Guernsey’s west coast has a formidable history of shipwrecks, with many a voyage having come to an abrupt and unplanned end on the treacherous rocks and reefs just a short distance offshore.
It is known that over a hundred ships have been wrecked on the reefs around Les Hanois between 1734 and 1978, despite the construction of a lighthouse on the reef in 1862, and although the channel shipping sea lanes have been moved further offshore since the 1970s there have still been wrecks on this coast as recently as 2003.
This spring, Bailiwick of Guernsey Gold Accredited Guide Elizabeth Gardner-Wheeler will be leading a number of shipwreck walks, titled For Those in Peril, around L’Eree Headland. During the two hour guided circular walk, Elizabeth will tell the stories of various shipwrecks between 1819 and 2003, revealing their often-unusual cargoes and the fascinating secrets of some of the victims. For Those in Peril walks are due to take place on Thursday 7th April, Thursday 21st April and Thursday 5th May and costs £6 per person, with a £1 donation from the price going to Channel Islands Air Search. You can book your place here, or simply ask at reception.
Just south of L’Eree Headland you can also find the Shipwreck Museum at Fort Grey. This former Martello Tower built in 1804 on a rocky outcrop linked to the mainland at high tide by a short causeway is know locally as the “Cup and Saucer”, and you can’t miss it as you drive along the coast road. The museum houses many objects retrieved from west coast shipwrecks, including a George III canon that now stands on the museum’s roof, which was recovered from the frigate HMS Boreas that ran aground on the Hanois reef in 1807 with the loss of 127 men. Inside the museum are the stories and relics from shipwrecks ranging from HMS Sprightly, a 12 gun cutter that capsized off Les Hanois reef whilst chasing a smuggler in 1777, through to the Vermontborg, an enormous hull that ran aground on La Capelle reef in 2003 after it broke free whilst being towed from the builder’s yard in Romania to the Netherlands where it was to be fitted out. The Shipwreck Museum at Fort Grey is open daily until Sunday 31st October, with parking, the ticket office, and facilities on the other side of the road from the Fort at Guernsey Pearl. Admission costs £4 for adults, £3 for seniors, and £1.50 for children aged 7+ and students. Accompanied children under 7 years old are free and family tickets are available for £10. On Sundays the 10th 17th and 24th of April you can enjoy access to the rooftop at Fort Grey and enjoy the panoramic views over the west coast, although you must be sure to book in advance.