By Guest Blogger Jamie Hunts
If decide to do as many visitors to Guernsey do, and take a walk along the island’s magnificent coastline, you eventually come to realise that there sure are a lot of fortifications and castles dotted around the place for such a small island. And you would be right in thinking so! Guernsey is an island of only 25 square miles in size, however you will find more than 20 different fortifications, castles, and war museums.
This is mainly due to Guernsey’s strategic position in the English Channel between France and the UK, and the subsequent historical struggles between the two nations for control of the Channel Islands. Simply take a leisurely stroll along Guernsey’s west coast, a challenging trek along the southern cliff paths, or a short walk with the family across the northern common, and you will come across a multitude of different fortifications and castles.
With over 20 there are too many for me to list one by one, however here are some of my personal favourites which I feel would highlight a trip to Guernsey.
Castle Cornet is probably the most visible and obvious choice on the island of Guernsey. The castle itself is nearly eight centuries old and has guarded the entrance to St Peter Port’s harbour in the capital of the island ever since its inception.
Whilst no longer a functional fortress, the castle is now home to five separate museums and four historic gardens, as well as the obligatory souvenir shop and café for refreshments. A cannon is still fired from here everyday at noon to let islanders know the time.
The German Military Underground Hospital
This is the site of the largest single construction in the whole of the Channel Islands. Slaves under the oppressive regime of the German Nazi forces carved the underground hospital out of solid rock when the island was occupied during World War II.
The eerie tunnels give an insight into what life was like during these tough times for islanders, and serves as an ever-present reminder of what grim deeds the inhabitants of Guernsey had to persevere through during the war.
The second largest castle on the island, Vale Castle sits on the north eastern shore of Guernsey atop a hill. Research suggests that this site has a history which stretches all the way back to the Iron Age. The castle offers stunning views both over Guernsey, and out to sea where you can easily make out the islands of Herm and Jethou.
Every summer at the end of August the castle plays host to a live music festival known as The Vale Earth Fair, with a variety of genres and stages set up around and inside the castle itself. It is an experience that you will definitely enjoy.
My final suggestion is Fort Grey on Guernsey’s west coast. Built at the beginning of the 19th century, this tower was designed to provide a defensive point against any naval attack, mainly intended by the French. This tower is locally known as ‘The Cup and Saucer’ due to its uncanny resemblance and is now the home of a shipwreck museum, given the west coast’s treacherous track record for vessels sailing too close to the rocks.
These are but four of Guernsey’s many magnificent historical structures, all of which are well deserving of a visit. The island itself is a treasure trove of historical facts and finds, and if you are that way inclined, I strongly recommend you make a note of stopping off here on your travels.