Just 22.5 km (12 mi) north of France's Cotentin Peninsula, in the English Channel, lies Jersey, a self-governing British Crown Dependency. A well-populated and attractive island, its low taxation has transformed the economy into a centre for off-shore banking and other financial services. Despite this side of island life, tourism and agriculture remain the backbone for most of the inhabitants.
Occupied since the Stone Age, Jersey has had a turbulent history, with Romans, early Christmas, Vikings and Normans all making their mark here, the island came under English rule in 1204. Six hundred years of French attacks followed, but peace was firstly occupied by Germany in 1940, Jersey was forced to reinvent itself, which it did successfully, at the end of World War II.
St Heller, the administrative capital, is an attractive town set around a large bay, but its pretty, narrow streets and prosperous atmosphere hide Jersey's bitter past. During World War II an enormous underground hospital was hacked and tunnelled into a rocky hill, mainly by Russian and Polish slave labour, at the cost of many lives. The complex, at St Lawrence, has been restored as a reminder of what might have been, and the hardship suffered by the islanders during those years may explain their desire for financial success.
Jersey's landscape is delightful and very varied. St Ouen's Bay, in the west, is a magnificent expanse of sandy beach, protected by headlands at either end. The north coast is quite different, its rugged cliffs and sheltered coves attracting thousands of nesting seabirds. Four of the island's coastal wetlands have been designated Ramsar Wetland Sites.
The interior contains freshwater ponds and reservoirs, lovely wooded values, and agricultural land. This is the home of a favourite British delicacy, Jersey potatoes, and Jersey cattle provide superb dairy produce and beef.
WHEN TO VISIT
Jersey's climate is mild, but visit between April and November for the best weather
HOW TO REACH
By air or sea from England and France
- L'islet and Elizebeth Castle, accessible by causeway at low tide
- The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
- Grosnez Castle
- Samares Manor
- Cortiere Lighthouse
- The annual Battle of Flowers carnival is held during the second week of August
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Like the rest of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom or the European Union.