In the warm, south-eastern corner of Guernsey, the parish of Saint Martin sits pretty on the border of St. Peter Port to the north-east. It is one of the highest parishes on the island, peaking in elevation at 110 metres above sea level, before its sloping countryside falls away towards the sea, ending at spectacular cliffs. Saint Martin’s coastline is some of the most dramatic in Guernsey, extending for many miles and incorporating a range of beaches and headlands.
Further inland, the countryside is just as scenic, and the village of St. Martin can be found towards the centre of the parish. Set amongst a mosaic of agricultural fields, the village is one of the larger examples in Guernsey and there are a range of sights to see in the surrounding area, as well as a good selection of local amenities to accommodate a visit. The village’s proximity to the coastal wonders of Jerbourg Point and Marble Bay make it a great base if you wish to stay for an extended period, with several hotels and self-catering options available.
A Bringer Of Luck
A good way to start off your visit to St Martin can be with a trip to the village’s Parish Church, located within a slight dip in the landscape, at the crossroads between the village’s major thoroughfares. The church also goes by the name of Saint Martine de la Bellouse, with the earliest record of a religious building on the site dating back to the year 1048. At this time, the church consisted of a simple wooden structure, which was granted as a Parish Church to the Abbot of Marmoutier by William the Conqueror.
The original building was soon dismantled, making way for the stone structure which still stands today. The tower is one of the oldest parts, being constructed around 1225. It is certainly the most impressive section of the building, as it reaches towards the sky, often catching the golden light of evening sunsets. The church is very welcoming to visitors, as well as being greatly involved in the local community.
At the church gate, I enjoyed a view of La Grand Mare du Chimquiere – one of Guernsey’s most famous ancient monuments. Dating from the Neolithic era, La Grand Mare du Chimquiere is a statue of a figure which held much significance for generations gone by. Local worshippers looked up to the statue in awe, and although many legends are told of its origins and spiritual power, no one knows for sure what purpose it was built for. Even to this day, flowers are placed by the statue’s feet and coins are placed on the head. This is usually done by newly-weds, with La Grand Mare thought to bring good luck and fertility to couples. It’s a great site to visit, with it being intriguing to ponder the statue’s true meaning.
Just to the south-east of St. Martin, the Route de Sausmarez passes by Sausmarez Manor, one of the few stately homes available for visitation in Guernsey. The manor belongs to the seigneurs de Sausmarez, having been in the family’s possession since around about the year 1200. The family has seen its fair share of history, with members having led fantastically varied lives, with occupations such as sailors, admirals, explorers and diplomats. The art and artefacts they have accumulated along the way all on display within the manor, providing a wonderful snapshot of different eras of Guernsey’s history, as well as that of the wider world.
Conducted tours of the manor are available, with this being an especially good way to spend a rainy day. If the weather is more pleasant, a lush subtropical garden awaits visitors in the grounds of the manor, complete with a range of interesting plants, as well as many different sculptures. For those feeling brave, you can even book conducted ghost tours of the manor during the evening, with the building said to be the most haunted house in Guernsey. A tour guide will recount a variety of spooky tales while leading you through its various rooms, but the offering of a free glass of wine included within the booking price should help to calm any nerves.
A trip to St. Martin, that I highly recommend, can be suitably combined with a visit to the warm, welcoming atmosphere of The Queens Inn – a traditional bar and restaurant which offers en-suite rooms for guests. A variety of pub food classics are served up seven days a week, and their kid’s menu makes it a great place to visit for families.
St. Martin Village is therefore a hugely interesting place to go, with some of the most popular tourist destinations in Guernsey. The wider area is equally as explorable, as the countryside and coastline are great for walking.
Explore another parts of Guernsey. Find out more in the following article: Fairytale Sights In South-West Guernsey