A traveler’s guide to the Channel Islands

St Aubin on Jersey Island, photo by MarilynJane on Flickr

The Channel Islands are a curious place, as Alice in Wonderland would say. Not quite part of the UK, and not quite anything else either, this small cluster of islands in the English Channel is located closer to the coast of France then the UK, and yet they are British Crown Dependencies, which means that they recognize the Queen as their monarch, but not much else. To put it simply, the Channel Islands are an unusual place: its inhabitants are British citizens, yet the islands are not part of the UK per se. The people speak English, yet French is also used by authorities sometimes, and there are a couple of regional languages around as well. Here’s a traveler’s guide to the Channel Islands.

About the islands

Guernsey, photo by Steve Johnson

There are several islands and islets in the archipelago, some of which are uninhabited. The islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou (Brechou) and Lihou are the only ones that are inhabited. The islands are grouped into two Bailiwicks (Jersey and Guernsey), which are actually a feudal form of administrative territories. The Channel Islands have been inhabited for the past 5000 years, and they are mainly known for being the last remnants of the Kingdom of Normandy. A funny fact about the islanders is that most of them have animal nicknames depending on which island they inhabit: the people in Guernsey are donkeys (because they have strength of character – through Jersey people will say it’s stubbornness), the inhabitants of Jersey are toads, the people of Sark are crows and those of Alderney are rabbits.

Things to see on the islands

Sark, photo by Angus McRae on Flickr

If you want some nightlife while you are on the islands (and the pubs of the Channel Islands are not bad at all), you should head to the island of Alderney, which has the highest concentration of pubs per capita in the archipelago. Alderney also has beautiful countryside and no cities or towns, with only a cluster of houses and shops in the middle of the island. If you want to get away from it all, then Alderney is the answer.

Visiting Sark is like stepping back in time to the feudal age (minus the oppression of the poor). The entire island is car-free, and your only means of transport is a bus, or very scenic horse-drawn carts. Although there are only around 600 people on Sark, the island has its own parliament and a Seigneur – a real feudal lord.

Jersey is another beautiful island and the largest in the Channel Islands. There are several towns and cities in Jersey, and the capital of St Helier is definitely worth a visit. There are a couple of museums in the capital, as well as good nightlife and a couple of nice cafes. All in all, despite its small size, Jersey has an amazing range of attractions, accommodation and places to eat, drink or shop.

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