The real world of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

The harbour in St Peter Port
The harbour in St Peter Port

As a film adaptation of the bestselling novel hits cinemas, Sarah Marshall looks at island locations linked to the historic story, set in the aftermath of World War II.

When resourceful Elizabeth McKenna and her friends accidentally bump into a German patrol after curfew, she quickly excuses their misdemeanours by claiming they are all part of a book club. The ridiculous name of the group, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, is inspired by the potato pie one member is holding at the time.

A scene from the film. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

A scene from the film. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

The title of Mary Ann Shaffer’s novel is a fitting tribute to an island shaped by a jovial community spirit.

A new film adaptation directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings And A Funeral, Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire), follows the story of the ‘accidental’ literary group and it’s central characters, through the eyes of journalist Juliet Ashton (Lily James), who is invited to the island by pig farmer Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) after he finds her name scrawled in a book.

A heart-warming, uplifting tale, the film shines a spotlight on Guernsey’s German occupation during the Second World War; a period recalled by islanders through museums and historic sites.

But it also highlights the sense of togetherness shared by residents - a quality that makes this island truly unique.

St Peter Port

St Peter Port

Although scenes were largely shot in Devon, the film’s soul undoubtedly belongs to Guernsey. Discover the Channel Island for yourself by exploring these key sites connected to the story.

1. St Peter Port

Cobbled streets and colourful houses greet visitors to Guernsey’s delightfully compact capital - just as they do Juliet in the book. The scenic harbour, where Dawsey Adams works, is a great place to sit back and breathe in the sea air. The Old Town Hospital (now the Guernsey Police Station) is where Elizabeth McKenna works as a volunteer.

2. The Little Chapel

Locals claim this is the smallest chapel in the world, and measuring five metres by three metres, they might be right. It was built in 1914 by French monk Brother Deodat, who wanted to created a miniature version of the grotto and basilica at Lourdes. Dawsey takes Juliet to see the curious building, which is decorated with seashells, pebbles and broken china. There is no charge to enter; the building’s upkeep relies solely on donations.

3. The Ship & Crown

Previously the Crown Hotel, which is mentioned in the novel, this traditional pub overlooking the marina in St Peter Port will be celebrating the film’s release with a themed menu. During the Guernsey Heritage Festival (May 2-9), the pub will serve potato peel pies and real ales. There will also be special events and talks about the Occupation and Liberation of the island. Visit liberationgroup.com

4. St Martin Parish

Walk along the quiet lanes of this parish to see the places where key characters of the Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society lived. Visit Dawsey Adams’ house in La Bouvee and Eben Ramsey’s residence on Calais Lane - which was also the ‘birthplace’ of the Society.

The tourist board has devised a two-hour themed walk running from Sausmarez Manor - which survived damage during the Occupation because the owner refused to install electric lights - and ending at the Old German Bunker, now converted into a bird hide. Download maps and an audio guide from visitguernsey.com - look for Walk 20.

5. Fermain Bay

“It’s beautiful - a rugged path that wanders up and around the headland,” exclaimed Juliet after walking a route from Fermain Bay back to St Peter Port. Regularly mentioned in the book, this pebbly beach on the island’s east coast can be reached by a cliff-top walk. Refuel at the Fermain Beach Cafe, where gluten-free cakes and sandwiches are served.

6. German Occupation Museum

For an idea of what life must have been like during the Occupation, visit this immersive museum founded and run by local Richard Heaume, who started collecting bullets from fields as a schoolboy. Filled with re-created shop fronts, Occupation Street gives an impression of what St Peter Port looked like from 1940-45. Entry is £6. Visit germanoccupationmuseum.co.uk

7. Fort Saumarez

German forces quickly realised the potential of Guernsey’s Martello towers; at Fort Saumarez, built on the site of an existing battery in 1804, they constructed their own observation tower. A fine example of the fortifications used during WWII, you’ll find it on the headland that forms the northern tip of L’Eree and extends to the Lihou causeway.

8. Candie Gardens

Anyone looking to discover the history of the island, just like Juliet, should visit the excellent Priaulx Library, filled with books, maps and documents about Guernsey. The collection is housed in Candie House, a Georgian building bequeathed to the island by scholar and bibliophile Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx - along with his book collection. Spare some time to explore the property’s 19th century pleasure gardens, where views spill across St Peter Port. Visit priaulxlibrary.co.uk and museums.gov.gg/candiegardens

How to get there

Prestige Holidays offers a three-night trip to Guernsey from £439 per person, including flights from Southampton and staying at the four-star Bella Luce Hotel, in the parish of St Martin, which is where Dawsey, Amelia, Isola and Eben all lived in the novel. Regional flights are also available. Visit toursprestigeholidays.co.uk/bella-luce

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is in cinemas now.