When visiting somewhere like the UK from somewhere like Australia, it seems mandatory to get involved in as much historical activity as possible.
Whether it’s visiting museums, frequenting archaic tearooms or walking round relics and ruins, it seems that traveling from the “new world” to the “old world” unearths in many, the sudden and deep need to explore as many connections with “the past” as is feasible possible.
Being a born and bred European, this urge on our recent trip to Jersey in the Channel Islands, was not quite as strong in me, as in my Antipodean boyfriend.
Saying that however, we both got pretty excited by the prospect not only of visiting a castle, but by actually being able to spend the night in a castle too.
That’s right, budget travellers being able to afford to stay in a castle!
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Ok, so maybe the use of the word castle is slightly overegging our night at Archirondel Tower on the east coast of Jersey, Channel Islands, but nevertheless it felt as rustic, old and creepy as a castle might.
With only basic sleeping and dining conditions it certainly imparted an eerie sense of us having stepped back in time.
This was further aided by the wet and windy weather, which brought with it an added layer of drama and atmosphere.
Yet plenty of blankets, some candles and a good amount of local sloe gin soon had us relishing this incredible experience.
Archirondel is what is known in Britain as a Martello tower, defined by its round structure and thick stone walls.
Built at the edge of a beach with the same name, the Tower was originally constructed in 1794 as part of Jersey’s defence against attacking French armies.
Just 12 miles from the coast of Normandy in France, Jersey is in fact much closer geographically to France than to the UK, despite the Island having been loyal to the British Crown for over 800 years now.
Before that however, English and French forces were continually fighting over this small island in the Channel and all around Jersey various fortifications pay testimony to this historical struggle.
Indeed, Archirondel Tower gives a wonderful view across the sea to nearby France.
Despite the awful weather when we were there, the mainland was easily visible and on a clear day it’s possible to see French cars driving about!
As such, there’s no question that Archirondel Tower would have been excellently placed to defend Jersey.
If you can see the French driving from there, you certainly could have spotted them sailing towards you!
Gun placements and windows designed to accommodate archers within Archirondel Tower give further indications of the fortification’s original purpose and experiencing its windswept location even in this day and age, certainly had us feeling sorry for the poor men who would have been on lookout duty in those days!
More recently, the Nazi occupation of the Channel Island during the Second World War also left its mark on Archirondel Tower.
Concrete strengthened walls and floors, as well as machine gun placements give strong clues as to the fortifications use in the 1940’s when it wasn’t French alone being watched for, but the conjoined allied forces.
Restored heavy iron doors, initially added by the Nazis, demonstrate the maintained authenticity of Archirondel and all around you in the Tower, history asserts itself.
Nowadays however, Archirondel strictly remains a tourist attraction and one of many historical sites around the Island of Jersey that is now under the care of its heritage association.
Wonderfully, Jersey Heritage has loving restored many its Island properties and now makes them available to those looking for a slightly different experience during their time in Jersey.
If you’re a budget traveller looking to spend the night in a castle, this is the way to do it!
Frequented by islanders and tourists alike, many of the Jersey Heritage’s properties can be rented out for overnight or longer stays by individuals, families or groups.
While some of the sites have been given a slightly more modern makeover, many of them, like Archirondel, remain basic in their facilities yet large in their authenticity.
Sleeping up to 10 people, Archirondel Tower itself hosts a number single beds on 2 levels.
Down in the ground floor of the tower, a simply dining area as well as kettle and fridge make up the rudimentary kitchen area.
In keeping with this however, many of the originally features of the Tower remain and enduring a windy night there ourselves it was brilliant to see the thick stone walls in action and just how great they were at keeping you warm against the elements.
Blankets were provided, but we certainly brought a few extra, along with hot bottles, to make our stay more comfortable!
Without running water, staying in Archirondel was almost like a camping excursion and it’s in this spirit that you have to enter into the experience.
Those looking for luxury might be better placed to select one of Jersey Heritage’s more amenable properties for hire, which can be found under the ‘Self-Catering Apartments’ banner on their website.
Not afraid to rough it however, we opted for their ‘Costal Towers: Back to Basics’ option and loved the rustic feel of the place and the sense of living history it afforded.
We also loved the cost, which was very reasonable given the rarity of the opportunity you are being afforded!
On a beautiful sunny day, where you could enjoy the neighbouring beach and coastal walks, a stay in Archirondel Tower would make a delightful getaway for all the family.
For us, not lucky enough to see the sunshine, it was still a great experience and certainly one that we’ll remember for a long time. After all, its not everyday budget travellers get to spend the night in a castle!