There are times in travel where you have no choice but to slow the pace down, to be patient if you want to achieve your goal. Being able to stroll around most of Jersey’s castles is a bit like that.
For a couple of days, we stared at St Aubin Fort, watching the water create a barrier between us and the medieval fortification. After being out and about exploring Jersey all day, our timing for getting back to St Aubin, our base, was just out. There was no quick fix. We had to wait until our arrival back in the town coincided with the waters parting like the Red Sea before we could make the short trek to the old fort. It’s a 500m walk from the harbour; not excessive, but far enough to warrant keeping an eye on the tides lest the waves devour the narrow concrete walkway that connects fort with town, cutting us off.
Despite St Aubin being a popular town with visitors, even when the sea did let up its guard, few others made the trip, leaving us as lord and lady of our island fortress.
In St Helier, the Elizabeth Castle is even more impressive and in better shape. So much so, it remains occupied by a faux military garrison who re-enact processions and the (eardrum-bursting loud) firing of cannon. The kilometre-plus walk to get there is a stroll into the past, albeit a contemporary version of it. But, again, our timing was out during a visit to the island’s capital as a pale turquoise film shimmered just above the long, submerged causeway. And then we saw the Duck (DUKW). I’m not sure it was a proper DUKW, but it had a similar shape and did the same job – a car/boat that could tackle the journey from dry land to islet irrespective of whether the tide was out or not. As soon as we saw it, we jettisoned other plans, and purchased a ticket for a unique method of slow travelling to get to somewhere we really wanted to visit. Elizabeth Castle is worth the effort, especially when getting there involves an amphibious vehicle.
There was no need to wait for tides at Mont Orgueil Castle. For once on Jersey, this is a medieval citadel which stands guard directly over its town, the fishing port of Gorey. No, you can just walk through its arched portal whenever you fancy (during opening hours, obviously). But Mont Orgueil still demands substantial effort if you want to experience it in all its lofty glory. The castle towers over the fishing port, rising in stepped sections like a fortified wedding cake. A labyrinth of halls, rooms, and narrow spiralling stairways lead to an uppermost level where the seagulls glide, a giddy height that many of those who enter the castle never reach.
Ease of accessibility for all apart, I particularly like places which require us putting in effort to enjoy. It makes the experience taste all the sweeter; a sense of achievement has an addictive, intoxicating flavour. Plus, from a purely selfish point of view, when there’s a lot of effort involved, fewer people are willing to invest their time. As a result, you often get the best bits mostly to yourself.