The British Isles has so much to offer its visitors. A land of great natural beauty, diverse nature, breathtaking scenery and a long history. It has plenty of islands of all shapes and sizes. Some are more famous than others, some are hugely popular tourist spots, some are uninhabited and some are wildlife reserves but they are all beautiful in their own unique way.
Nestled in the English Channel off the Normandy coast is a well-known archipelago called The Channel Islands, comprised of five main islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and three smaller islands. Although they are not part of the UK, they are British crown dependencies and are autonomous. The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey have a population of approximately 160,000 and cover a combined area of 198 square km.
The largest of the Channel Islands is Jersey. Like many islands, tourism is a great boost to the economy, but for this island, it is not the thing that keeps it going. Although tourism no doubt contributes greatly to the economy of the island, its main industry is in the financial sector. It is home to 47 of the top 500 banks and has become one of the world’s top financial centres, leading many businesses and individuals to move to the island. Due to its off-shore position, many businesses have sprung up in the capital of St Helier, making it an incredibly wealthy island, favoured by celebrities and sporting legends. The level of affluence is clear to see from the top of the range cars on the roads to the luxury yachts in the harbour. It has been called ‘the Monaco of the British Isles’ and it’s not difficult to see why as you make your way around the island. It is a fabulous holiday destination, attracting over 300,000 visitors a year.
Visit Durrell Wildlife Park
This pint-sized island packs a real punch with its beautiful unspoilt coastline, 32 kilometres of fantastic beaches, not to mention its stunning coastal driving routes. Jersey has it all, including great weather, so there are plenty of reasons to put this on your list of places to visit. Narrowing down a list of things to see and do is difficult as there really is so much to explore, but probably the most popular of the attractions for visitors is the Durrell Wildlife Park (aka Jersey Zoo), which is just four miles from the capital St Helier. This was the first conservation-themed zoo and was established in 1959 by the author and conservationist Gerald Durrell. It spans an area of 32 acres and is home to over 1400 species of birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Great care has been taken to replicate the natural environments of the animals and the park has been divided into distinct areas for the various species. In addition, there is also a hostel and luxury camping within the grounds to be enjoyed by visitors.
Take A Trip Trip To Mont Orgueil Castle
Mont Orgueil Castle (aka ‘Mount Pride’ or ‘Haughty Mount) and also called Gorey Castle by English speakers is a fine example of a medieval castle, which stands proud over the beautiful fishing harbour of Gorey. You have to climb 198 steps to get to the top, but you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the French coast. It is well worth exploring this castle. It has an incredible network of staircases with much to be discovered like the towers, secret rooms and hidden treasures like the dance of death statue and the medieval ‘wheel of urine’. The castle has a very long history, constructed over 800 years ago following the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204 for the purpose of defending the island against French invasion. Following the construction of Elizabeth Castle in 1594 it was used as a prison.
Discover The Wonderful La Hougue Bie Museum
Another of the island’s top attractions is La Hougue Bie Museum. Situated on the east of the island, this is one of the best prehistoric monuments in Europe and is, in fact, one of the ten oldest buildings in the world. It is, without doubt, ‘the’ place to discover Jersey’s neolithic history. A medieval church has pride of place at the centre of the site, situated on the top of a prehistoric 13 metre high mound and dolmen. Underneath lies one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. There is a geology and archaeology museum which houses some incredible exhibits, such as swords and axes as well as coins, offering a rare insight into the Neolithic period. In fact, the largest collection of Celtic coins can be seen here and also gold and silver treasures.
Explore The Capital St Helier
No visit to the island would be complete without exploring its capital St Helier. This historic harbour town stands in St Aubin’s bay in the south of the island and got its name from its most famous saint, the martyr Helerius or Helier and patron saint who came to the island in about 525. He lived a hermit’s life on a small rock, nowadays known as the Hermitage Rock and warned the islanders of invading ships. He was beheaded by Viking invaders in 555 AD. St Helier has a population of 33’500 who live in an area of just over four square miles. It has a bustling atmosphere and although British has distinctly French and Portuguese influences. The old town is a wonderful fusion of English and French history. The streets are narrow and many have French names. There is a huge variety of shops, cafes and restaurants in the town centre. Moreover, there is also a number of museums including the Jersey Museum and the Maritime Museum. If you have time to spare I’d say the Maritime Museum is definitely worth a visit. It tells the story of the island’s maritime history and its seafaring past through stories of local people. There are lots of interactive activities to discover which are particularly good if you are visiting with children. There is plenty to discover here, even to finding out about Jersey’s seafood and beach culture. It’s clear to see why this is an award-winning museum which has plenty of interest for everyone.
As a tourist destination, this small island has so much to see and do from discovering the incredible beaches to historic monuments, amazing walks or tax-free shopping. You’ll be sure to find plenty to keep you entertained here.