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Fermain Tower: Escaping Guernsey

Fermain Tower: Escaping Guernsey

Tuesday 06 February 2024

Fermain Tower: Escaping Guernsey

Tuesday 06 February 2024

On an island as small as Guernsey it’s often very difficult to truly ‘escape’ for a holiday. Unless you want to skip across to Herm or Sark leaving the world behind without jumping on a plane hasn’t always been so easy. Unless, that is, you choose to spend a night in the Fermain Tower.

The 18th-century watchtower began a mesmeric evolution back in 2017.

From a long derelict, iconic building, to a fully furnished, iconic self-catering apartment. Set over three floors – four if you include the roof – the granite wonder has been turned into a spectacular place to lay one's head. 

When debating where in Guernsey to go visit when planning an article based on ‘Places, Spaces, and Escapes’ nothing jumped out quite as much as the Fermain Tower.  

I just had to go see it. 

Fermain Tower

Pictured: Fermain Tower (Milly Mallender).

I know several friends who’ve stayed in the tower, raved about the tower, and revisited it on more than one occasion, but I’d unfortunately never been. So, I reached out to the National Trust of Guernsey to invite myself. 

The watchtower is a former military defence tower built in the 18th century and it was subsequently occupied and owned in the 1800s by a man called Percy Ferguson.  

A man with such a fantastically whimsical name needs a fantastical story, and he does. Percy and his family lived in the tower from the 1860s, and after World War II his family ran a ferry service between Fermain Bay and St Peter Port. A service which is unfortunately no longer in operation. 

In 2002 the building was bequeathed to the National Trust of Guernsey, whose mandate is to preserve and enhance Guernsey’s heritage.  

After sitting in their lap for several years a decision was made to save up the capital to renovate the building and turn it into a unique self-catering apartment, so people far and wide could enjoy a night or two in one of the island’s many watchtowers. 

Fermain Tower

Pictured: The bedroom within the Fermain Tower (Milly Mallender).

The Estate Manager and Coordinator for the charity said turning the tower into a self-catering apartment wasn’t always the plan. 

“We thought, what can we do with it?” said Jemma Field, who attended a meeting one day when the idea of a renovated apartment was floated. 

“I know there's nothing else like it over here and it would be fantastic for the islanders to be able to stay in it, and it would be just great for people to be able to use the building, rather than it just standing empty. That's what we really wanted. So, we started the renovations in 2017. And it took between 18 months and two years to complete.” 

The apartment was open to the public in the Spring of 2019 and has undergone a number of upgrades since.  

One such upgrade was the complete tearing out and rebuilding of the bathroom after a leak put the property out of action for nearly a year.  

The upside? The Tower now boasts a modern, smart bathroom which is essential for when you’ve come in from a day down the beach. 

I spoke to Jemma inside the Tower and while it only measures 3.8m in diameter, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. The space has been utilised well and there are several clever features to maximise the space. A neat hatch door in the kitchen leads down to the bathroom, and an automatic skylight in the bedroom leads out to a private balcony, where one can take in the majesty of Fermain Bay from a privileged position up high. 

People absolutely love being so close to the sea,” said Jemma. “In the mornings, they can hear the sea crashing against the wall or on the stones, and the sunrise looking out of these lovely windows...the sun rises straight in front of you, so you get the glow of the sun coming up. 

Fermain Tower

Pictured: The kitchen and bedrooms at the Fermain Tower (Milly Mallender).

It's just such a peaceful place to be... you've just got the bay and the odd sea swimmer or kayaker out there.  

It's so quiet. It's just a real getaway. And you've got the cliffs right on your doorstep. 

“It really feels like a holiday, even if you're going on a local holiday.” 

While the Tower now sits complete, the renovation process was long and the team at the National Trust entrusted a very empty slate to the builders, RG Phillips. 

"It was just empty, a total shell all the way down and all the way up,” Jemma said. “There were all sorts of bits and pieces buried in the mud down there. Tools and old things from the past. It wasn't wind and watertight.” 

“We'd come down here regularly and see how progress was going. Every time we came down, we were just amazed at how much work had been done in such a short space of time. It was a complete transformation, and it was always exciting to come down and see the next stage of the development.” 

Fermain Bay is a true escape, and I had the pleasure of visiting the tower on a windy, clear day inJanuary.  

The only company we had were a couple of dog walkers who were strolling across the beach, the only regret was that I had to leave.  

If you need to ‘escape’ Guernsey for a few days, but don’t want to leave our sandy shores, Fermain Tower is just the place. 

The Fermain Tower is managed by La Barbarie Hotel and is available for hire throughout the year. 

You can find out more by emailing: 

The National Trust

The National Trust of Guernsey is a charity that works to safeguard and maintain Guernsey's heritage and traditions. 

The charity is made up of dozens of volunteers and several dedicated staff members. 

It is the third largest property owner in the island. 

The charity is responsible for looking after dozens of iconic buildings in Guernsey, including the Folk and Costume Museum, the Victorian Shop and Parlour, and Les Caches Farm. 

The trust is also in possession of several parcels of land that it protects, some of which it has curated scenic walks through. 

This article first appeared in the February edition of CONNECT, Express' sister publication. 

The latest edition of CONNECT can be read HERE.

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