Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Channel Islands
The Channel Islands (French name: Iles Normandes) attract over half a million British vacationers every year. They lie in the Gulf of St Malo, at distances of between 10 and 30mi/16 and 48km from the French coast.
Alderney, the island nearest to Great Britain, is by contrast 50mi/80km from the English coast. The largest of these "dependent territories" directly under the control of the Crown, is Jersey, followed in order of size by Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou and a number of tiny uninhabited islets and clusters of rocks.
Although each of the islands has its own character, they all have one thing in common, the mildness of their climate. Jersey is famed for its early potatoes and tomatoes, Guernsey for grapes, tomatoes and flowers. They all share, too, the advantage of having lower taxes and duties than mainland Britain, so that cigarettes and many luxury articles are very reasonably priced - one of the reasons for the islands' popularity. In more than a geographical sense they are half way between Britain and France: their language is English but full of French expressions, their cuisine is largely French, and their whole way of life, particularly in summer, has a lively southern quality about it. Strolling through one of the larger places, with the shops open until late in the evening, a visitor might well imagine himself in Italy or southern France.
With all these attractions it is hardly surprising that the Channel Islands are crowded with visitors during the summer months, the streets as busy as those of a large city. The high point of the season is the Battle of the Flowers in Jersey at the end of July, and holiday accommodation for this period must be booked a year in advance.
Like the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands are a Crown possession, remnants of the old Duchy of Normandy, the greater part of which was lost to Philip II of France in 1204. Since that time the islands have jealously preserved their autonomy, retaining the right to a considerable degree of self government and a number of other privileges such issuing their own coins and banknotes.
The Queen, as feudal overlord, is represented by a Lieutenant Governor. The parliaments of Jersey and Guernsey are known as "States", Alderney's as the "States Assembly". Sark still has its medieval "Chief Pleas" presided over by a hereditary seigneur or dame.
Excavations have shown that the Channel Islands were inhabited three thousand years before the Christian era. The Romans certainly occupied some of the islands, and Jersey appears in the records as "Caesarea". In the sixth century Christianity was brought to the islands by St Helier (after whom the chief town of Jersey is named) and St Sampson. In 932 the islands became part of the Duchy of Normandy, remaining in English hands when most of the Duchy was lost to France in 1204.
During the Second World War they were occupied by German forces from June 1940 to May 1945. Mementos of this period are to be seen in the German Occupation Museum and many other small museums in the islands.