welcome.
A well lit en-suite bathroom has very simple to operate push-button rainfall and directional showers.
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The star feature is a terrace overlooking the bay backed by a spacious lounge. A small library, with a wall of books to borrow, is another light-infused spot for a restful afternoon.
It is worth rising early to bag a window-side table in the restaurant for the buffet breakfast.
In the evening a two or three course table d’hôte menu is served, usually offering a fish, meat and vegetarian option for the main course.
A Liberty Bus pass is ideal for getting around on an island, a mere 9 miles by 5 miles, where parking can sometimes be scarce.
One of Jersey’s headline sights is Elizabeth Castle, built on an island out from St Helier. The 15-acre fortresses has over four centuries of history. The battlements date back to when Sir Walter Raleigh was Jersey’s Governor, before Charles l sought refuge there during the English Civil War.
The Botanical Gardens at Samarès Manor are the place to see famous Jersey Lilies and agapanthus, along with an arboretum of alders, conifers, birches, and willows. Originally, the French for salt marsh, Samarès is now a fertile base for the Bee Garden and Japanese Garden.
Mont Orgueil Castle, towering over Gorey harbour, has become Jersey’s iconic image: an imposing reminder of Jersey’s battle-scarred past.
At the end of the Second War, Jersey’s initial reaction was to dump remaining swastika-emblazoned German military equipment into the tunnels of the never completed military hospital.
Over time, the island decided that it was important to remember, so now the Jersey War Tunnels recall the occupation, the slaves who died building the hospital and those who tried to flee German occupation.
Other nice touches
A talk from the daughter of a Jersey woman deported to Europe and interred by the occupying Nazis is typical of the Biarritz Hotel’s lecture programme.
Every morning at 8.45 am guests have a chance to head for the tranquil Sanctuary for morning prayers.
Artwork throughout the hotel, often large scale canvases, feature images from around Jersey: beach scenes and silhouettes of surfers.
Prices start at £157 for a standard double room and £191 for a premium room.
The best bit
A private path descends through agapanthus, daisies, and hydrangeas directly to the clean sands of St Brelades Bay.
It is a beach that is sometimes rated as the third best in the British Isles.
The final verdict
A small and friendly hotel superbly located for enjoying the best that Jersey has to offer.
Look out for highlights of the Jersey calendar: Liberation Day in May, the Battle of Flowers in August, the Jersey International Air Display in September and Tennerfest, which runs through October and November and offers exceptional value fixed price menus in many local restaurants.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by The Biarritz Hotel.