Exploring the Top Attractions of the Channel Islands
Located just 10 mi off the coast of France, the Channel Islands consist of (in order of size) Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm plus many smaller islands, each with its own unique character. The islands are well served by air from London and several other English cities, and in summer daily ferry crossings are available from Weymouth, Portsmouth and Poole in England, and Cherbourg and St Malo in France. A good program for visitors to follow includes two days sightseeing on Guernsey, a day exploring Sark, followed by a day in Alderney, finishing up with three days on Jersey.
1 The Big Island: Jersey
Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, extends 11 mi from east to west and 7 mi from north to south. There is plenty of striking scenery, especially on the north coast with its high cliffs, rocky inlets and caves. For hikers, the flatter area to the southwest offers great trails, including the pleasant footpath running along the disused stretch of the old Jersey Railway from St Aubin Lighthouse to Corbière Point.
The Main Town: St Helier
St Helier on St Aubin's Bay is a lively town that has retained much of its Victorian charm. Points of interest for tourists include Liberation Square, La Collette Gardens, Charing Cross and the Waterfront Centre, as well as Elizabeth Castle in the harbor area. Built during the reign of Elizabeth I and located on a small rocky island reached by ferry or causeway, this is where Charles II took refuge, as did 6th century Apostle St Helier. Other attraction highlights include Royal Square with its 10th century Town Church, Royal Court House, States' Chamber and a gilded statue of George II. To learn more about the island's rich history, visit the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery with its interesting archaeological and historical art collections.
Location: Liberation Place, St Helier, Jersey
Gorey's Many Charms
Gorey, located 7 mi from St Helier along the beautiful coastal road (5 mi if you travel inland through Grouville), is a charming little town with a row of picturesque houses along the harbor. The pier below the castle is the location for the annual Fête de la Mer, a splendid seafood festival. Gorey is dominated by the formidable Mont Orgueil Castle, a magnificent example of medieval military engineering dating from the reign of King John.
Location: Gorey, St Martin, Jersey
Prehistoric La Hougue Bie
La Hougue Bie is a large burial mound topped by the 12th century Norman chapel of Notre Dame de Clarté and the Jerusalem Chapel (1520). The crypt of the latter contains a replica of the tomb of Christ found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Excavation of the mound in 1924 revealed one of the largest passage graves in Europe dating from 2000 BC and built from stones weighing up to 30 tons.
Hours: Open daily 10am-5pm (Apr-Nov)
Admission: Adults, £7.90; Children, £5; Families, £23.20
Location: La Route de la Hougue Bie, Grouville, Jersey
The Ultimate Sleepover: St Catherine's Bay
St Catherine's Bay is a favorite spot with anglers, as is secluded Rozel Bay with its narrow sandy beach. For a truly unique experience, spend a night at Archirondel Tower. Built on a rocky outcrop overlooking St Catherine's Bay in 1792 and used as a military garrison, this striking red and white tower sleeps up to 10 (bring your own sleeping bags; washrooms are located at the café nearby).
Location: Archirondel Beach, St Martin, Jersey
Trinity: The Durrell Wildlife Park
The superb Durrell Wildlife Park was established in 1958 by writer Gerald Durrell, famous for his many books chronicling his adventures as one of the world's most prominent naturalists. With a focus on conservation, the zoo includes numerous rare mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Afterwards, explore the romantic north coast around Bouley Bay with its small sandy bays nestling between the rocks.
Hours: Open daily 9:30am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £14; Children, £10
Location: Les Augrès Manor, La Profonde Rue, Trinity, Jersey
Great Views from Jersey's Highest Peak: Les Platons
At 446 ft, Les Platons is the highest point on Jersey and offers great views of the north coast, including Bonne Nuit Bay with its shingle beach and the Mont Mado granite quarries. While there, explore St John's Bay, La Houle Cave, and Sorel Point, the most northerly point on the island.
St Ouen's Bay
Almost the entire west coast of Jersey consists of a single, wide bay - St Ouen's Bay. The area's popular with surfers due to its waves, and to the rest of us for its pottery, leather goods and jewelry. Those interested in WWII history should visit the German Occupation Museum.
2 The Gourmet Island: Guernsey
Although only half the size of Jersey, Guernsey contains almost as many great reasons to visit as its larger neighbor. The spectacular cliffs on the south coast rise up over 270 ft and are a big tourist draw, as are the island's numerous restaurants with their reputation for delectable European cuisine (hence the island's nickname, "Gourmet Island").
Taking refuge in Historic St Peter Port
The narrow streets and alleyways of St Peter Port climb steeply from the harbor to the highest point of town with its commanding views. Many of the houses are Regency in style, giving the town a pleasant old-world air. The town is noted for its shopping district, historic sites and leisure facilities, as well as active things to do such as cycling, surfing, diving, fishing, bird watching and sailing. Important landmarks include the 12th century Town Church and Hauteville House, which from 1859 to 1870 was the home of French writer Victor Hugo - a political refugee at the time.
History Brought to Life at Castle Cornet
On a small island connected by Castle Pier stands Castle Cornet, founded in 1150 but in its present form largely Elizabethan. The castle houses several museums of interest to history buffs: the Story of Castle Cornet, the Royal Guernsey Militia Museum, the Maritime Museum, the 201 Squadron RAF Museum and the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum.
Hours: Open daily, 10am-5pm (Mar-Nov)
Admission: Adults, £10; Children, £2.50; Families, £23
Guernsey's Spectacular Coastline
On the east coast of Guernsey are a number of historic Martello Towers as well as the ruins of Vale Castle, an early Norman Vale Church, and a large passage grave. The south coast is equally interesting and attractive with many splendid cliffs and caves, the largest being the 200 ft long Creux Mahie. Corbière Point is of interest for the green veins in the pink and gray granite, as is Rocquaine Bay on the west coast. Finally, the tiny island of Lihou, linked to the mainland by a causeway, has the remains of a 12th century priory.
3 The Jewel of the Channel Islands: Sark
Often referred to as the "jewel of the Channel Islands", Sark is the smallest of the main islands (population 500) and is unique for having preserved the old feudal system of government. Boats ply daily in summer from Guernsey and (less frequently) from Jersey, returning the same evening, landing at La Maseline on the east side of the island. La Collinette is Sark's main settlement, with a church, an old manor house, a windmill (on the highest point), guesthouses and inns.
There are few roads or cars, but the principal features of interest can easily be reached on foot. The most rewarding walk is to Little Sark over the rocky isthmus called La Coupée. After the last war a new track was constructed across this narrow and rugged neck of land, which falls steeply more than 250 ft to the sea. The Little Sark path leads to Port Gorey and two very famous rock pools, the Bath of Venus and the Pool of Adonis, both with good bathing at low tide.
Beneath the bizarrely shaped cliffs overlooking Brecqhou are the interesting Gouliot Caves, filled with sea anemones and other coastal life forms, but only accessible at low water. A path leads to the former fishing harbor of Havre Gosselin. Dixcart Bay on the southeast side of the island is another picturesque spot and is where most of the island's holiday accommodation is found. It's also where you'll find Le Creux Derrible, a cave with a natural, 180 ft cleft in its roof. The cave can only be reached at low tide through two rock arches.
4 Remote Alderney
Only 4 mi long and 1 mi wide, Alderney is the most northerly and the least visited island. Almost treeless, it rewards the adventurous with beautiful sandy bays, indented cliffs and rugged tors. Tiny St Anne dates from the 15th century and has a French air, with cobbled streets, snug inns, cafés and shops. St Anne has a mild climate, lots of sunshine and a picturesque harbor, and its visitors enjoy walking the cliffs, golfing, fishing and windsurfing. In Telegraph Bay are two interestingly colored rocks known as the Two Sisters, and the uninhabited Burhou Island is a bird reserve best visited by boat (except during nesting).
5 Tiny Herm
The small island of Herm lies 3 mi northeast of St Peter Port. Although the resident population is only 100, Herm attracts up to 3,000 visitors a day during the summer. The island has a hotel, a number of old stone houses converted into holiday homes, and a campsite. Many species of rare flowers and plants thrive in the moderate climate, and lovely Shell Beach is famous for its more than 200 different types of seashell.