Chateau des Marais, otherwise known as ‘Ivy Castle’ to Guernsey locals, is a stone walled castle located in the north of the island. The Guernsey French word ‘marais’ means marsh, whilst ‘Chateau’ translates as house. The colloquial name ‘Ivy Castle’ comes from a period of disuse, when the building was covered in ivy.
Chateau des Marais was first built in the early 13th Century as a fortified structure which was used as a refuge from pirates. It was King John’s loss of Normandy in 1204 that led to a more substantial fortification being built. It was built as a classic ‘motte-and-bailey’, typical of the time period, with the top of the mound flattened, the ditch or mouth dug out and the soil being used to level and raise the inner and outer defences. Both structures were encircled by walls on new, solid ground, as the marsh had been trained by a flow of water being released onto the side by a channel cut towards the Belle Greve Bay.
Chateau des Marais was Guernsey’s main defensive construction for 20-30 years before the focal point shifted to Castle Cornet as the island’s main defensive structure when work began on it in 1250.
During the Second World War, it was utilised by the Germans who built a bunker with inner walls, machine gun posts and communication trenches which destroyed much of the archaeological evidence of the earlier motte-and-bailey structure.
In the middle of the 20th Century, ownership was transferred from the War Department and Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Crown Lands to the States of Guernsey. Restoration work was carried out by the States in the 1970s and today it is maintained by the Guernsey Museums Service.
Wander through the old, eerie walls of Chateau des Marais and immerse yourself in the history that the fort beholds.
Accessible bus routes: 51, 22, 12, 21, 11, 92
Perry’s guide reference: Page 17, G1