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St Peter Port

St Peter Port is Guernsey’s capital and it's main port. As well as being a busy town, St Peter Port is also a parish with steep cliffs, residential areas and beaches. The parish is on the east coast of Guernsey and it shares borders with St Sampson’s, Vale, St Andrew’s and St Martin’s. St Peter Port is Guernsey’s main shopping centre, home to the island’s government, the main port of entry as well as being a centre for the offshore finance industry.

St Peter Port started as a small fishing village. Fisherman, privateers, traders and merchants were attracted by its location, sheltered by the other islands, and turned it into a growing seaport. It has been a busy trading post since Roman times. St Peter Port is now a large port with ferries going to England and France, and many inter-island ferries. It has three marinas for pleasure boats and it is also home to many fishing boats.

Today the buildings of St Peter Port are a blend of different styles with medieval, Georgian and regency buildings as well as some French influences. Most of the town has been pedestrianised and some of the narrow cobbled streets and hidden alleyways have kept their old-fashioned charm. Town is now home to a good selection of British high-street stores but it also has many local shops. There is a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and bars.

Castle Cornet is an ancient harbour fortress which dates from the 13th century. It used to be on a separate tidal island (like Lihou) until a breakwater and bridge attached it to the rest of Guernsey in the 19th century. It acted as Guernsey’s main defense against sea raiders who wanted to invade the island. The castle has an interesting history, which includes being captured by the French in the 14th century, being struck by lightening in the 17th century, it was also occupied by the Germans in World War Two.  It became the only British castle to be bombed by the Royal Air Force.

Town church is considered by many people as the finest church in the Channel Islands. Records of the church date back to 1048 (that’s nearly 1000 years ago) and it is likely that the original building was made of wood. Since then the church has had an interesting history and it has undergone many transformations. The church has been used as a refuge against attack, home to the parish fire pump and it lost its windows in an explosion in the harbour during the German occupation.

During the French Revolution St Peter Port was home to the famous French writer, Victor Hugo. He is thought by many to be the most famous figure ever to have lived in the Channel Islands. Two of his major works, 'Notre Dame de Paris' and 'Les Misérables', were completed in Guernsey.  Hauteville House, where he lived in exile for 15 years (from 1856 to 1870) is now open as a museum. There is also a statue of Victor Hugo gazing towards France in Candie Gardens. Also in Candie Gardens, the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery tells the story of Guernsey’s past.

St Peter Port has many interesting buildings which tell us about Guernsey’s past. Elizabeth College, the boys public school was built in 1563 and stands at the top of town like a castle. Victoria tower, near the fire-station, was built to remember Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s surprise visit to Guernsey in 1846. Laid in the foundations of the tower was a time capsule which contained English and Guernsey coins. St James is an old regency church, built in 1815, which has been converted into a concert hall. The royal court house is the meeting place of the island’s parliament.

The parish of St Peter Port includes the residential areas of Fort George and the stretch of cliffs that include, Soldiers’ bay, and part of Fermain. Every year at around April or May, the woods behind Fort George are covered with bluebells. Either side of the harbours are the flatter bays of Belle Greve and Havelet. The open-air bathing pools at La Valette are filled up by the sea and are a popular place to swim in town.

Many local events take place in St Peter Port. It is the centre for Liberation Day celebrations where islanders celebrate the island being liberated from the German Occupation during World war two with concerts, a cavalcade and fireworks. It is also the setting for the Harbour carnival which includes boat races, fireworks, a tug of war and the man-powered flight. The Val des Terres is home to the hill climb. Cars and bikes race up the winding hill which leads into town from the south.

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  107k v. 1 16 Feb 2011, 13:52 katie Beavan