From its coastal castles and sea defences to its mysterious underground passages and caves, Guernsey is steeped in history. Much celebrated by locals and historians alike, the Island hosts year-round festivals and events to commemorate historical happenings, with a particularly important series of events planned for 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of Guernsey’s liberation from the occupying German Forces during WW2 – the official “Liberation Day” will take place on Saturday 9th May 2015.
The Old Government House Hotel is just a short walk from it all, so whether you fancy a snoop around hidden wartime bunkers or a climb up the Island’s great forts, we’ve lined up the best places to relive a little Guernsey history.
Home to some of the Island’s most important defence stations, a walk around the north-east coastal pathways won’t disappoint architecture fans. Hunt down the expertly maintained Rousse Tower, complete with replica cannons, or venture to the headland to the eerie, chambered tomb of La Varde. Next, travel further east to the Napoleonic Forts Le Marchant and Doyle – the beautiful landscape of Fontenelle Bay is worth the climb, we promise. If you haven’t quite taken in enough for one day, the hilltop Vale Castle is only a short coastal walk along the Bordeaux Harbour, from where you can spot the neighbouring islands of Herm and Jethou. The castle’s 15th century entrance and gatehouse are a must-see, and come summer it’s an entertainment hub, with the Vale Earth Festival bringing the castle’s courtyard to life.
The South Port
A clear highlight of Guernsey’s southern coast is the stunning Castle Cornet, and sitting proudly at the end of the pier guarding St Peter Port, it’s difficult to miss. Standing strong for almost eight centuries, the castle contains five museums, all of which are rich in Guernsey history – our favourites are the creative graphic novel storyboards of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum, great for entertaining kids. Watch (and certainly hear) them fire the Noonday Gun, before catching one of the re-enactments in the castle’s grounds and gardens. Just along the coast sits Clarence Battery, with an even more impressive array fortress defences, and beyond its winding coastal path are the untouched sands of Moulin Huet Bay – true inspiration for aspiring artists, as the great Renoir himself painted here.
Another must-visit while in the St Peter Port area is La Valette Underground Museum, buried deep in a web of WW2 German tunnels, and displaying a vast collection of military weaponry and memorabilia.
St Peter Port also plays host to the 2015 Channel Islands Heritage Festival, a five-week action-packed timetable of celebrations, re-enactments and interactive sessions. With the 70th anniversary of the Island’s liberation this May, the celebrations are bound to be bigger and better than ever.
The West Coast
Guernsey history buffs certainly won’t get bored on the west coast, which is home to a number of fascinating towers and sea defences, including the German Pleinmont Observation Tower and the hidden Mont Herault Watch House. For those with sea legs, a walk along the decking to reach the impressive Fort Grey (once a coastal defence and now a Shipwreck museum) is a must; head out at low tide to spot The Hanois Lighthouse, made from stark white Cornish Stone and still in use to this day.
The Centre of the Island
Buried deep in the centre of the Island is the German Military Underground Hospital. Guernsey’s largest construction at 7,000 square metres, marvel at the hand carved rock as you wind your way through the web of deep underground war tunnels. Once you’ve emerged from its depths, The Little Chapel, with its beautifully crafted walls of seashell, china and pebbles is bound to brighten your day, no matter the weather.
Header Image: Liberation Day © Chris George/States of Guernsey