Where to learn about Guernsey’s history

by Jules on October 23, 2012

If you’ve got flights and a holiday to Guernsey booked, it’s likely you’re keen to check out some of the top things you can do while you’re there. The island has a rich history, which I think makes its museums and heritage sites some of the best places to visit.

La Valette Underground Military Museum

Where: St Peter Port

We’ll start with a museum that covers a broad spectrum of Guernsey’s history. Located in the island’s capital, La Valette Underground Military Museum looks at key events in the island’s past, including World War I and the German Occupation, which lasted from 1940 to 1945.

So, this is going to be of particular interest to anyone keen to find out more about the island’s military history. Now, while this establishment has some fascinating stories to tell, I think what really makes it stand out is its setting. Located in an underground complex built by the Germans (intended as a U-boat storage area), the structure itself is a historical site.

It’s worth remembering this attraction is not open in the winter months. Typically, you can visit between mid-March and mid-November.

Castle Cornet

Where: St Peter Port

Also situated in the island’s capital (albeit on a rocky islet connected to it via a bridge), Castle Cornet is an ancient harbour fortress. This really is a fantastic place to learn about Guernsey’s history, since it’s home to not one, but five museums dedicated to different aspects of local past.

And, just in case that’s not enough, there are also four period gardens to see. These are all based on different period designs, rather than being the genuine article, but they’re still pretty impressive!

The museums cover the island’s military and maritime history, as well as the story of the castle itself. The two military museums are located in the site’s hospital building, while the maritime section can be found in the Upper Barracks (you can also view marine art here).

In the Lower Barracks, you’ll find the Story of Castle Cornet Exhibition, which makes use of models, as well as authentic artefacts, to tell you about the fortress.

Quick tip – if you arrive in the morning, listen out for the Noon Day Gun, which is fired daily.

Fort Grey Shipwreck Museum

Where: Rocquaine

Perched on the island’s west coast, the Fort Grey Shipwreck Museum was built at the start of the 19th century to defend the coastline. Despite this origin, today it’s often called by a somewhat less imposing nickname – the cup and saucer. I’ll let you see why when you get there!

Thanks to its position near the Hanois reef, this tower has witnessed a fair few shipwrecks, which is how it earned its position as a museum dedicated to seafaring disasters. As well as hearing stories of shipwrecks (like the HMS Sprightly in 1777), you can see artefacts recovered from actual vessels.

German Military Underground Hospital

Where: La Vassalerie

This is another historical site dating back to the German occupation, and arguably one of the most haunting. The Germans used slave labour to construct it back in 1944 – a time when it seemed there would be many casualties to care for – with many people losing their lives as they worked.

While the hospital was never finished, it is still well worth visiting – but be warned, it is quite a chilling experience, especially when you consider those who died during its construction. Interestingly, despite its 7,000 sq m size, it is virtually invisible above ground.

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment