I didn’t know much about Fort La Latte before our latest Brittany trip, but I certainly do now. I thank goodness that Mr. Misadventures is such a detailed researcher and keen photographer who is always scouting for interesting places to take photos. Turns out this fort is quite the looker made of the pink granite stone that part of the region is famous for. Fort La Latte is located on the to the west of Ile de Bréhat, southeast of Cap Fréhel, to the east is the Pointe du Grouin (near Cancale), is 22 miles west of Saint-Malo and on clear days you can see forever including the Channel Islands. It is the most popular tourist attraction on the Cote d’Émeraude in Brittany and I feel lucky to have seen it.
Our plan was to hike some of the GR34 along the coast which affords an amazing view of the fort. The fort sits on a cliff that you get to from two drawbridges. I can regurgitate its history, but that is a bit boring; however here are the highlights:
- Also known as Château de la Roche Goyon, Fort La Latte was built in the 14th century between 1340 and 1370.
- The fort was besieged several times during many wars between France, Brittany, and England before it was destroyed in a fire in the 16th century where it was left abandoned.
- In the early 18th century, under Louis XIV of France, the castle was rebuilt and regained its military importance (it was nearly impossible to get into and you could see for miles from the fort).
- The fort became obsolete from a military perspective and was sold for the first time to a private owner in 1892.
- It was listed as a national monument since 1925.
- In 1931 historian Frédéric Joüon des Longrais started a 20-year restoration and the property remains under private ownership today.
- And on the fun-side several movies have been filmed there! Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas filmed scenes there for ‘The Vikings’ as well as Sophie Marceau and Lambert Wilson for the ‘Les Chouans’.
How to Get to Fort La Latte
Unfortunately, in order to get to Fort La Latte you will need a car. I am pretty sure that if you are staying in a town nearby, say Saint-Malo, you can arrange a car service to take you there and back. If you are driving yourself the road to get there is the D768 and it is quite beautiful to drive on. If you want to make a little road trip of it between Cancale and Fort La Latte, here are some recommended stops:
- Saint Jacut de la Mer – surrounded by 11 beaches this old fishing village is known for its shellfish farms, fishing spots, and gorgeous sunsets.
- Saint Cast le Guildo – known for its sandy beaches and beautiful views.
- Plage de la Fosse – little leisure town with a great beach a few restaurants and hotels.
If you are hiking the GR34 the fort is right on the trail! You can also rent a bike from Cap Evasion Vélo (sorry this site is only in French!).
As for us, we visited on Easter morning and early. We drove from our home base in Cancale along the coast to Fort La Latte. It took about an hour and we arrived at 6 am. When we arrived in the parking lot there was only one other car there which turned out to belonged to a couple who was fishing. (I swear I never figured out from where they were fishing as the cliffs are pretty high up. Being local I’m sure they knew some secret route down closer to the water. But I digress.) We parked and pulled out our backpacks and camera equipment and headed to the trailhead for the GR34. After taking a few steps we decided to put our hiking boots on rather than our walking shoes.
We walked back to the car, I sat in the front seat to change my shoes and Mr. Misadventures changed his from the trunk of the rental car. When he laid down his stuff to change his shoes he also laid down the keys. (You can see where this is going can’t you?)
After changing his shoes and grabbing his equipment he closed the trunk with the keys snugly inside. Tucked in amongst are picnic supplies, camera case and extra layers of clothes. The one amazing thing despite being stuck in the middle of nowhere, on an Easter Sunday in France was that by some miracle we actually had cell service. Mr. Misadventures called Sixt and miracle upon miracle they said they would send someone out. The tow service was in a town we had passed that was only about 30 minutes away. We were getting updated information via text with a map as to where he was. In 90 minutes time, he drove up to our rescue! (Yes, I can do the math, it took 90 minutes for someone 30 minutes away, but it was Sunday morning, Easter Sunday in France and it was the day off for the driver and he has stayed up late the evening before…)
We had an Audi, a very durable car built like a tank. There was no way to use one of those crowbar things to unlock the door. No, our savior had to use this intricate suctioning system to get a super thin super long wire with a hook on it to grab the latch from the back seat that would pull down the seat and attempt to grab the keys in the trunk with his magic wire. He started with the rear passenger window, failed and then moved to the rear driver seat. Finally, after an hour of finagling, he grabbed the keys and click on them and et voilà, opened the door!
After all was said and done, it was 10:00 and as our rescuer was struggling for success, the parking lot was filling up with cars of French families and tourists out to visit the fort for the holiday. Thank goodness we are early birds and despite our hours of drama, the fort was just opening!
We hit the trailhead so that we could still get a view of the fort from a distance and approach from the side.
We stopped and took some photos along the way and then we stood in line, paid our way and entered the fort. It is spectacular the weather was sunny and clear and you could see for miles in every direction. If you read about our visit to Saint-Malo you will recall that was a city of pirates, trade, and military very well protected by a bay, forts, and walls. Fort La Latte also provided protection for Saint-Malo in that the fort protected the Fresnaye Bay. Only some ships could only enter Saint-Malo at high tide, the others sometimes had to wait for the tide in the Fresnaye Bay. The fort offered shelter and safe anchorage as they were protected by the fort’s guns.
My favorite part is the 360 view from the furthest point looking back inward.
As we were returning to the car after our visit Me. Misadventures said to me, “I guess I am now a member of the Misadventures club now! He couldn’t get his missed shot out of his head so a few mornings later we went for sunrise and he got it (the hero image above that starts this story). We also brought our new drone and that footage would have been gorgeous except that Mr. misadventures left the controller in our Airbnb in Cancale. That is when he became a full-fledged member of the club.
Despite all our troubles, this spot remained one of my favorite outings.
Visiting Cap Fréhel
From Fort La Latte you can hike the GR34 trail all the way to Cap Frehel (3 miles/5 kilometers, count 2+ hours) but we chose to drive. It’s an easy 10 minutes to the famous lighthouse. The lighthouse (lit for the first time in 1702) may not look like much, such a little guy that sticks out into the sea, but at its position as the westernmost point on the in the line of fortifications protecting Saint-Malo, this little guy on sandstone cliffs served its role to warn the city of approaching enemies as well as guiding friendly ships into the Bay of Fresnaye for protection.
There are actually 2 lighthouses here. The taller one, 98ft (30m) high, with 145 steps, was built in 1950 (after the Nazis blew up the previous one in 1944) and its beam can reach up to 68 miles (110km), it is one of the top five most powerful in France. If it is open (it was closed during our visit) once you climb those 145 steps to the deck you get a panoramic view of the coast/heather land/moorland, Fort La Latte, and the St. Malo harbor. The smaller one, no longer in use, was constructed in 1685.
While the lighthouses themselves may not be spectacular, the land around it is a protected moorland full of gorgeous flowers and heather. There are 700 pairs of native and migratory seabirds (herring gulls, Northern fulmars, common murres, common cormorants and even razorbills) so bring a pair of binocular. Me personally, I can’t get enough of the pink sandstone.
Where to Eat
I’d be lying if I said there were a ton of options in this area, but there are definitely options. The towns in the area of Brittany are small so they may only have a single restaurant or a bistro/bar and a bakery. For outings like this, we typically pack a picnic lunch but we did stop for fresh shellfish one day and made many stops at bakeries for the famously delicious Brittany pastries! Here are some recommendations:
- Audineau Alain at Port à la Duc in Fréhel – this is direct from the source seafood, a seller who also serves it fresh at a few tables in front of his shop. We enjoyed oysters and langoustine (plus really good Breton cider) here.
- Le Petit Galet at 22 La Latte, Plévenon, on the little road to Fort La Latte this little restaurant serves crepes, galettes, and mussels.
Really good pastries like Kouign-amann, Far Breton, Gâteaux Breton fourrés, Galette bretonne can be found nearby at:
- Aux Delices du Pain: Place de Chambly, Fréhel
- Aux Delices du cap: Rue du Vieux Bourg, Plévenon
Places to Visit Around Fort La Latte and Cap Frehel
- Visit Cancale the oyster capital of France, an hour from Fort La Latte.
- Pointe du Grouin, a beautiful headland on the westernmost tip of the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel right outside of Cancale.
- Visit the medieval village of Dinan, just 45 minutes away.
- Check out the pirate town of Saint-Malo, an hour away from Fort La Latte.
Camera Equipment used in our Cancale photos
How about you? Have you been to Fort La Latte or Cap Frehel? Or other parts of Brittany in France? Do share! If not, have I inspired you to visit? Do tell!
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