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The magic of Guernsey.
The magic of Guernsey.
Guernsey by the sea.
The house of Victor Hugo.


Friday, January 18, 2002
The island's heritage is rich with century-old legends and folklore. Some of the older houses still have witches' seats — even the wicked need to rest.

Just off the coast of Brittany in south-west France is the bailiwick state of Guernsey, second largest of the Channel Islands. It shares some similarities with its larger neighbour Jersey; for the past 700 years it has managed its own affairs while remaining loyal to the Queen of England.

The islands of Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou, privately-owned Lihou and Guernsey are all part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. They have their own currency, postal and telephone systems. VAT (value-added tax) is not applicable and they have a flat income tax rate of 20 percent.

Guernsey's main source of income is derived from offshore financial services. They currently hold $155 billion in their banks.

Guernsey has flora and fauna unique to the island — the cows provide some of the world's richest milk. Renoir found the place so beautiful he painted 15 canvases there and Victor Hugo completed Les Miserables while in political exile on the island. He moved there in 1855 with his wife, son and mistress and eventually purchased Hauteville House, a flat-fronted Georgian mansion which attracts many tourists. The eccentrically-appointed house has an aura of heavy gloom and is decorated with Delft china tiles and Gobelin tapestries which were cut into small pieces.

The islands are the only remaining part of the Duchy of Normandy, having belonged to the British Crown since the Norman invasion of 1066. A succession of royal charters granted the islands freedom to set their own taxes and enjoy free trade with England. Residents were also exempted from conscription.

It is thought Guernsey was given its name from the Norse Grenezay, or Green Isle. It is about 65 square kilometres of bays and beaches, wooded valleys, cliffs, marshland and beautiful rolling countryside.

Its capital St Peter Port is built on a hill on the east coast and is a town of cobbled streets, archways and small boutiques. It also has markets for food, flowers and fish housed in an old building with high ceilings and Victorian facades. In the old quarter are antique dealers and jewellery shops selling treasures made from silver mined on Sark. Some of the buildings date to the 15th century, making it one of the oldest Regency towns in the UK. The port has about 90 visiting cruise ships a year.

The island's heritage is rich with centuries-old legends and folklore. They can even pinpoint the entrance to fairyland — Le Creux es Faies. Locals believe they are descended from fairies and there is a ring located on the west coast at Pleinmont Point. It is a circle of small stones with another circle inside.

Some of the older island houses have witches' seats. They jut out of the gables and are for witches to rest on as they fly past. Residents thoughtful enough to provide a resting spot were supposedly protected from having a spell cast on their house. Ghosts feature widely and there are reports of a phantom horse-drawn hearse rattling through Les Fauxquets Valley.

Some of the smaller islands are popular with day trippers, but Sark is closed to visitors on Sunday. It is a place with no cars, no tarred roads and no aeroplanes and still exists under feudal law. The 14-kilometre ferry trip takes about 45 minutes, but it's like stepping back 50 years.

Sark is actually made up of Big Sark and Little Sark, joined by a natural bridge called La Coupee. You are transported from the port up the steep hill on a tractor and trailer. From there you can hire bicycles.

The Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, received his exalted position from his grandmother in 1974. He holds the island directly from the crown in perpetuity and is obliged to supply 40 men armed with muskets for its defence. He also pays £1.70 rent each year, an amount which hasn't increased in 400 years.


The Channel Islands, south of England.


Jersey Guernsey Travel has packages including return economy airfares from London to Jersey, three nights' accommodation, transfers and breakfast starting at $648 per person twin-share.
Qantas flies daily to London. Return economy airfares start at $1969 from the east coast, Adelaide and Perth.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Jersey Guernsey Travel: Ph: 1300 655 848
Qantas: 13 1313

To book your airfare online, click here!

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