Spectacular scenery and surfing adventures along Guernsey's west coast
With summer getaways now shifting into view Andrew Wakefield travels from East Midlands Airport to sample life on the second largest Channel Island.
"Here comes a big one!" I'm lying expectant with my back to the English Channel waves as I wait for them to scoop up my surfboard and propel me towards the distant shore.
A sudden surge and my instructor releases her grip whooshing me forwards as I try to maintain control. I pull myself up to my knees and leap to my feet. It's my first ever lesson and I'm feeling pretty accomplished.
Unfortunately the swell of pride only lasts about 0.1 seconds until the white sandy beaches of Guernsey's Vazon Bay spin out of view and I career arms flailing ingloriously into the blue beyond.
It's a much better outcome than I had actually been imagining pre-lesson - thanks mostly to the patient efforts of my instructor Megan Dowinton from the Guernsey Surf School. I learn later that Guernsey’s location in the Bay of St Malo means it experiences some of the highest tides in Europe. And the powerful waters have certainly shaped a coastline with a view.
Drying myself off I can't help but stroll for a couple of miles along this, the island's west coast. It feels more like being in the Caribbean than the UK (the island is actually a self-governing British Crown dependency with its own parliament).
Weaving through the rockpools and watching the sun glittering on the sparkling waves I come to Cobo Bay, where our hotel is situated and find myself marvelling at ancient rocky outcrops and the purity and cleanliness of the sand.
There are just a few couples dotted around on this Saturday night, however I'm told it can get lively here on summer evenings with live bands hosted on a balcony overlooking the beach. Tonight though the beach is quite deserted and I'm trying to fathom why more people aren't out enjoying a sunset that seems to include an entire spectrum of colours. Our own arrival has been courtesy of Aurigny who operate a flight route from East Midlands Airport - taking an hour and fifteen minutes.
Reaching the bay's cliffs I find concrete German fortifications erected during Guernsey's occupation in World War Two. The aftermath of the Nazi invasion is still very much at the forefront of life here and particularly recently because of the anniversaries and the recent film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Liberation Day (May 9) has also just been commemorated with parades, parties and fireworks.
And earlier in the day our guide Sylvia Brouard had shown us a German coastal battery with a huge 22km range gun. The Occupation Museum (£6.50 entrance) complete with a recreation of an occupation-era street is also a wartime history must. Another of Guernsey's premium historical cultural attractions is the 800-year-old Castle Cornet which includes a maritime museum, 201 Squadron RAF Museum and Royal Guernsey Militia Museum.
But watching an impromptu barbecue taking place amid the stunning cliffs I realise it's the island's natural beauty that has long inspired writers and artists such as Victor Hugo that will ensure I return. And perhaps next time my shoreline sporting attempts might be a little more in tune with the spectacular surroundings.
For more information on what the island has to offer log-on to the VisitGuernsey website: www.visitguernsey.com. To book flights visit www.Aurigny.com. Return flights to Guernsey from East Midlands with Aurigny are priced from £95.98 per person. One to one coaching lessons at Guernsey Surf School are £50 per hour including equipment.