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Island packs in plenty
11:20am Wednesday 11th July 2012 in What's On
AT just 24 square miles the island of Guernsey packs plenty inside its tiny shoreline.
Small in size it may be, but it is big when it comes to heritage - so if you like to mix the holiday delights of sand and sea with a touch of history then this is one of the Channel Islands that should be marked down as a must visit.
From Neolithic remains to Second World War sites, the Guernsey is simply a treasure trove for visitors who love to take a trip into the past.
And being just an hour’s flight away from nine UK airports, including Birmingham and the East Midlands, it’s the perfect place for Midlanders to discover more than 6,000 years of history. You can also get to the island by ferry from Poole which is an easy drive from north Worcestershire.
The island is packed with intriguing sites and as it’s so easy to get around independently, visitors can truly experience the island’s story in just a couple of days.
A top 10 trip through the ages in Guernsey could possibly look something like this… 1. Les Fouaillages - set in the north of the island, this Neolithic burial chamber is one of Europe’s oldest man-made structures, dating back beyond 4500BC. It’s one of many prehistoric dolmens that can be seen in Guernsey.
2. Norman heritage - Guernsey became part of the kingdom of Normandy in 933AD, and the 1066 invasion saw its destiny firmly entwined with Britain. Today the Norman influence is still evident across the island in its place names, surnames and local language Dgèrnésiais.
3. Castle Cornet - guarding the entrance to the island capital St Peter Port, Castle Cornet was built in the early 13th century to defend Guernsey from the French after King John finally lost England’s territory of Normandy. Guernsey sided with the English Crown and has been a Crown dependency ever since.
4. Guernsey granite cottages - from the early 17th century the island’s quarrying industry shipped top quality Guernsey granite for use around the world, including London Bridge and the Thames Embankment; but it’s seen at its best in the picture-book traditional cottages which today are a big part of Guernsey’s rural charm.
5. The Civil War - in 1642 the island sided with Parliament, while Castle Cornet stayed loyal to the Crown until finally surrendering in 1651. The Castle’s museums tell the story of the nine-year siege and, moving forward in time, visitors can also enjoy the firing of the Noon Day Gun, a tradition since the 19th century.
6. Ill-gotten gains - from 1689 Guernsey’s privateers (Crown-licensed pirates) disrupted French shipping in times of war; while an ancient Royal charter exempting the island from customs and excise made it the perfect springboard for smuggling into Britain throughout the 1700s and 1800s. Visitors can see the results in the opulent, elegant merchant homes of St Peter Port - truly ill-gotten gains!
7. Napoleonic fortifications - in the late 1700s and early 1800s 16 forts and more than 50 batteries were built to defend Guernsey against any French invasion. Today examples such as Fort Pezeries in the south west, accessible only on foot via a cliff path, conjure up the tension of the Napoleonic years.
8. Victor Hugo’s home - from 1856 France’s literary master spent 15 years in exile on Guernsey, with works such as Toilers of the Sea and Les Misérables written during this period. Today his flamboyant St Peter Port home, Hauteville House, is one of the island’s best-loved attractions.
9. The Little Chapel - possibly the world’s smallest consecrated chapel, this popular Guernsey attraction was begun as a labour of love by Brother Déodat in 1914. A replica of the famous Lourdes grotto and basilica, The Little Chapel was completed in the 1950s by Déodat’s fellow monks at Les Vauxbelets.
10. Reminders of Occupation - Guernsey was occupied by German forces from 1940-45 and reminders are everywhere, from the distinctive observation tower at Pleinmont Point to the Underground Military Hospital - the largest wartime construction in the Channel Islands, hewn out of solid rock by thousands of slave labourers.
If that’s whetted the appetite then Channel Islands Direct (www.ChannelIslandsDirect.co.uk) is offering two nights at the four-star St Pierre Park from just £199 per person. This package is based on two adults sharing and includes accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis and ferry travel from Poole including your car. Valid for travel from September 1 until October 7.
Also Condor Breaks (www.CondorBreaks.com) has four nights for the price of three at the three-star Green Acres Hotel, with a four-night break from just £305 per person. This is based on two adults sharing accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis and ferry travel including a standard-sized car. This is valid for travel until the end of August 2012.
For more information on Guernsey, please visit – www.VisitGuernsey.com.