Easily the most photographed location in Jersey, Gorey Castle (later to be named Mont Orgueil) owes its origins to those pesky French. While King John of England was also Duke of Normandy, our French island (which shortly afterwards became British) was a peaceful backwater. When John lost his Norman possessions and Jersey opted to stay loyal to John, trouble was in the offing. In 1212 there is first mention of a defensive castle here at Gorey, 14 miles from the Normandy coast.
Though the French were a constant nuisance in the centuries to follow, Mont Orgueil was never taken by force. But in the 1500s the castle became vulnerable to cannon fire from higher ground and was superseded by Elizabeth Castle. Only thanks to Sir Walter Raleigh, Governor of Jersey 1600 – 1603, was it saved from demolition.
Gorey and its little harbour were transformed in the early 19th century by a lively oyster fishing trade and, later, a shipbuilding industry along its shores. The 20th century saw mass tourism and this was a hugely popular spot.
These days Gorey is quieter, but in easy reach for a walk around the harbour area or a visit to its bars and restaurants. Of course Mont Orgueil is normally open to visitors and it’s my pleasure to be one of the volunteer tour guides there.