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Introducing The Channel Islands

The Fates were having a good day when they created the Channel Islands. These slabs of granite, sliced from the French mainland and scattered artfully into the sea, are full of mild adventures and small discoveries. With exquisite coastlines, beautiful harbours and forgotten, shaded lanes, their quirky anachronisms will keep you puzzled and entertained for hours. In places just 8 miles from France, there's a vaguely tropical feel here. Life is lived at a slower pace, tides and fog affect schedules, and plans sometimes just have to change - giving travels a gently random flavour. And there's a sense of uniqueness; partly the French-English cultural blend, but also something genuinely distinct. It shows itself in a host of individual surprises, from car number plates to car bans - all played out in pockets of bucolic idyll.

Though British, the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are fiercely independent and administered locally; the latter includes the smaller islands of Alderney, Sark and Herm. Jersey and Guernsey, the largest and most accessible islands, specialise in excellent seafood and glorious coastal walks. Their holiday worlds are slowly evolving from bucket and spade towards latte and spa, but even here a genteel calm often prevails. The three smaller islands, determinedly idiosyncratic and seemingly frozen at different points in time, add another layer of complexity to explore.

And for islands so small there's a surprising amount to discover. Surf pounding seas, kayak tranquil coves, tackle testing 30-mile hikes, languish in luxury spas and indulge in seriously good food; all this awaits - even though the biggest island is only 9 miles long. And perhaps because of their size there's a sense of really getting to know them; it's as if someone's let you in on a great secret. Be warned - once tasted, these islands can become gently addictive.