Uncover Jersey's centuries of history

Wednesday, 2 May 2012 4:14 PM

Jersey is one of the most intriguing destinations for history fans in Europe thanks to its wealth of significant sites. However, because it is relatively small - measuring 9 miles by 5 in diameter - it is possible to fit a visit to each on your itinerary.

If you are planning to book a stay in a hotel in Jersey and delve into the island's past, there are a few places you must definitely include in your schedule.

La Hougue Bie

Here you will find multiple historical attractions for the price of one, but perhaps the most interesting on the site is the passage grave, which is one of the finest examples of this type of burial chamber in Europe. It is even possible to stand inside, allowing you to get a real feel for a monument that would have been at the centre of the Neolithic community some 6,000 years ago.

Known as a dolmen, the tomb has been carved out of a large prehistoric mound that today is surrounded by lush woodland, making this a particularly tranquil spot. On top of the hill is a chapel, which is relatively modern compared to the mound it is situated on, having been built in medieval times.

This is an intriguing site and you can find out even more about the local history by paying a visit to the archaeology museum. Here, you can browse displays of ancient weapons, stone tools and even see the skull of a woolly rhinoceros.

Mont Orgueil

Coming forwards in time, Mont Orgueil was first mentioned in the 1200s so probably dates back to around this period. This is one of Jersey's most famous landmarks and has helped keep the island safe for some 600 years.

The fort stands on a hill overlooking the popular harbour town of Gorey and inside is a true treasure trove of historic relics. A network of staircase will lead you from room to room, where you can browse displays that tell you more about its past.

Perhaps the most fascinating is the wheel of urine, which was created in medieval times and used by physicians in these days as a way of determining what was wrong with patients. You can also check out the witchcraft exhibit, which is housed in the cellar, making it extra spooky.

Elizabeth Castle

This is one of the most iconic sites on the island, perhaps as a result of its setting. You can only reach the fort on foot when the tide is low, as when the waters come in the walkway is submerged, cutting off the castle from the mainland. You won't be stranded though, as you can take a ferry from the landmark back to St Aubin's Bay.

The castle was once home to Sir Walter Raleigh and was named after his monarch and acquaintance Queen Elizabeth. He lived here during his time serving as governor of the island.

Years later, the future Charles II sought refuge here during the Civil War while the royalist and parliamentarians battled it out for power, resulting in the execution of his father Charles I.

Elizabeth Castle was also a key player during the German occupation of Jersey in World War II, when it was refortified and used to command sea approaches to the capital, St Helier.

There are plenty of other historical attractions to see during your stay - most notably the War Tunnels - so it pays to plan so you can fit as much into your short break as possible.

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