The Channel Island of Guernsey has some of the earliest monuments in European history, home to many standing stones and burial sites which date from the Neolithic period. Over the years, the island’s location between the United Kingdom and the European continent has brought it many visitors, including smugglers, Roman settlers and even German troops during World War II. As a result, Guernsey is prime territory for a historical holiday or an informative day out.
There are more dedicated museums here than on any of the other Channel Islands and you can find them dotted right around the island. They’re a great way to learn more about the island, especially if you’re visiting from elsewhere, and they can be fun for the whole family. Here are just a few of Guernsey’s great offerings in the museum department, though there are several more to discover besides.
Guernsey Tapestry Gallery
One of the most interesting museums to visit on the island, the Guernsey Tapestry Museum is far more than just a tapestry gallery. With 10 large embroidered panels, it tells a comprehensive story of Guernsey’s history, going back 1,000 years. Each panel covers one individual century, beautifully illustrating the events that shaped the island as it is today. There is also a very good audio guide, which adds further information and is available in multiple languages.
The embroidered panels were all stitched by local residents to celebrate the millennium and I certainly think it is one of the most imaginative ways of telling a story I have ever seen. The detail in the tapestries is incredible and I can only imagine the hours of work it must have taken to create them all. It is not the most extensive museum (I spent around an hour here on my visit), but it’s certainly worth seeing. There is a nice little gift shop attached where you can buy some unique souvenirs too.
The Tapestry Gallery is located close to the centre of the capital St. Peter Port, making it very accessible if you’re visiting the town.
Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery
Another museum to be found in St. Peter Port is the Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery, which is just a short step from the Tapestry Gallery and therefore well suited to a trip that combines the two. The museum can be found in Candie Gardens – a beautiful public gardens which are lovely to explore on a nice day. I found the gardens an excellent place to relax and take a breather after my visit to the museum.
In addition to having an extensive art collection, Guernsey Museum houses several permanent exhibitions detailing the early history and folklore of Guernsey. Here you can find out all about some of the incredible archaeological discoveries that have been made on the island, as well as listen to audio points telling some interesting folk stories about Guernsey, both in English and Guernesiais. There is also a nice exhibition displaying artefacts and objects from all over the world.
As well as the museum’s permanent exhibitions, it has a number of temporary exhibitions which change throughout the year. It may be a relatively small museum but it’s a pleasant place to browse for an hour or two, and the interactivity of the exhibits is well-suited for families.
German Occupation Museum
One of the most tumultuous periods in Guernsey’s history was during World War II and you can get a comprehensive insight into what life was like during this time at the German Occupation Museum. Located at Les Houards in the parish of Forest, the museum holds the finest collection of WWII artefacts in the Channel Islands. It also has exhibitions on maritime history during the period and interesting information on the various fortifications that were installed by the Nazis, under direct orders from Adolf Hitler to turn Guernsey into an impregnable fortress.
The exhibits are all very well-displayed and a visit here begins with a short film, which is worth seeing. The museum is certainly a thought-provoking place and I really got a feel for what the people of Guernsey must have been through during the occupation. The recreation of an occupation-era street was a nice touch too. The museum also has a small 1950s style cafe which sells some nice cakes and other snacks.
If you would like to learn more about the Guernsey island, then don’t miss the following article: Guernsey – A place people fall in love with and return to