A journey to the most westerly point of mainland Guernsey will land you in the parish of Torteval. Covering just over three square kilometres, and with a population of about 1,000 people, it is the smallest parish on the island. Despite this, it boasts some fantastic stretches of coastline, with numerous bays and high sea cliffs. Large areas of the parish are made up of rural countryside with sweeping green valleys, making it a very scenic place to be. In fact, the name Torteval comes from the Guernésiais words for ‘twisting valley’, evidencing the parish’s natural beauty.
In the far west of the parish, adjacent to the spectacular Pleinmont Headland, there lies the village of La Lague. La Lague sits on the border between Torteval and its neighbouring parish – St. Pierre du Bois. More notably, however, the village is located right on the seaside, with fantastic views out over the azure waters of Rocquaine Bay. As a coastal destination, it is not as well known as other parts of Guernsey, making it a hidden gem on the island and a great place to avoid the crowds.
A Sunset Harbour
One of the highlights of a trip to La Lague – indeed the main draw for many visitors (myself included) – are the tranquil shores of Portelet Bay. This bay is a mere stone’s throw from the village and is made up of a sandy beach and small harbour, which sits at the southern end of the much larger Rocquaine Bay. The harbour at Portelet retains a very traditional aesthetic and is quite charming as a result. Historically used by small fishing boats, it remains very much a working harbour to this day, and it can be a peaceful spot to watch the boats coming and going on their daily excursions.
Portelet Beach’s western-facing position means it catches the best of the sun during the afternoon and evening, making it great for sunbathing or enjoying the sunset. Those interested in swimming will also be glad to hear that the cove is safe and sheltered from the offshore waves. The shallow waters are often clear, especially when the sun is out, and they are at their warmest during September.
If you happen to visit on a day when the ocean isn’t quite inviting enough to take a dip, Portelet Bay is also known for having some excellent rock pools when the tide is low. Starfish, crabs and small fish are all possible sightings for eagle-eyed explorers.
The bay at Portelet is therefore ideal for families, and the presence of a small kiosk behind the beach provides the opportunity to sit and enjoy a coffee while taking in the views. Portelet Bay Kiosk sells a range of snacks and other refreshments as well, including ice creams, cakes and sandwiches.
The Power Of The Sea
From Portelet Bay, it’s just a short walk to Le Vau de Monel – a naturalised garden with a network of paths that are great for easy walking. The land here overlooks Rocquaine Bay and provides some breathtaking views, with many seating areas positioned so that you can enjoy the scenery to its fullest. If you’re seeking a longer walk, the garden forms the beginnings of Pleinmont Headland to the south, which I believe is one of the best areas for hiking on Guernsey.
For those who are perhaps more interested in culture, you can instead walk north from Portelet Bay, enjoying a seafront stroll along the Route de la Lague, at the front of the village. The bay curves round for a short distance, eventually coming to a large rock, which is the site of Fort Grey. This prime example of a Martello Tower was constructed in 1804 to defend the Guernsey coast during the Napoleonic Wars. It is known as the “Cup and Saucer” by locals, due to its distinctive appearance. The tower was mounted with a 24-pounder canon to protect the battery, although it has now been adapted for more peaceful purposes, operating as a local shipwreck museum.
Guernsey’s western coast has historically been a treacherous region for sailing, with many ships becoming stricken on the infamous Hanoi Reef. The Shipwreck Museum holds a great number of objects and artefacts which have been recovered from such ships, making it an interesting place to visit. It also offers information about the accidents themselves, telling dramatic stories about the disastrous wrecks of the HMS Sprightly in 1777 and the Vermontburg in 2003.
While La Lague may be an unassuming settlement at first sight, it is set within an intriguing part of the Guernsey coastline. With a range of things to do around the village, it is certainly worthy of a day-trip.
Would you like to learn more interesting facts about Guernsey? Then continue reading: The Quirky And Interesting Island Of Guernsey