Jersey is steeped in engrossing history with an abundance of incredible castles dotted around the island which were used as points of defence from French invasions and were home to well-known historical figures. Mont Orgueil Castle, Grosnez Castle and Elizabeth Castle all have their own captivating past and play an integral part in Jersey’s rich history. For a fantastic and informative day out with the kids, a castle visit is a must: from live actors in period dress to breathtaking scenery, you will be spoilt for choice for things to do.
Extraordinary views are guaranteed at every castle as you can admire the gorgeous coastal panoramas from a raised viewpoint. Uncover the enchanting character of these historic monuments and bring their fascinating past to life!
Elizabeth Castle in Jersey is situated on a rocky islet in St Aubin’s Bay and has been the forefront of Jersey’s defences for over 400 years! Mont Orgueil no longer was strong enough to defend Jersey due to the introduction of gunpowder and cannons, therefore Elizabeth Castle was erected to help protect St Helier. Between 1550 and 1551, fortifications began on the site and 40 years later, construction on the Upper Ward made by Queen Elizabeth’s military engineer and meant that the castle was later named after her.
The castle was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries with a fortified windmill, built to help protect the Lower Ward. The castle was constructed over two small islands and later joined together in 1668, with alterations happening in the 18th century. A new fortification was built on Town Hill (Fort Regent) because the tide proved to be a weakness to troops. The incredible castle was sold by the British Government to the States of Jersey in 1923 and was fortified once again by the German Forces during the occupation of 1940 to 1945. The fortress is divided into four parts and was built over a staggering 15 centuries and across 24 acres!
The castle boasts living history characters who are dressed up in costume and describe what it was like to live in the castle back in the day, great fun for the kids! Watch the firing of the canon at 1 pm and explore the grounds which acted as a home to Sir Walter Raleigh between 1600-1603 and protected King Charles II during the English Civil War.
At the castle, you can experience what it was like to be a soldier garrisoned here and discover the re-fortified bunkers during WW2. Don’t miss the informative exhibitions and make sure to head up the steps to the top of the castle to appreciate the incredible views.
The castle can be accessed by walking out along the causeway at low tide or by taking the castle ferry, which can hold up to 30 passengers. The walking times and ferry sailings are dependent on weather and tidal conditions. Please visit Jersey Heritage for ferry schedule updates.
Mont Orgueil Castle, otherwise known as Gorey Castle is in the fishing village of Gorey and has overlooked the picturesque port for over 800 years. It is one of the most incredible medieval fortresses around the world and is a true symbol of Jersey’s independent character and national identity. Historically, the castle was subject to raids from the 13th, to 15th century and helped protect Jersey from French invasions. By the 17th century, the construction of Elizabeth castle was ordered and became the new coastal guardian of the island.
Mont Orgueil Castle is one of the most fascinating castles in Jersey. Within the castle, you can explore the network of staircases, hidden rooms and towers to uncover the gruesome tales of the incredible building. There are countless things to see during your visit, including the ‘wheel of urine’, a variety of commissioned artwork and the ‘witchcraft exhibit’. The contrast of the modern art installations with traditional history means that all types of visitors will be catered for.
Explore the castle battlements and admire the commanding view of the surrounding hillsides. Feel like the king of the castle and appreciate the astonishing views of the French coasts from the top. The castle has a range of exhibits and events that take place and frequently have live actors to help bring the past to life. There are also life-size wooden soldiers that 'guard' the castle!
Once you are inside, you can join a free group tour on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays by one of Mont Orgueil Castle’s amazing tour guides and usually takes around 1 hour. The castle is perfect for the youngsters as they can take advantage of the dressing up room and play area as well as discover the rich history of the building. Please be aware that there are lots of stairs throughout the castle so wear sensible walking shoes!
The 14th-century ruined Grosnez Castle Jersey is situated in the parish of St Ouen in the north-west corner of the island. In 1330, Sir John des Roches commanded the castle to be built to help provide farmers with a place of refugee from French attacks. Philippe de Carteret held the castle against the French when they had occupied half of the island between 1461 and 1467. The remains of the castle include a gatehouse separated from the mainland by a large ditch and a section of a wall. Its interesting name is believed to derive from the old Norse words ‘grar’ (grey) and ‘nes’ (headland) and has evolved into the modern-day Jersey-French jargon ‘Grosnez’ translating to ‘big nose’. The castle has been a ruin since the mid-16th century and is now open to the public free of charge.
The views from the ruins are sensational and the castle is an ideal location to settle down for a picnic with your family and friends on a warm afternoon. The amazing scenery and rugged landscape make a fantastic place for a walk with the kids whilst absorbing some of the incredible history Jersey has to offer. As the castle is open to the public, you can visit the castle whenever you like but the best time to go would be on a clear day as you’ll be able to enjoy excellent views of Guernsey, Herm and Sark. The mystical beauty is a favourite amongst locals and tourists, definitely worth adding to your list of places to visit in Jersey!
There are no facilities at the castle. To get there by public transport take Route 8: Liberation Station – Plemont.