The Channel Islands, closer to France than they are the UK, yet a part of Great Britain, are interesting for a number of reasons. There are eight inhabited islands in the archipelago, but tourism is mainly focused on Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Helm and Alderney. Each island provides a charming, laid back holiday option. The mixture of French and British culture is captivating and the islands have some truly captivating scenery.
Here are a few facts about the islands which are worth knowing before you plan your trip:
Colourful Telephone Boxes and Post Boxes
One sign that you are no longer on the mainland is the presence of the identical classic British telephone and post boxes painted royal blue on the island of Guernsey.
The 1.5 mile long island of Herm has a ban on cars and bicycles. This adds to the quaint unpolluted atmosphere of the place.
Jersey Legal System
Jersey famously has it’s own legal system. With influences from French civil law, English common law and Norman customary law it is an interesting mix which represents the island’s rich history.
The Nazi Occupation
The darkest period of that history would possibly be the wartime years of 1940 to 1945 when the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazi forces. The islands, demilitarised as deemed without strategic importance, were invaded by German planes which bombed harbours in Guernsey and Jersey. The island’s Jewish population were deported, many of whom died in concentration camps.
Dark Skies Status
Sark celebrated being the first island in the world to be given ‘Dark Sky Status’ in 2011. Visitors to the tiny island can enjoy black skies unimpeded by light pollution to get excellent views of the stars at night. This is great for the island’s tourism industry as visitors now have a reason to visit during the wintry months rather than only when it is warmer.
Residents of Alderney have the questionable privilege of being handed some rather strange nicknames over the island’s history. Traditionally named vaques (after the cows) and also lapins (on account of the many rabbits on the islands) while the ones which the residents assumingly prefer is Ridunians from the islands Latin name Riduna.
Exile in Guernsey: Victor Hugo
One of literature’s most celebrated authors, Victor Hugo made Guernsey his home for 15 years when he was in exile from his homeland. Les Miserables and a host of other famous titles were written during this stay and it is said that you can read his and his lover Juliet Drouet’s initials engraved somewhere in the granite walls of Victoria Tower.
The Channel Islands make for great holiday destinations which do not cost a fortune. UK Breakaways run regular trips to Guernsey and Jersey. Many people also enjoy island-hopping and seeing what the majority of the islands have to offer.