Fort-la-Latte & Cap Frehel

Trip Start Aug 02, 2012
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Trip End Aug 02, 2013


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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fort la Latte is a medieval castle built atop a massive rock jutting out into the ocean. The first fort on this site was made out of wood as a lookout against the Normans. The current fortress dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries, during the Hundred Years' War between England and France. The castle was never successfully attacked from sea but it was taken by land in 1597 when it was stormed by 2,000 soldiers who outnumbered those holding the castle by 80:1. The approach to the castle is along a dirt path that winds its way down towards to sea level. Built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the ocean, we could imagine why it was defendable from the sea and we were looking forward to exploring it. There were some stocks just outside the castle so continuing from the tradition started in Edam, Megs got a photo of me in it. We crossed over two drawbridges to enter the inner castle. The area after the first drawbridge had very low walls so that if it was breached by enemy attackers, they would be vulnerable targets for archers placed on the inner ramparts.

We noticed a large group who had just begun their tour of the castle so we decided to head straight for the star sight: 360 degree panoramic views, from the rooftop of the 14th century keep. We climbed the circular, narrow and uneven stone staircase of the keep three storeys to come out onto the roof. The views from up here were pretty spectacular as you saw the waves crashing against the rocks 30m below. When I looked to my right, there was a rope attached to the conical roof with a small sign beside it warning tourists to use only this path up to the top as the slate tiles were quite slippery. If you slipped and fell off the roof, there was a short railing to catch you on the lower level, but if you missed that, it was a long drop to the cliffs below. This just made me smile because you would never see something like this back home – it would have been a lawsuit waiting to happen. In France (and most countries we’ve been to), the onus is on you to be careful and that’s the way we prefer it. There were a couple Brits who came up after us and they commented on exactly the same thing saying they would never get away with something like this back in the UK. We managed to clamber safely the top of the roof and the views were simply spectacular and unobstructed in all directions. It was a clear day and we could see Cap Fréhel off in the distance. After taking in the views for quite some time, we carefully made our way down and worked our way down the keep’s staircase. We stopped off on each level to check out the neatly vaulted ceilings. Once back at ground level, we began exploring the ramparts and various small outbuildings on the grounds. The neatest building we visited was definitely the low-slung four à boulets, which was a kiln used to heat up cannon balls before they were fired at enemy ships, in the hopes of setting them afire on impact. This kiln could heat up to a hundred balls and although we couldn’t really see inside the kiln, we could see the little ramp (like the kind you see at a bowling alley) on one end where they would roll out and be ready for firing. We also saw the archers’ tower, built on three levels (on the base, a silo to keep food; on the ground, the archers’ room, on the first, the access room to the ramparts) and a cannon pointed out to sea as it would have when the fortress was occupied. The cannons all moved on semi-circular stone tracks that allowed them a wider firing range. On our way out of the castle, we passed by well-tended garden with a wide variety of herbs that would have been used in medieval days to treat ailments. We also poked our heads into the dungeon, called oubliette, or "forgotten". Prisoners were packed into a tiny hole in the ground with no windows, several levels below ground, and literally “forgotten” as a form of punishment/torture.

As we left the castle, we headed out along a walking trail towards Cap Fréhel. Only a few minutes later, we were rewarded with stunning views back on the castle. We then drove out to Cap Fréhel where we got more great views, both east and west, along the coastline. The rock formations on either side of the point were quite impressive. Since there were no info panels to be found, we inferred that the two smaller towers on the site were previous light houses. One of the towers was only about five to ten meters high and located immediately next to what we think were the foundations of the original lighthouse keeper’s house. It was really windy out and we could only imagine the poor lighthouse keeper living on the point and manning the lighthouse on a stormy winter’s day. From the cape, we set out on a scenic drive along the coast that was short lived due to construction work. We were detoured for quite some time and by the time we were back on the road we originally intended, the best part of the scenic drive was behind us. We nonetheless pulled out at Sable d’Or (Golden Sand) beach and I commented on how inviting the water looked, almost tropical. The wildflowers covering the rocky outcrop offered us a great vantage point back on the beach and made for some great photo opportunities. Our final stop of the day was our camp in Arcouest and as we pulled into our spot, we couldn’t believe the million dollar view (for only 16 euros a night) we would get to enjoy for the next couple of days as we explored the surrounding area. 
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