Summer in The Islands of Guernsey is idyllic any year, but this summer will be particularly special. Liberation Day on May 9th 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the German occupation of The Channel Islands in 1945. To celebrate this historic milestone, join the Islanders this spring and summer for Heritage75, a packed calendar of special commemorative events to suit all ages and interests. It’s the perfect time to take a break in the five beautiful Islands of Alderney, Sark, Herm, Lihou and Guernsey, and you won’t even need to exchange any money – the Islands of Guernsey use pounds sterling.
Here are just some of Heritage75’s highlights. You can find the full calendar of events here.
The Islands of Guernsey are fantastic for rambling around, and what better way to appreciate Heritage75 than by taking part in the many WW2-themed guided tours and walks, including: Guernsey’s Occupation Trail: The Guided Experience, a series of four guided walks, covering 13 significant sites; Occupied Islands: True Stories bringing personal stories from the WW2 occupation to life and A Bunker, A Pub and A Hospital, a rural ramble, ending up at the German Underground Hospital.
Not all tours are walks. Occupation Explorer takes you on a small group vehicle tour to three of the most interesting sites, while keen cyclists will enjoy following The Occupation Rail Trail. If you fancy something exhilarating, buckle up in a speedboat for Towers and Bunkers to appreciate the mighty German sea defences from the marine side.
The Islands of Guernsey’s museums and galleries all have great Heritage75 offerings, some after hours. Schedule in Unsung Heroes and Unseen History at the German Occupation Museum, Celebrate75 in the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden at Saumarez Park and My Family – Surviving The Occupation at the Sula Gallery.
Fascinating places normally closed to the public are opening their doors in 2020. Be sure to visit the charming Shrine of the Sacred Heart, a former wartime German searchlight bunker decorated with more than a million local seashells, transforming it into a peaceful shrine; and for contrast, the well-preserved Resistance Nest Schönbucht Mitte anti-tank gun bunker without a pretty seashell in sight. For military history buffs, Strongpoint Rotenstein, a series of bunkers on a fortified headland, and Batterie Mirus gun emplacements are opening for self-guided tours.
There’s no shortage of literary heritage on The Islands of Guernsey: after all, Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables while in exile here and Sir Compton Mackenzie, author of Whisky Galore, leased the Islands of Herm and Jethou in 1920. More recently, the book and film of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, set during the German occupation, has captured imaginations and put The Islands firmly back on the popular literature map.
You’ll find several TGLAPPPS-themed activities, ranging from a gastronomic walk and film location tours to afternoon tea and a gala dinner with the authors. Other local authors, Gerald Edwards, Sir Donald Banks and Fred Gallienne will be celebrated and honoured too. Drop into the Greenhouse Gallery at the Guernsey Museum to see In Living Memory 2020, a community collaboration of artists, authors, poets, historians and survivors.
While the emphasis this summer will be on WW2 commemorations, The Islands of Guernsey’s timeless natural features and bounties are well worth experiencing. Intrepid visitors can pull on wetsuits and explore Sark’s Gouliot Caves in the small tidal window when they may be safely explored, or kayak to Herm’s 19th-century silver mine and puffin colony.
If you prefer to stay on dry land, enjoy a Family Folklore Walk and storytelling on the magical little Island of Lihou, go foraging around the lovely Petit Bot valley and bay and join a Wild Workshop to connect with The Islands’ seasonal edible land and seascapes, past and present.
For 800 years there’s been a castle at St Peter Port guarding the harbour. Castle Cornet has four museums and four period gardens and hosts the summer Fete d’Etai featuring living history, family activities and medieval music. Fast forward a few centuries for the National Trust’s Lé Viaër Marchi, a 50-year-old community heritage celebration of all things Guernsey, including dancers, crafts and bowls of Guernsey’s signature dish, hearty ‘bean jar’.
Of course no exploration of traditional heritage is complete without trying the local tipples; book a brewery tour with White Rock Brewery to sample their delightfully-named traditional ales (Wonky Donkey, Scapegoat) and award-winning gin.
Excited about going to The Islands of Guernsey for Heritage75? Go to visitguernsey.com/heritage75 to find out more and start planning your fascinating historical break.