The smallest of Guernsey’s parishes, Torteval occupies two corners of the south coast split by St Pierre du Bois. The two sections of the parish are easily distinguished with the detached section sitting at Guernsey’s westernmost point known as Pleinmont-Torteval. With a name deriving from the Guernesiais word for twisted valleys, Torteval is a beautiful parish to explore
Torteval Historic Sites and Attractions
Each Guernsey parish features a distinctive parish church and no parish church is finer than Torteval’s. Built in the early 19th century to replace a former church, Torteval Church features the tallest steeple in Guernsey, home to the oldest bell in the Channel Islands which dates back to the 15th century. The steeple was designed to be a seamark but deemed an insufficient marine navigation aid and therefore not fitted with a light.
Located on a rocky islet roughly one mile from Pleinmont Point, Hanois Lighthouse is a fascinating point of interest in Torteval. The construction of the lighthouse was an important stepping stone in lighthouse engineering. Built in the late 19th century, Hanois Lighthouse was the last to be automated in the British Isles when it was finally demanned in 1996. The light shining from Hanois Lighthouse stretches for 20 miles and is one of the most important navigational aids in Guernsey waters.
As with all Guernsey’s parishes, Torteval is peppered with historic forts and World War II sites. Many of the parish’s batteries date back to the Napoleonic wars including Narron, Les Tielles and Pleinmont. Starting at Pleinmont, the cliff path takes in all three batteries and is an excellent coastal walking route for points of interest. The highlight is Battery Dollman on the Pleinmont headland. Not only are the bunkers perfectly intact even featuring a bunker telephone that would have been used during the German occupation, in 1997, the gun was restored and is the last of its type in Europe. The site is only open to the public on Sunday’s but is an exceptional place of war history to explore and the gun is fired during opening using blank charges.
Protecting the southern part of Rocquaine Bay, Fort Pezeries has been an island defence since the 17th century. Armed with three cannons, Fort Pezeries offers a great glimpse into Guernsey’s history. The fort is located off the beaten track but can be accessed by a scenic coastal walk past fascinating German bunkers and Guernsey’s ‘Fairy Ring’ where local folklore suggests the presence of fairies, witches and elves.
The parish is also home to a ruined watch house that was a favoured spot by Victor Hugo. The watch house in Pleinmont is now just a few remaining stones but has been immortalised by the French author through his book ‘The Toilers of the Sea’. Referred to as ‘the haunted house’ in his book, Hugo frequently visited the watch house during his time in Guernsey describing it as a place for smugglers, ghosts and demons. Due to its location, the watch house was an exceptional navigation aid and destroyed by the Germans during their occupation of the Channel Islands in World War II. The remaining ruins are one of Torteval’s biggest tourist attractions with literature lovers frequently visiting the spot that Hugo would visit.
Torteval Other Points of Interest
Pleinmont-Torteval is home to the outstanding Pleinmont Nature Reserve. The nature reserve is a designated bird sanctuary and was redeveloped for the Diamond Jubilee in 2021. This rugged headland is alive with wildlife whilst also boasting exceptional coastal views. A great location for bird-watchers, Pleinmont Nature Reserve is a nature-lover’s paradise.
With a rocky and rugged coastline, Torteval is home to just one beach, Le Portelet, a small harbour and beach front straddling the border between Forest and Torteval. This unique beach is located close to the airport and it is common to see planes flying overhead as you relax on the beach, a must-visit location for fans of aviation.
German Directional Finding Tower
Table des Rions (Fairy Ring)
Torteval Shopping, Dining and Nightlife
If you are looking for high street shopping and well-known brands, Torteval is not the place. Torteval is a charming parish where you can really get to know the heart of Guernsey. The parish is bursting with farm shops, local markets and organic food producers offering ample opportunity to sample the best flavours of Guernsey. Restaurants are also distinctly local with family-owned and small eateries serving up exquisite menus created from only the finest local produce and freshest ingredients. Menus feature a blend of British and French influenced cuisine and seafood is a particular highlight within Torteval’s restaurants. Nightlife is stripped back with local pubs hosting live music and weekly quizzes whilst The Imperial Hotel features an incredible cocktail bar in-house.
Torteval Sports and Events
Torteval is the island’s most cultural parish and with this comes a busy calendar of events. The parish hosts many of the island’s largest annual events including the renowned Rocquaine Regatta. This exciting family-fun day is one of the biggest dates on the Guernsey calendar and boasts unusual boat races, free entertainment and exciting activities.
The parish is also famous for the Torteval Scarecrow Festival held every July. This annual summertime event features a delightful trail of unique and comedic scarecrows, a perfect family-friendly activity. The trail concludes with a vibrant community event of live entertainment, local food vendors and distinctive market stalls.
As the island’s smallest parish, fewer buses service Torteval with just the two routes passing through the main section of the parish. However, for those visiting Pleinmont, an additional route runs through St Pierre du Bois terminating at Pleinmont in addition to the parish’s two services. All three services connect to St Peter Port Bus Terminus in the capital where you can find excellent connections to the rest of the island.
With less public transportation options than other areas of the island, the easiest way to visit Torteval is by car. The parish is easy to navigate with plenty of parking.