There are two ways of approaching the British seaside. You can look at it as a summer-only destination for (if you’re lucky) ice-creams and sunbathing and bucket-and-spade holidays with the kids. Or you can head there for wild weather, storm-watching, indoor cosiness and roaring log fires. I have always preferred the latter. You can often get a wind-swept beach more or less to yourself and it’s amazing what you can find there.
Being a small island, the winter is wild in Jersey and if you like watching the big rollers crashing on to the rocks look no further. The difference between high and low tide can be an astonishing 40 metres – few places anywhere match this – and what the sea leaves behind can be a revelation. Especially if you go exploring with Kazz, beach forager and the Channel Islands’ version of Bear Grylls (though much funnier). As we went further and further out on a vast expanse of beach, he found tiny crabs and starfish and a variety of seaweeds, shoreline plants and sea vegetables so nutritious you could survive on them. During the German occupation in the Second World War, people did actually survive on them for a while. Some were surprisingly tasty (sampling is obligatory), though I’m not sure if you’d want to live exclusively on seaweed, especially here in Jersey which is basically sea-foodie heaven.
The fish is good here and the shell fish are extraordinary – lobsters, oysters, scallops, crabs, mussels. All of these like the rather chilly water and the huge tides that wash through them continually. You can have a wonderfully fishy Sunday morning. Go down to the harbour and the Fresh Fish Company where you can buy not just that morning’s fresh fish but truffle flavoured crisps, wheat grass and cabbages, Jersey sea salt and local smoked butter. Check out Sumas restaurant overlooking Gorey Harbour, surely one of the best views on the island (and it does have a few) where seafood is, of course, a speciality.
You’ll find plenty of seafood, too, at Longueville Manor, the only Relais et Chateau hotel in the Channel Islands. Chef Andrew Baird’s highlights include grilled local turbot, deep-water crab and lobster, hand-dived scallops and the vegetables and micro-herbs grown in the Longueville’s beautiful walled Victorian kitchen garden and greenhouses. The hotel has its own smokehouse (originally an underground crypt) and 24 beehives producing Longueville’s honey.
If the weather is fine, you might fancy a spot of boating. The Fizz Too is the Longueville’s 42ft yacht, available to guests for a day or just a morning. You can get to St Malo or Guernsey in around two hours or just go round the beautiful coast of Jersey itself. Dolphins and seals are almost guaranteed to join you.
Or you might just want to go for a walk. The hotel has a rack of Hunter wellies for you to borrow either for the beach or around the hotel gardens that come complete with ambling ducks, quiet courtyards, a lake and a woodland walk (up to see the beehives).
If you want complete self-indulgence, though, head for the Cottage Garden – this is actually the spa where you have the virtually unique opportunity to try a de Mamiel Rhythm of Nature holistic facial. Invented by the renowned therapist Annee de Mamiel, you would normally only get one of these from the woman herself (her waiting list is three years long, incidentally). She makes all of the skin products used and they change each season – the winter oil features rosehip seed and sea buckthorn, for instance. Don’t be fooled by the word “facial”, though. This is a whole body treatment, it draws deeply on Chinese medicine and is as effective on the emotions as it is on the skin.
For a real winter get-away weekend, the Longueville has a Winter Indulgence package from £470 to include breakfast, one a la carte dinner, one afternoon tea and a few little extras such as a bottle of Champagne on arrival, a cashmere wrap and two pairs of cashmere socks to take home, a hip flask of Jersey apple brandy, REN Moroccan rose otto bath oil and as much hot chocolate as you can drink. Bring on the cosy winter indulgence.
For more information about Longueville Manor, including details of special offers, cosy breaks and Valentine’s packages, visit www.longuevillemanor.com.
For something a little on the wilder side this winter during your visit to Jersey, try www.wildadventuresjersey.com.