Jersey is home to a wealth of historic attractions, which is why I think it is the ideal place for those interested in the past to visit. By booking flights to Jersey, you will have reached your destination around two hours after leaving the UK and will be able to set about exploring.
Here are three of the best castles to visit while you’re on the island.
Mont Orgueil Castle
This is one of the oldest castles on Jersey and was first mentioned in the 1200s. Because of its position overlooking Gorey Harbour, it is also known as Gorey Castle.
It is hard to miss this fort, as it has been constructed on top of a small mound behind the pretty village of Gorey and makes for an imposing sight in these peaceful surroundings. Stone steps lead up to its towers and crumbling walls hide beautifully-manicured gardens within them.
One of the attractions I would most like to check out here is the witchcraft exhibit, which – just to make it spookier – is located in the cellar. Yet there are so many other weird and wonderful things to see, like the wooden soldiers that guard the doors and the statue of the wounded man. The latter is a gruesome depiction of all the injuries that could be inflicted on those who tried to protect the castle from invasion.
Perched on a rocky islet in St Aubin’s Bay, Elizabeth Castle is probably the most famous fort on the island – which could be as a result of its fascinating history. Built in the late 16th century, it was named by governor of Jersey Sir Walter Raleigh in honour of Queen Elizabeth I.
For years, Mont Orgueil Castle was thought of as enough to defend Jersey, but advancements in the world’s naval fleets meant there was a new threat – ships carrying cannons. Because of this, a castle was constructed that had a fighting chance of defending against this peril.
Elizabeth Castle’s defences were added to during the occupation of Jersey by German forces during World War II. The Germans built a tower at the top of the fort and a large concrete shelter at its base. Nearby, a freestanding concrete bunker was constructed, from which a minefield that had been laid in St Helier harbour could be detonated.
Today this castle stands in ruins, but it is still a fascinating place to explore. Sitting on a headland, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the sea from here and imagine the men who would have once used it as a lookout point in the 14th century.
At this time, there was a portcullis and drawbridge that added to its defences, although today little more than a gatehouse remains. Coming here, you’ll be able to visit two historic attractions at once as nearby lies the rock known as Le Pinacle, which was once a place of worship.
Yet these three castles are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the multitude of historical attractions that can be found on this 8,000-year-old island. There’s the Neolithic burial ground of La Hougue Bie, where you’ll find one of the finest examples of a passage grave in Europe, and the Jersey War Tunnels. The latter was once a hospital used by the Germans during their occupation of Jersey and today it is a poignant memorial to this period.
Wherever you end up visiting, you’ll be able to learn all about some of the most fascinating periods from the island’s past.