Just a brief ferry ride away from the UK coast, the Channel Islands are a lovely archipelago located in the English Channel. They consist of the Bailiwick of Jersey (the largest of the group) and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm and also some other smaller islands). The whole group of islands offers beautiful coastline scenery, exceptional year-round fresh seafood, wonderful vibrant beaches, coastal castles, and much more to entice you to choose this destination for a holiday. There’s also a range of activities for the more active traveler, like surfing or diving. The question is, once you’ve decided on visiting the archipelago, which one is more suitable for you, Jersey or Guernsey?
This short text will try and help you choose one or the other (or who knows, maybe convince you into visiting both places)
Are You a Fan of Castles?
If you would love to immerse yourself into some medieval culture and architecture for your holiday break, you’ll find that both Jersey and Guernsey islands have something to offer.
On the east of Jersey island, you’ll reach the beautiful Mont Orgueil castle, which offers a stunning view of the coastline and the town of Gorey. For over 800 years this castle has been a landmark of the island. Back in the days, it was first used as Jersey’s defense, and afterward as a prison. Nowadays Mont Orgueil has become a busy tourist attraction, after undergoing a hefty restoration process. You’ll surely enjoy visiting, and will fall in love with the view from the castle.
As we move to Guernsey tourist attractions, we also find a castle that was built in a similar period and was also used to defend the isles, the lovely Castle Cornet. You’ll find that there is a lot to this castle worth exploring. Other than the fact it consists of four museums (The Story of Castle Cornet, Maritime Museum, 201 Squadron RAF Museum, and the Royal Guernsey Militia Museum), you can also find four gardens and a restaurant. To add to all this, there are often theatrical performances in the outdoor part of the castle, and there’s a cannon that’s fired every day at noon. There sure is a lot happening here, so your visit to the castle is not likely to be boring.
The Beautiful Seaside
The Channel Isles are the sunniest part of the British Isles, so as you might expect, there’s an abundance of gorgeous beaches to enjoy when visiting. You can just pick out any part of the coastline randomly and you won’t regret it, it’s truly beautiful, or you can follow our recommendations and visit St. Ouen’s Bay on the Jersey island, or Cobo Bay if Guernsey is your choice destination.
St. Ouen’s Bay provides an abundance of activities (it is a renowned surfing location) but is also a place where you can find peace and quiet and enjoy the beautiful golden sand and glorious waves. It is surely one of the places in Jersey you simply must visit.
Cobo Bay in Guernsey is commonly compared with the Caribbean. Beautiful clear waters and pearl white sand will make you forget you’re in the British Isles and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon the exotic destination of your dreams. There are great pubs and restaurants just across the road and other amenities. You can enjoy beautifully made traditional and modern pub foods and a great selection of beers and ciders.
Wildlife enthusiasts will find a lot of exciting and intriguing sites in both Jersey and Guernsey, but the overall experiences will differ a bit.
In Guernsey, for instance, you can see a lot of puffins. With their orange legs, shiny beaks, and contrasting feathers of black and white, these birds are a memorable sight. However, you do have to get the timing right–they’re mostly on the island from the middle of March through July. Take a sailing trip around Jethou and Herm; you’ll be able to see them enjoying the water there. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, rent a kayak and explore the waters of Herm Shell Beach for an up-close experience.
In Jersey, you can see orangutans and lowland gorillas in the zoo. This was established by the well-known naturalist and writer Gerald Durrell. Along the coast, you can also check out some bottlenose dolphins, while green lizards can probably be found throughout the whole island.
The Islands have quite a rich history. The earliest evidence of population dates to prehistoric times, over 250.000 years ago, and it’s said that those people were nomadic hunters. From then on, many periods of civilization were carved in the stones of the Channel Islands. From the Iron Ages to the Duchy of Normandy and the wars in the seventeenth century, there’s an abundance of remnants now filling the many museums of the Isles.
In the Jersey Museum and Gallery, you’ll gain a fascinating insight into the whole history of the Isles, the struggles, the art. You’ll find out how they stayed loyal to Britain despite them being geographically closer to France. You can also pay an additional admission fee and find seasonal exhibits and also enjoy a cup of coffee or something from the great variety of treats in the café downstairs.
You may or may not know this, but the Channel Islands were the only part of Britain occupied by the Germans in World War II. Thousands of islanders were then deported, and much of the Jewish population was sent to concentration camps. The occupation lasted 5 years, from 1940 to 1945, and what was left as a reminder of these five horrible years is kept in the Occupation Museum, created and run by an islander, Richard Heaume. It is a vast collection of items, documents, and stories that are very important to understanding this period.
Art and Pop Culture
Tourists who are interested in art and pop culture will also be happy to fid several fascinating facts about both the islands. For one, the exiled writer Victor Hugo (who penned Les Miserables) was a resident of Guernsey Island. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the famous Impressionist artist, was also a resident here. Not only this, but their presence is still very much evident in Guernsey. You can go to St. Peter’s Port to check out Hauteville House, which was where Victor Hugo lived. Renoir’s landscape paintings were inspired by the scenery here; you can take a walk along Renoir route to visits those places in person.
Coming to St Helier’s Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, you can see people like actress and socialite Lillie Langtry featured front and center. Among the artifacts is the brooch she was given by Edward VII. There is also a Millais painting that she fixed while debuting London society in the 19th century.
There is a wide range of choices for accommodation scattered all over the Channel Islands, from hotels to self-catering and guest accommodations or camping sites. Whether you are looking for a pet-friendly place, beachside with a view, or something more adventurous in the camping areas, you can find it somewhere in the Isles. Of course, you shouldn’t rush when selecting your holiday rental, but carefully inquire on what each of them has to offer, to ensure you have the best experience possible. Both in the Jersey and Guernsey Islands, there is a great choice of accommodation for everyone’s needs, and it’s not something to worry about whether you pick one island or the other.
In the end, you won’t be spending much time in your room once you start exploring the beauties of the Isles.
Whether you choose Jersey or Guernsey islands as your destination (or manage to combine both), rest assured you won’t be mistaken. There are plenty of things to see and do on both, and you can always come back if you feel you haven’t enjoyed the full potential of the place. Hopefully, our short review of the Isles will help you make the choice.