Destination Discovery: Guernsey, Channel Islands

by Janis on August 6, 2010

This island has inspired creativity and endured occupation.

28 miles of public walking trails on the island of Guernsey continue to inspire visitors.



It’s an Island in the English Channel between France and England

Located 30 miles from France and 70 miles from England, Guernsey is a 25 square mile island in the English Channel, the second largest of the Channel Islands.  These semi-autonomous islands have a formal allegiance to the British crown but not to British parliament. They are not a part of the European Union. The Channel Islands are considered a British Crown Dependency and are made up of two administrative regions: The Baliwick of Guernsey and the Bailwick of Jersey.

Guernsey fosters a favorable tax climate, resulting in many offshore banks, fund managers and insurance companies establishing on the island. Guernsey has its own stamps and currency.  While British pounds can be used on the island, Guernsey pounds cannot be used in the UK.

St. Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey and the primary port of the island. Guernsey has a diverse landscape with 28 miles of spectacular cliff-top paths open to the public.

German Occupation During World War II

World War II left a heavy footprint on Guernsey in language and traditions.  Half of the island’s population, including its children and some adults were evacuated to the United Kingdom on June 20, 1940. Eight days later St. Peter Port was bombed, leading to occupation by the Germans on June 30th, lasting five years until liberation in May, 1945.

During the occupation, Hitler feared that the Allies would try to regain the islands.  He became fanatical about fortifying them, spending significant resources on infrastructure:  walls on the beaches, bunkers, bomb depots, miles of tunnels and an underground hospital, and a railway across the island.

Fascinating museums in some of these fortifications today vividly recreate everyday life in the occupied islands.

This island’s beauty has inspired painters and authors

Between 1856 and 1870, Guernsey was home to exiled French author Victor Hugo, who penned Les Miserables and other novels during his stay on the island.

Hugo’s home – the Hauteville House in St. Peter Port — is now a museum administered by the city of Paris. In 1866, Hugo published a novel set in Guernsey, Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea).

French impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir

French impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) created 15 paintings in Guernsey during his summer stay in 1883.

Children on the Beach at Guernsey is one of Renoir’s paintings featuring the varied landscape of Moulin Huet.

 A New York Times Bestseller 

 A holiday visit to Guernsey inspired US writer Mary Ann Shaffer to write a novel set in here during the German occupation of World War II. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, written by Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide.

A Breed of Cattle


A famous icon of the island, Guernsey cattle are prized for their rich creamy milk, and their meat, which has a distinctive yellow fat and flavor.  The reddish-brown cows can still be seen grazing while hiking the islands public trails.

Getting to Guernsey       

We visited Guernsey on Holland America’s Heart of Bordeaux cruise aboard the ms Prinsendam in 2008. See our post detailing our visit here.  Princess, Holland America Line and Seabourn call at St. Peter Port, as well as other cruise lines.  It’s an ideal cruise stop since it’s possible to visit multiple sites of the compact island in a day.

Flights only take 45 minutes from London-Gatwick and ferries connect the island with Weymouth, Poole and Portsmouth and well as French ports.

Learn More About Guernsey with These Resoures:

Guernsey Handbook 2016: An essential Guide for Visitors to Guernsey

Guernsey Evacuees

We enjoy exploring destinations with an interesting history.   What’s your favorite destination discovery?

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