Jersey with its amazing beaches and delightful countryside was described by Victor Hugo as possessing a ‘unique and exquisite beauty’ and is arguably the most attractive and interesting of all the Channel Islands.
Words by Paul Shawcross
The islands are known to the French as Les Îles Anglo-Normandes. Jersey is the largest of these and nearest to France.
Originally part of the Dukedom of Normandy, the islands were all that was retained by the English King John following their confiscation by the French in 1204. They have belonged to the English Crown ever since even though the islanders continued to speak a Norman-French dialect until the after the Napoleonic Wars when an influx of English speakers led to the virtual demise of the language. Most of the street and place names are French however, but just pronounce them as you would in English and you won’t go far wrong.
The principal town and capital of Jersey is St Helier which enjoys a sheltered position in the south of the island. This lively port town is the ideal place to stay and has all the amenities you could need including a bus station which offers services to all parts of the island. King and Queen Streets, which run through the centre of town, are both pedestrianised and have a good variety of shops. Nearby Royal Square is a pleasant spot with chestnut trees and a gilded statue of King George II dressed as a Roman Emperor.
Leisure facilities including a swimming pool, can be found at Fort Regent which overlooks the town from the east. From here there are great views of the town and St Aubin’s Bay to the west. Other attractions in St Helier include the Jersey Museum featuring the history and culture of the island and Elizabeth Castle in the harbour erected just before Sir Walter Raleigh was appointed Governor in 1600.
A selection of small towns and villages
Travelling west from St Helier along the coast is the pretty port of St Aubin with its fishermen’s cottages and long sandy beach. Standing in the harbour is St Aubin’s Fort constructed in the 16C which you can walk out to at low tide. St Aubin has an extensive beach and offers several water sport activities.
A little further west is the popular resort of St Brelade with its beautiful sheltered south facing bay and famous golden sandy beach which was awarded the status of ‘Marine Conservation Society Recommended’ in 2013.
Also not to be missed is the small port of Gorey on the east coast with its charming harbour surrounding by colourful houses and overlooked by the impressive Mont Orgueil castle.
Top 10 attractions
Mont Orgueil Castle
A magnificent medieval castle which for 600 years protected the Island from invasion looms over the little port of Gorey. Explore the staircases, towers and secret rooms including the ‘witchcraft’ exhibit in the cellar. Mont Orgueil Castle.
Before the lighthouse was built in 1874 this beautiful, rugged southwestern corner of Jersey was responsible for many a shipwreck. Still dangerous, it can be reached at low tide but the views from headland above are magnificent.
Jersey Museum & Art Gallery
Here you will find out about Jersey’s history from prehistoric times when the first settlers arrived through to the modern era. The Merchants House, a recreation of a 19C home, gives a fascinating insight into life on the island 150 years ago. The Art Gallery includes the surrealist work of Claude Cahun and Michael Moore. Jersey Museum & Art Gallery.
Tread in the footsteps of Sir Walter Raleigh and King Charles II in this Elizabethan castle built on the rocky inlet which was the original home of St Helier himself. Access is by causeway at low tide or by amphibious ferry during all opening times. Elizabeth Castle.
Jersey War Tunnels
Les Charriers Malorey, St Lawrence
The Channel Islands were the only part of the UK to be occupied by the Germans during WWII and the War Tunnels were built by slaves during this terrible time. The Islanders were given the choice of staying or going to the mainland – many chose to stay and their story is told in these tunnels which were constructed as a bomb-proof barracks but ended up as a hospital. www.jerseywartunnels.com
The Green Lanes
Jersey is a green island in more ways than one! If you fancy some gentle walking or cycling then why not try some of the 50 miles of walker friendly tree-lined lanes which have a speed limit of 15mph (24km/h). For example, there is an almost continuous path along the north coast and another from Gorey to Trinity.
La Hougue Bie Museum
La Route de la Hougue Bie, Grouville
This is one of Europe’s best passage graves and is further distinguished by having a medieval chapel on top. You can actually stand inside the chamber before visiting the museum which contains a replica of the famous Jersey Coin Hoard. La Hougue Bie Museum.
Jersey Wildlife Park
Les Augrès Manor, La Profonde Rue, Trinity
More a centre for conservation than a zoo in the conventional sense and known as Durrell, after its founder the naturalist Gerald Durrell, this park looks after some of the rarest animals on earth and here you can learn about how they are being protected. www.durrell.org
This extremely picturesque headland on the extreme northwest of the island boasts the ruins of a 14C castle, a racecourse (Les Landes – seasonal), a ceremonial pinnacle and views of Guernsey, Sark and Helm. What more could you want?
Occupation Tapestry Gallery & Maritme Museum
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Island’s Liberation the people of Jersey produced a richly coloured twelve panel tapestry telling the story of life during the Occupation. The Gallery is part of the Maritime Museum which features the realities, myths and legends of Jersey’s maritime heritage. Occupation Tapestry Gallery & Maritme Museum.
Many of these attractions and more can be visited using the Jersey Pass which is well worth the purchase price if you intend to visit a few of them. See
Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying some delicious Jersey Black Butter – a delicious conserve made from apples, cider, apple brandy, liquorice and spices.