Hit Refresh At The Old Government House Hotel & Spa, Guernsey – Review
Hannah Giacardi visits the idyllic Channel Island hotel
By | 2 months ago
The Old Government House Hotel & Spa is the place to stay when visiting the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey. The only five-star property on the island, it is set in a prime hilltop location in Guernsey’s capital, Saint Peter Port, offering stunning panoramic views across the harbour and the neighbouring islands of Sark and Herm. Just a five-minute walk from the picturesque quayside and a stone’s throw from the high street, The OGH (as it’s affectionately called by locals) is the ideal residence for exploring this balmy corner of the British Isles, says Hannah Giacardi.
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Review: The Old Government House Hotel & Spa, Guernsey
Walking up the red carpeted steps and into the grand, high-ceilinged reception room of the OGH, I am instantly transported back in time. Built in the 1700s, the OGH was once the official Governor’s residence, before starting a new life as a hotel in 1858. The yesteryear charm coupled with impeccable hospitality feels like stepping onto the set of Hotel Portofino. With a toddler under one arm and an oversized suitcase in the other, I stand in the marbled reception staring up at the beautiful cornicing and twinkling chandeliers. My gaze is soon interrupted by the hotel manager, Govind, who greets us with such warmth it’s as though I’m visiting the grand home of a dear friend.
After we check-in, we enjoy a welcome drink by the roaring fire in the Sir John Coward Lounge. The cosy atmosphere offers a soothing space to unwind after our journey. For us, it was just a short hop: a 50-minute flight from Gatwick. Nestled in a plush, cornflower blue velvet chair, I take a sip of my delicious cocktail, which has been carefully crafted with local seasonal produce.
The ornate marble fireplace – with its characterful mantle clock and opulent gold mirror – enhances the home-from-home atmosphere. The famous island afternoon tea is served here in the lounge or, in warmer months, al fresco in the hotel’s beautiful leafy gardens, The Olive Grove. Steeped in history, the hotel’s olde-worlde grandeur is coupled with its award-winning restaurants, chic outdoor pool, delightful manicured gardens and rejuvenating spa.
After checking-in to our sea view room, we meet with Soo Wellfair, a gold-accredited tour guide who takes us on a guided walk of St Peter Port. As we begin our stroll down to the main High Street, Soo tells us how the OGH was taken over by German troops during World War II, German soldiers relaxing and recuperating here.
The tour then takes us to Candie Gardens, a beautiful Victorian garden gifted to the island by philanthropist Osmond de Beauvoir, along with his house and extensive book collection. It’s the ideal place to absorb the panoramic views across St Peter Port. Venturing back down to the quayside along the cobbled streets, Soo tells us about another famous character of Guernsey: Victor Hugo, the French novelist whose works include Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame. Living in exile in Guernsey from 1855 until 1870, his eclectic home – Hauteville House – is considered a work of art, and is a great place to visit.
Arriving at the scenic harbour, Soo points out the noteworthy sites, including the Liberation Monument, Castle Cornet and The Ship & Crown Pub, which features in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film.
Another must-do is a walking tour of the island’s stunning south coast with Jackie Ward. Starting at Moulin Huet, the walk takes us along a beautiful cliff path that journeys around the south of the island, with picture-perfect views at every turn. It’s not hard to see why the impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir fell in love with these secluded coves. He painted 15 famous pieces during his 1883 stay, and an art trail has been created by Art for Guernsey with frames fixed in the exact spots where he set up his easels 140 years ago.
With 29 miles of coastal paths, Guernsey is a walking and cycling paradise. There is also a strong seafaring community attracting sailors, surfers, divers and stand up paddle boarders.
For something a little different that promises to rejuvenate the mind, why not try SUP Yoga – or, as I did, wild swimming. Organised with Guernsey Swim Adventures, Jacqueline and Jenny lead different sea swims, allowing you to explore Guernsey’s hidden bays, gullies, caves, archways and surrounding islands.
To complete my wellness journey, I make a pitstop at the hotel’s spa. After all, no visit to the OGH is complete without indulging in one of its rejuvenating treatments. The spa uses Phytomer products – a marine skincare that harnesses the healing power of the purest sea ingredients. I opt for the Exclusive Signature Treatment, which uses a wonderful combination of facial, back and head massages to ease away any tension.
At the OGH, the food is a true highlight. Breakfast, served in The Brasserie, is a feast of pastries, fruits, yoghurts, sourdough, freshly squeezed OJ, as well as a made-to-order menu of traditional breakfast classics. Sitting in the light-filled conservatory – which overlooks the hotel’s gardens and offers some of the best views across St Peter Port – The Brasserie is the perfect setting to while away the day. Its seasonal lunch and dinner menus use local fresh produce and organic ingredients. Its delicious steaks and fresh Guernsey seafood dishes are accompanied by a choice of noteworthy wines.
Another culinary treat at the OGH is The Curry Room. Expertly prepared by Chef Prenalan Naidoo, it showcases an array of the finest Indian dishes. The sumptuous food is accompanied by a superb wine list – and don’t hesitate to lean on the staff’s expertise if you’re not sure what to choose.
When exploring the harbour, be sure to stop for lunch at Octopus Bar & Restaurant. Sitting directly on the seafront, it offers unobstructed views over Havelet Bay and Castle Cornet. Its delicious steaks, seafood stews, fresh crab and lobster dishes are accompanied by an extensive cocktail menu. Placing a strong focus on locally sourced seasonal and sustainable produce and committed to working with local suppliers, the outstanding menu showcases some of the very best foods Guernsey has to offer.
No visit to Guernsey would be complete without some tasty traditional pub fare.
Les Douvres is a delightful gastro pub in the quiet parish of St Martin’s. A former 18th century manor house, the heart-warming simple and rustic dishes make for the perfect lunch. For a classic fish and chips dinner with an unbeatable view, be sure to head to The Rockmount. Overlooking Cobo beach on the west coast, this is the place to be at sundown.
THE FINAL WORD
The Old Government House Hotel & Spa promises to hit the refresh button. Its prime location in St Peter Port means you are just moments away from the cobbled streets of The Old Quarter, the shopping centre and Guernsey’s delightful harbour and restaurants. Its fascinating history, olde-worlde charm and spectacular views are coupled with its impeccable service and award-winning food and spa. As Guernsey’s most prestigious hotel, it truly is the go-to place to check-in to for your next Channel Island restorative getaway.
A stay at The Old Government House Hotel & Spa starts from £266 a night, on a bed and breakfast basis. theoghhotel.com
Return flights from the UK to Guernsey start at £89, and car hire is available at the airport with Europcar.
For more information, head to visitguernsey.com
Featured image: Sir John Coward Lounge in The Old Government House Hotel & Spa.