The tiny British Channel Island of Jersey is the perfect place to visit castles, as it has 3 – all within an hour’s drive of each other. Constructed in different centuries, these Jersey castles offer a fascinating glimpse into the turbulent history of the island and how it had to be prepared at all times for enemy invasion.
The oldest castle dates back over 800 years, while the newest – a mere 400+ years old – is a stunning island castle, named for a Tudor monarch, and home to a Stuart monarch in exile! As an added bonus, all of the castles in Jersey are located in stunning, coastal locations, with incredible views, plus easy access to great walks and glorious Jersey beaches.
For other destinations in the UK with outstanding castles to visit, please see:
- 7 Best Island Castles in Britain
- 10 Utterly Beautiful Castles in Wales (+Stunning Hidden Gems)
- 12 Fairytale Scottish Castles
3 Jersey Castles to Visit
I grew up in Jersey and still visit frequently, so I know each of the castles well. I’ve included my tips for the best things to do at each castle, plus the very best places to stay in Jersey too.
Why Were the Jersey Castles Needed?
Jersey has a fascinating and turbulent history. In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, killed King Harold at the Battle of Hastings to become King of England and Duke of Normandy. As part of the Duchy of Normandy, Jersey became a possession of the English Crown.
Then, in 1204, Philip II of France seized the Duchy of Normandy back from the weak English King John (John Lackland). The Duchy remained a disputed territory for over 50 years, until 1259 when King Henry III (John’s son) surrendered his claim to Normandy – except for the Channel Islands. In 1290 the Channel Islands became Crown Dependencies, which gave them constitutional self-governance and judicial autonomy that continues today.
But Jersey is only 10 miles away from the French coast, so the island needed to build fortifications against the ever-present threat of attack from France.
Fancy visiting Jersey? Check out the best things to do on this beautiful island.
1. Mont Orgueil Castle – The Old Castle
Hewn out of pretty pink granite, Mont Orgeuil Castle has guarded the low-lying and vulnerable southeast coast of Jersey since the early 13th century. The Castle is known locally as Gorey Castle and as lé Vièr Châté (the Old Castle) by older Jersey folk who still use the local patois (Jèrriais).
Top Tip: Mont Orgeuil is pronounced Mont Or-gay, while Gorey is pronounced as Gor-ee
About Mont Orgueil Castle
The east-facing headland at Gorey was the best choice for the new Castle. The King shipped huge cargoes of building materials across the Channel from England to build an impenetrable circuit of walls and round towers.
The largely English garrison based at the Castle survived many raids from France between the 13th and 15th centuries. Still, as warfare moved from bow and arrow to gunpowder and cannon, the Castle needed extensive updating.
In the 16th century, as renovations took place, work to build a new artillery fortress – Elizabeth Castle – began. Mont Orgueil Castle lost its status as Jersey’s primary defence against invasion and became known as the “Old Castle“.
Top Tip: The free 60-minute tour, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with a Jersey Heritage guide, is the best way to learn about Gorey Castle.
Top 5 things to do at Mont Orgueil Castle
- Venture down a steep, narrow staircase to find the Witches in Hell in the cellar – and make them dance.
- Discover the medieval Wheel of Urine and its purpose.
- See the wounded man statue and count how many horrible ways there were to die
- Find the wooden Prayer Nuts.
- Ring the bell at the top of the Castle (if you can!)
Inside the Castle, there’s an incredible warren of staircases, hidden rooms and towers to explore with countless gruesome tales to discover. There are also modern art installations that help to tell the Castle’s story, including information about the various tradesman who toiled to build it.
You won’t want to miss climbing to the very top of Mont Orgueil for the spectacular views of the nearby French coast from high up on the battlements. Or the chance to get close up to a trebuchet – the mighty medieval siege warfare machine.
The Castle is perfect too for children as they can take advantage of the dressing up room and play area and learn about the rich history of the building.
Tips for Visiting Mont Orgueil Castle
- Allow at least 3 hours to explore the castle.
- Wear sturdy walking shoes or boots, to navigate the (lots of) steep, winding, and uneven granite steps.
- Don’t forget to look out for Jersey green lizards (Lacerta bilineata ) sunning themselves on the warm granite or the footpaths!
- Visit by bus – it’s much easier than trying to find somewhere to park near the castle.
Top Tip: Take an early bus to Gorey, arriving before dawn. It’s one of the best places in Jersey to photograph the sunrise!
Mont Orgeuil Castle is only a 30-minute bus ride away from St Helier – Jersey’s main town. The bus routes are 1, 1A, 2, and 13.
Address: Castle Green, Gorey, JE3 6ET, Jersey
Entrance fees: £13.95 (adults), £9.05 (children and students), £12.55 (Over 65s) £41.40 (family – 2 adults and up to 2 children)
Opening hours: 10:00 – 18:00 from 16 March to 30 October.
2. Elizabeth Castle – The Jersey Castle in the Sea
Elizabeth Castle – the Jersey island castle – has defended Jersey for more than 300 years. You can walk out to the Castle at low tide along a concrete causeway. However, when the tide is in, it’s a 15-minute journey across the bay in one of the amphibious Castle Ferries.
Top 5 things to do at Elizabeth Castle
- Admire the sweeping 360-degree panoramic views from the Mount, at the top of the Castle
- Explore the German bunkers
- Learn the story behind the bell tower and why it was so important
- Stroll to the end of the breakwater – 1.5 miles out to sea
- Climb up perilous stone steps to the tiny Hermitage Chapel, where St Helier is believed to have lived and perished at the hands of Viking invaders in the 6th century
Top Tip: The best way to learn about Elizabeth Castle is to take a free tour with a Jersey Heritage volunteer guide.
About Elizabeth Castle
Construction of the Upper Ward of the Castle started in 1594 to defend the port of St Helier against attack by ships armed with canons. The Governors of Jersey moved to the Castle, and you can still see part of the original Governor’s residence today.
Famous Residents at Elizabeth Castle
- In the 6th century, (Centuries before Elizabeth Castle was even thought of), a Christian monk called Helier is believed to have lived as a hermit on one of the large rocks where the castle was built. Murdered by Viking invaders, St. Helier became the patron saint of Jersey’s town.
- From 1600 to 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh was Governor of Jersey – in the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He named the Castle after Elizabeth I – the last Tudor monarch and the longest-reigning.
- During the English Civil War, the 15 year old Prince of Wales (later Charles II) sought refuge at Elizabeth Castle in 1645, arriving with a retinue of 300 supporters.
German Occupation 1940 – 1945
Elizabeth Castle was heavily refortified during the German Occupation of Jersey, when it was used as a strong point to defend St Helier against any attack by sea.
Tips for Visiting Elizabeth Castle
- The best way to explore is to take the free tour offered by Jersey Heritage.
- Aim to spend at least 2-3 hours exploring the Castle
- Wear sturdy walking shoes or boots to navigate the (lots of) steep, winding, and uneven granite steps.
Elizabeth Castle is only a 5-minute walk from St Helier. Alternatively, if you take the bus into St Helier from the west, alight at the Grand Hotel, which is almost opposite the booking office for the Castle.
Address: St Aubin’s Bay, St Helier, JE2 3NU, Jersey
Entrance fees (Including Ferry): £16.25 (adults), £11.65 (children 6-16 and students), £14.95 (Over 65s) £51.40 (family – 2 adults and up to 2 children)
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:30 from 16 March to 30 October. The last entry is one hour before closing.
3. Groznez Castle – The Romantic Ruined Castle
Located in the far northwest of Jersey, on a wild and remote headland in the rural parish of St Ouen, Grosnez Castle is the most ruined of the three castles in Jersey.
Top Tip: Grosnez is pronounced Gro-nay, while St Ouen is Saint One (not Saint Owen).
Top 5 things to do at Grosnez Castle
- Take in the spectacular views, and on clear days, you’ll be able to see the island of Guernsey.
- Wait for the sunset – Grosnez Castle is one of the best places in Jersey to photograph the sunset.
- Enjoy bird-watching. Grosz is home to Manx Shearwater (in spring, summer and autumn) and Razorbills (in autumn and winter). Visit in autumn or winter to glimpse the rare Great Skua or see rare Eurasian Dotterel and Eurasian Marsh Harriers in spring and summer.
- Take a 5-minute walk to Marine Peilstand 3 (MP3). It’s the most impressive of the naval towers constructed across the Channel Islands by German occupying forces during the Second World War.
- Stop for a picnic!
About Grosnez Castle
14th-century Grosnez Castle, in the parish of St Ouen, guarded the northwest corner of Jersey.
The name “Grosnez” is thought to come from the old Norse words’ grar’ (grey) and ‘nes’ (headland). Over the years, this evolved into the modern-day Jersey-French jargon ‘Grosnez’ or ‘big nose’.
Sir John des Roches ordered the construction of Grosnez Castle in 1330. He used it to provide his farmers with a place of refuge from French attacks. When French forces occupied half of the island between 1461 and 1467, Philippe de Carteret held the Castle against the French. A ruin since the mid-16th century, only a gatehouse, a large ditch and a section of the castle wall remain.
The views from Grosnez are sensational. It’s one of the very best places in Jersey to settle down on a sunny afternoon for a scenic picnic. The fantastic scenery and rugged landscape make an excellent place for a walk while absorbing some of Jersey’s incredible history.
The best time to visit is a clear day as you’ll be able to enjoy excellent views of the other Channel Islands – Guernsey, Herm and Sark.
Tips for Visiting Grosnez Castle
- The castle ruins are on a very wild, windswept headland, and the site does not have an attendant. Take care if visiting with kids or when it’s blowing a “hoolie”!
- Dust off those boots again! Expect steep, uneven granite steps, which could be slippery.
Grosnez Castle is the least accessible of the 3 Jersey Castles. Take the number 8 bus to Les Landes Common, then it’s a 12-14 minute walk to the castle. Alternatively, it’s about a 25-minute drive from St Helier.
Top Tip: Watch out for the huge potholes on the
road track to the castle (Le Chemin du Chateau) and in the car park.
Address: Castle Green, Gorey, JE3 6ET, Jersey
Entrance fees: Free of charge
Opening hours: Open 24 hours – the site is unmanned
Where to Stay in Jersey
The beauty of Jersey being a small island – at just 9 miles by 5 miles – is that you can reach all of the castles in less than an hour’s drive, regardless of where you choose to stay. Here are some of the very best places to enjoy a break on this beautiful island:
- In St Helier, moments from Elizabeth Castle, the stylish Grand Hotel has a lovely terrace overlooking the castle, a relaxing spa, beautifully appointed rooms, and a fabulous restaurant. Check availability on Booking.com.
- Stay in the east of the island if you want to nip to Mont Orgueil Castle for that sunrise photo! The Seascale and the Dolphin couldn’t be closer, as they are at Gorey harbour. If you want to experience one of Jersey’s finest hotels, you can’t beat the gorgeous Longueville Manor Hotel. Check availability here.
- In the west of the island, the Atlantic Hotel is a gem, with incredible views of the west coast, an outstanding restaurant (a real favourite with locals for a classy night out) and sumptious rooms. Check availabilty here.
As you can see, Jersey is the perfect place to visit to explore castles. Do you fancy the ease and convenience of visiting Elizabeth Castle – moments from Jersey’s busy main town? Maybe you love the idea of heading out to pretty Gorey village for Mont Orgueil Castle? Or perhaps the romantic lure of those magical ruins at Grosnez Castle is tempting? The hardest decision is which of the 3 Jersey Castles to visit first, because after all – you will have time to see them all, even on a short break in Jersey!
Resources for Your Channel Islands Holidays
Booking.com is the best website to use for booking your accommodations in the Channel Islands – they have awesome listings for every budget.
You may like to read:
- 8 Awesome Reasons to Visit Jersey
- Exactly How To Visit The Jersey War Tunnels
- Take An Exciting RIB Trip to Les Ecrehous – A Beautiful British Island Paradise
- How to Visit Herm Island – An Enchanting Place Where Cards Are Not Allowed
- Discover La Corbiere – Britain’s Most Southerly Lighthouse
- Jersey Heritage Pass – Is It Worth Buying? An Honest Review
- The 3 Most Beautiful Beaches in Jersey
- How to Visit Seymour Tower Jersey
- Jersey or Guernsey – Which Island Is Best For You?
- Discover How to Escape to Enchanting Herm Island
So there you have it, all of the best things to see and do in the magical islands of Jersey and Guernsey!
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