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Victor Hugo

Literary lovers can walk in the footsteps of one of the most celebrated authors of the 19th Century.

French author and poet Victor Hugo spent 15 years in exile in Guernsey from 1855 and the island provided the inspiration for many of his fine works, including Les Miserables and Toilers of the Sea. 

He fell in love with Guernsey and his island home, Hauteville House, offers fans of his work a chance to experience how he lived - and see where he wrote some of his most famous books and poems.

Hauteville House

Hugo's writing room, the Crystal Room, is at the top of the eclectic house and has panoramic views across the ever-changing capital St Peter Port, out to sea and across to his homeland, France.

Dining room at Hauteville House Hauteville House

One visitor to the island, Eugenio D'Urso, was so taken with Hauteville House he made this short video.

But it isn't just his unique home in the heart of the island where you can walk the paths of one of the most controversial and fascinating writers of his time.

Fermain bay

Take a dip where he swam in the clear waters of Havelet Bay, walk his favourite coastal path to Fermain Bay or take a stroll down to one of the island's prettiest bays Moulin Huet. Walk out to the exposed headland at Pleinmont with breath-taking views across to the Hanois Lighthouse and continue on up the length of the west coast to Port Soif, a favourite stretch of the island's coastline which provided inspiration for the writer.

It's not hard to see why Hugo was captivated by the islands.

Havelet bay

While the writer is remembered for his life's works, his private life was equally fascinating.

Although married to childhood friend Adèle Foucher - they had five children together - he had a number of lovers throughout his life, most notably French actress Juliette Drouet.

She became his secretary and travelling companion, a relationship that lasted 50 years, and sacrificed her career to follow the love of her life to Guernsey when he and his family were exiled. She is mentioned often in the biography of Victor Hugo and thousands of letters between the pair have been recorded.

Victoria Tower

It is said that they secretly met at the top of Victoria Tower. Built to commemorate a visit to the island by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it offers unparalleled views across St Peter Port.

If you look closely you might find their initials - VH and JD - which were etched somewhere into its interior granite walls.

The view from the top of Victoria Tower

Hugo began, completed or published the majority of the works for which he is best known while living here, in particular 'Les Contemplations' (1856), 'Les Misérables' (1862), 'La Legende des siecles' (1877), 'William Shakespeare' (1864), 'Les Chansons des rues et des bois' (1865), 'Les Travailleurs de la mer' (1866), 'L'Homme qui rit' (1869), and 'Quatre-Vingt-Treize' (1874).

Les Miserables hasn't been far from the headlines in recent months with a high profile film adaptation picking up three Golden Globes at the 70th annual awards ceremony in January 2013. Hugh Jackman won best actor while Anne Hathaway took home best supporting actress. The film also won best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy at the ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton.

At the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards on Sunday 10 February, Les Miserables won four awards. Anne Hathaway won for Best Supporting Actress and the film also won for Production Design, Sounds and Make-up and Hair.

The film is also leading the way for the British film industry with eight Oscar nominations.

Hugo described the Channel Islands as "fragments of France which fell into the sea and were gathered up by England".

It is that fusion of French and British culture that makes Guernsey so unique and its heritage, scenery and people left a lasting impression on the author.

Any visitor who follows his well trodden path will leave feeling as inspired as he did over 150 years ago.

For a real taste of what Victor Hugo's life was like in the islands, follow our pdf icon Victor Hugo Trail [809kb]for details of a three day self-guided tour of the writer's favourite Bailiwick spots.

Popular travel blogger, Gareth Huw Davies, visited Guernsey to find out more about Victor Hugo's time in the island. To read more follow this link: Gareth Huw Davies blog Guernsey is also featured as part of a travel feature in The Telegraph Online on Monday 14 January.

2014 also sees the return of the Victor Hugo International Music Festival. Follow this link for more information.Victor Hugo International Music Festival