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A True Guernsey Icon – St Andrews Village

Situated right in the heart of Guernsey, St. Andrews Village is a small settlement surrounded by rolling valleys and lush countryside. It is located in the parish of Saint Andrew, which is the only landlocked parish on the island. What the parish lacks in coastal views, it more than makes up for in beautiful wooded lanes and flowering meadows. Bordering St. Peter Port to the east, Saint Andrew is a hotspot for agriculture and is one of the most expensive property areas in Guernsey.

It is customary on the island to list the parishes around the coast first, meaning Saint Andrew often comes last in such an order. This gave rise to an affectionate Guernésiais nickname for residents of the parish – les croinchaons – translating as ‘the siftings’, referring to what is left behind in the sieve. The village of St Andrews far exceeds in attractiveness the image that this conjures up, with both history and culture awaiting visitors.

A Labour Of Love

Undoubtedly the highlight of any visit to St. Andrews is its proximity to one of the most iconic sights in Guernsey – that of the Little Chapel. Famous right around the world, the Little Chapel is nestled in a neat little valley just to the west of St. Andrews, well within walking distance. It was originally constructed in 1914 by Brother Deodat, who came to Guernsey in order to practice his faith away from the religious uncertainty developing in France in the early 20th century.

Inspired by the grotto and basilica at Lourdes, in France, Deodat decided to build a miniature version. After two attempts, he was successful in creating a small chapel that measured 9 feet by 6 feet, received in great reception by the other brothers. The chapel stood for nine years, until a visit from the Bishop of Portsmouth in 1923 saw him unable to fit through the door. Disheartened, Brother Deodat demolished the chapel and started work on a completely new one, until being forced to return to France due to deteriorating health. Very sadly, he passed away before ever seeing the finished product, but a committee was formed in 1977 to restore and protect it.

Today, the chapel’s external surfaces are decorated with seashells, pebbles and individual pieces of broken china, giving it a colourful mosaic pattern that is very reminiscent of the artist, Pablo Picasso. It’s a gorgeous building to see up close, being made world-famous by a photograph published in the Daily Mirror, which sparked intrigue around the globe.

It is thought to be the smallest consecrated church anywhere in the world, and takes the crown as Guernsey’s most renowned tourist attraction. The chapel is open daily throughout the summer and there is no charge to enter, although donations to The Little Chapel Foundation – which looks after the building – are much appreciated.

Remnants Of War

Alongside the Little Chapel, I also visited the St. Andrews Parish Church, located within the village itself. While it may not be quite as colourful as its smaller neighbour, the history of the Parish Church is just as rich, with the earliest parts of the building dating back to the 12th century. Just to the south, another great destination to visit is the German Underground Hospital. This stark reminder of the WWII Nazi occupation of Guernsey is the largest example of a structure built during this tumultuous time, with its maze of tunnels covering almost 7,000 square metres.

The impressive construction was the work of prisoners of war, who toiled away under horrific conditions to complete the hospital, which was also used partly as an ammunition store. It’s a remarkable place, if slightly haunting, and provides a great insight into the impact the war had on Guernsey. A small car park is available, and you’re free to roam the entire tunnel complex as you please, with its dark, damp walls being peppered with stalactites.

If you wish to grab a bite to eat as you explore St. Andrews and its attractions, it can be a great idea to make a visit to The Last Post – a pub and restaurant found near the centre of the village and one of my favourite places to eat. Its family-oriented, dog-friendly atmosphere is great for children, offering a dedicated family dining room complete with a soft play area. There is also an area for children to play outside, to help them burn off a little extra energy. You can expect brassiere-style food, with a menu that offers a range of culinary delights.

St. Andrews Village is a small gem of a town, with scenic views and wonderful attractions. Just a short step from the capital of St. Peter Port, it’s well worth a visit and you could easily spend an entire day here..

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