Thursday 26 April 2018

Visit Guernsey to discover the real Island behind the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

guernsey header image

For most of us living in the U.K it is hard to even imagine war nowadays. We are so far removed from the concept of war that truthfully it can be hard to relate. But roll the clocks back around 75 years and some of our fellow countrymen were in a completely different situation. Guernsey was under occupation and the Islanders were having to live alongside their oppressors, the Nazis.

When we travelled to the Channel Islands around four years ago I was fascinated to discover that many locals had to live through occupation. I would never have called myself a history buff but it is all riveting and there is so much to see and to learn. Especially when you have children with you as they'll be learning about WW2 at school and visiting Guernsey becomes a living and exciting history lesson.

But why am I bringing this up now? Well, I'm sure you'll have seen the trailers for the new film that was released on 20th April - The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society and if not, take a peek below. I'm can't wait to see it this weekend at the cinema, it looks to be a story of courage, tragedy and love all rolled in to one.

What fun to be able to take a trip to Guernsey after watching the film or reading the book to try and track down some of the mentioned places and to learn more about living in Guernsey between 1940 - 1945. Why not start your investigations on the new Guernsey Movie website to find out some more information and to plan where you might visit?

Getting to Guernsey

Realistically you might never have considered visiting Guernsey before but why not? It is truly stunning and the climate in the Channel Islands is certainly better than ours. When we visited in late October a few years back we were still able to go to the beach and wear no sleeves, it was divine.

We travelled with Condor Ferries and it was a very easy journey from Poole to Guernsey, taking just 3 hours. Travelling by ferry means you can take your car for use on the island too, though the island is only around 9 by 3 miles so you can get about easily with public transport as there is a great bus service or take your bikes and get the best views.

There are regular flights to Guernsey from most UK airports too and a trip from Gatwick will take just 45 minutes with some bargains to be found too. Also of course the bonus is that no passport is necessary, everyone speaks English and you'll be spending the British pound as well!

beach guernsey
Jaonneuse Bay Image by DelPixel, thanks to Shutterstock

The Best Places to Indulge in WW2 History

There really are so many places for you to visit during your trip to Guernsey, you surely won't have time to be bored and will come away far more knowledgeable about life during WW2 . A few suggestions are -

*  The German Occupation Museum sounds great. I love the fact that it is owned and run by Richard Heaume who started to collect spent shells during the war and slowly over the years he collected more and more memorabilia. The museum is now an extensive collection of original Occupation items and documents including many extremely rare pieces.

castle cornet guernsey
Castle Cornet image by Kiev Victor, thanks to Shuterstock

Castle Cornet - Museums and Gardens is a large site at the mouth of the harbour that takes a good few hours to explore. It houses The Story of Castle Cornet, 201 Squadron (RAF) Museum, Maritime Museum, Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum and Royal Guernsey Militia Museum. As well as four formal gardens and it has amazing, panoramic views.

La Vallette Underground Military Museum offers a wide variety of exhibitions, displays and information from WW2 and it is set in a complex of air-conditioned tunnels that were built by German forces as a fuel storage facility for their U-Boats

* There are around 1000 German built bunkers and fortifications across this small island, so you'll easily be able to discover one or more during your visit. Notable ones to visit are Castle Cornet, Fort Hommet and Batterie Mirus. Many of the bunkers are restored and maintained by a local voluntary group called Festung.

*  For something a little different why not join the Pork, Walk and Talk tour each Wednesday evening from 25th April 2018? For just £35 you have a tour of the Wallow Charcuterie, sample the pork and then discover the beautiful West Coast where you'll get to experience the physical impacts of war and learn about its effects on local life. After, its time for a G&T and 2 course meal at the Imperial Hotel.

The Best Places to Visit from the Book/ Film

*  Dawsey takes Juliet on a tour in her first few days and one of the stops is based on the Little Chapel, which was built by a monk living at the Monastery next door, it was meant to be a small replica of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes, France.

the little chapel guernsey
Little Chapel, Guernsey image, by Kiev Victor thanks to Shutterstock
The Grange Hotel was commandeered by the Germans and in the film we learn it was where all the Jews had to report to have their passports stamped. Except during the five years of the war this hotel has been in the family family ownership and still operates today as a hotel, so maybe you fancy a stay there?

*  Guernsey gin features heavily in the film and you can today visit the Bella Luce Hotel which is the home of the Wheadon's distillery for a Gintroduction or Gin and Dine experience. It looks super luxurious and fun but the price is really reasonable at £20 or £45.

wheadon's gin

*  Several walks along the cliff paths are referenced in the book/ film and you'd be doing yourself a dis-service if you didn't walk at least some of them. My friend Helen has a brother who lives in Guernsey and she shared the below two pictures stating that there are so many paths like the one in the first picture and they generally open up to an amazing vista, like the one in the second picture.

Guernsey coastal path
Thanks to my friend Helen at Actually Mummy
Guernsey beach view
Thanks again Helen

The Best Times of Year to Visit

*  How about being in Guernsey for its Bank Holiday on Liberation Day - 9th May? What a joyous time to join the islanders in the capital of St Peters Port where you'll find a programme of events throughout the day.

*  Is you are able to travel soon, they head over to Guernsey before the 10th May 2018 and you'll catch the Guernsey Heritage Festival 2018. German fortifications will be opened up for the first time, tour guides will bring stories to life, exhibitions will capture the essence of occupied island life and you can hear first-hand accounts of life under German rule. The Heritage Festival is an annual event that runs for 6 weeks throughout April and into May if you want to catch it next year.

*  Straight after from 10th - 13th May is the annual Guernsey Literary Festival for all lovers of books and island life. There is a vast programme of events from early morning to late evening each day of the festival and children are welcome too.

liberation day guernsey
Liberation Day Celebrations

*  6th June 2018 is Bunker Day and you'll be able to visit four of the countries heritage sites to find out more.

Summer is an amazing time to visit the island as there is so much going on. Seafront Sundays with cookery demonstrations, Al fresco eating and fresh produce stalls, open air concerts at Candie Gardens, Balcony gigs at the Cobo Bay Hotel and of course the St Peters Port Town Carnival from 15th - 29th July 2018.

I'm sure you'll agree Guernsey is looking an attraction prospect for a visit whether you have an interest n WW2 history or nor. Check out the Visit Guernsey site to find out everything else you need and to discover what accommodation is available.

If you do want to find out more about what life was like in Guernsey during the WW2 occupation then do check out the excellent movie website which is loaded with videos of people sharing their real life experiences of being evacuated or indeed having stayed and lived through the occupation.

Why not pin this post for later?

Guernsey pin

Unless otherwise stated, all images used are with thanks to Visit Guernsey

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