Fort La Latte, Brittany’s most visited castle – Meanderings through France n° 196
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Fort La Latte is an ancient medieval fortress built on top of a pink sandstone cliff overlooking the Channel, a vivid memory of the long gone Anglo-French antagonism. Superlatives don’t lack to describe this impressive castle that has been defying strong wings, terrible storms and military assaults for centuries. Sensational views, impressive construction and rich history make a visit to Fort La Latte an absolute must when visiting Northern Brittany.
Fort La Latte is a 45 minutes drive from Dinan or Saint-Malo. If you don’t have much time you can get there directly by car (a large free parking is only a few minutes walk from the fortress), but if you can spend a whole day in the area and enjoy walking take the stunning coastal path. This path follows the Cap Frehel coast one of the most impressive site of Brittany. The views are just amazing with high pink cliffs overlooking the emerald sea overflown by hundreds of seabirds. Cap Frehel area is a birds’ sanctuary where guillemots, penguins, including the rare Torda penguin, black legged kittiwakes, northern fulmars and many more other species find a peaceful place to breed. The coastal path will make you discover beautiful landscapes and a colourful and rich fauna and flora. Bike and electric bike tours are also organised to discover the Cap Frehel.
After a one-hour and a half walk Fort La Latte will suddenly appear in all its splendour, set on a long rocky cape. The legend goes that a castle was built on this site in the 10th century but the fortress we can se today dates back to the 14th century. Fort La Latte was built for the Goyon family. Through the Middle Ages it’s been besieged several times including by English armies in 1490 but never surrendered… until 1597 when it was pillaged, ravaged and burned by enemies of French king Henri VI to whom Jacques II Goyon had sworn allegiance. Only the dungeon withstood. It was not before the late 17th century when the Anglo-French relations deteriorated that the fortress was rebuilt following famous architect Vauban’s plans. Today the castle looks pretty much the same as it did in the 18th century. In 1715 Louise-Hippolyte Grimaldi, Princess of Monaco, married Jacques-François Goyon, Lord of Fort La Latte. In 2012 Prince Albert II of Monaco came to Brittany to visit the castle to pay tribute to his distant ancestor.
Fallen into neglect in the 19th century the fortress was bought by the Joüon des Longrais family in 1931. Ever since the Joüon family takes good care of the castle, completely restored it and opened it to the public. The castle is a Listed Monument since 1925.
Going down the winding path from the car park to the castle you will suddenly discover its impressive silhouette overlooking the rugged coastline… and understand why it was so difficult to storm the castle! Two natural faults have been cleverly used to prevent access to the castle, reinforced by two strong walls, two drawbridges and portcullis. All summer long guided tours in English are organised at 3 pm from Monday to Friday and you can of course visit the fortress on your own. You will discover the 15th and 18th centuries chapel, the stately home, an oven especially built to make medieval cannonballs and of course the dungeon. Don’t miss to climb up its stairs to get breathtaking views over the Channel and the rocky colourful coastline. For over 90 years the Joüon family takes good care of this unique place and it is today in perfect conditions. It’s no wonder that several historical movies and TV films were shot in Fort La Latte!
If you’re looking for a good place to stay at during your trip to Fort La Latte you can go to the Hotel de Diane, a 3-star hotel (it should soon be listed 4-star considering the recent extensive works of renovation made by its new owners). It’s located in Les Sables d’Or, a lovely seaside resort of the Opale Coast. The new decoration is a successful mix of Art Deco and Breton styles using beautiful fabrics, soft carpets, wood furniture and modern metallic lamps. All the rooms have been refurbished and have brand new bathrooms. The restaurant has a very good reputation and is worth the trip even if you’re not staying at the hotel. www.hoteldiane.fr/en/
More about Cap Frehel and Fort La Latte region at www.dinan-capfrehel.com/en/
More about Fort La Latte at www.castlelalatte.com
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes