Just off the Normandy coast, the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm are a short hop away from Britain and mainland Europe, but in a world of their own. Their mild winters, warm summers and long hours of sunshine make them ideal year-round destinations.
The Channel Islands are also steeped in history, from ancient neolithic sites to being the only place in the British Isles to be occupied by the Germans. Here's how to lose yourself in their unique history during the Channel Islands Heritage festival 2017...
1: Discover Guernsey by bike
Cycling through the Guernsey countryside (VisitGuernsey.com)
Cycling in Guernsey gives a unique perspective on the island, allowing you to reach parts that are cut off to coaches and cars. On this guided cycling tour, you’ll explore the island’s stunning scenery and get a unique perspective on Guernsey's fascinating history.
Starting at the headland at L’Erée, you will take a look at a Neolithic burial chamber, a Napoleonic fort (modified during WW2) and other fortifications, before passing through peaceful coastal and country scenery, including two of the Island’s nature reserves.
You'll then cycle along to the mysterious Table de Pions (Fairy Ring) at Les Pezeries (Pleinmont), before stopping for refreshments overlooking Rocquaine Bay.
When: Regularly between 8 Apr – 6 May 2017
Where: L'Eree, Guernsey
More info: donkeysdaysout.co.uk
2: Step back in time into Bergerac’s Jersey
John Nettles as Begerac in his Triumph Roadster 2000 (Jersey.com)
Be the first to see this brand new exhibition about Jersey in the 1980s, the decade in which TV detective Jim Bergerac became a Channel Island hero.
Millions of people around the world were introduced to the Island of Jersey through the fictional Bergerac television series.
This exhibition reveals how Bergerac reflected real life in Jersey in the 1980s and always celebrated Jersey’s landscape and history as a star of the show. The star of Bergerac, John Nettles, will introduce visitors to some of the key stories in Jersey from the 1980s and the exhibition will feature his famously elegant car: a Triumph Roadster 2000.
When: From Apr 2017
Where: The Jersey Museum, St. Helier
More info: jerseyheritage.org
3: Coasteering at the Creux Mahie Cave
Coasteering in Guernsey (VisitGuernsey.com)
Experience the exhilaration of sea-level traversing, rock scrambling, jumping and swimming in gullies and caves, as you explore Guernsey’s spectacular rocky coastline. Coasteering turns the island’s rocks, cliffs, caves and waves into a fantastic natural playground.
Kitted out in your 5mm wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet, you’ll visit the Creux Mahie cave, a rare chance to experience this vast, privately-owned cavern, normally inaccessible to the public.
You’ll also explore Le Long Cavaleur, a narrow coupée gradually being eroded away, resulting in a hole through the headland along a fault line.
When: 09 & 29 Apr 2017
Where: Torteval Parish Church
More info: outdoorguernsey.co.uk
4. Celebrate Liberation Day like a local
Liberation Day celebrations (Jersey.com)
The Channel Islands were the only part of Britain to be occupied by German forces. The five-year occupation came to an end on 9 May 1945 – Liberation Day – and each year is celebrated in Jersey with an annual Bank Holiday and a host of historically-themed events.
You can join in by heading down to Liberation Square in St Helier, where dignitaries take part in a Service of Thanksgiving and Commemoration, and there is an annual re-enactment of the act of liberation. Witness the arrival of the Liberating Forces and a succession of flying flags, plus a uniformed march-past and drive-past by old civilian and military vehicles.
When: 9 May, 2017
Where: Liberation Square
More info: jersey.com
5: Find hidden treasures on Guernsey
A young couple geocaching (Dreamstime)
Searching for hidden treasures using the GPS features of your phone, known as geocaching, is a fun, free outdoor activity that has taken the world by storm. Guernsey, with its stunning scenery and incredible history, makes it the perfect geocaching destination.
Take a walk with a local Geocacher to learn the basics and have fun exploring the island in your search for hidden treasure. You will need to bring a GPS device (a smartphone is sufficient), camera, pen, a few small token items (that can be left for others to find) and a sense of adventure.
When: 18 Apr – 15 Oct 2017
Where: Various sites around Guernsey
More info: visitguernsey.com
6. Toast Channel Island heroes with a hearty ale
Enjoy a beer in Jersey (Jersey.com)
Come along to the Cock & Bottle in the Royal Square to celebrate the launch of the Heritage Festival and sample a new beer created specially for the occasion: ‘Heroes Ale’, made by local brewer Liberation Brewery.
As you knock back this rich malty beer, marvelling at its citric/passion fruit aroma, you’ll hear all about the events and activities taking place across the island to celebrate this year’s Heroes-themed festivities. The Jersey Militia will also be in attendance, as true local heroes, to kick off this unique and exciting festival.
When: Apr 8, 2017
Where: The Cock & Bottle Pub and Brasserie, Royal Square, St. Helier
More info: jersey.com
The Channel Islands Heritage Festival takes place from April 08 to May 10, 2017, including exhibitions, special events and activities. For more information, see www.visitchannelislands.com.
Main image: Band playing at the Heritage Festival (Channel Islands)