France is renowned for its magnificent castles – from defensive castles to residential castles. In fact, all regions in France have castles open for visit with their own fascinating story to tell.
We took a boat to visit the Château du Taureau (Castle of the Bull), a 16th century island fortress redesigned by Vauban (famous French military architect during the 16th/early 17th century) while we were in Brittany. It is certainly a surprising place, situated in one of the loveliest bays of Brittany in the north-west of France, that was built on a rock in the Bay of Morlaix and welcomes you with open arms.
This 500 year old castle has a messy past and has had many different uses in its history – defensive building against the English raiders at first, then used as a prison where some of the first French Revolutionaries were locked away, then a residence in the 1930s, then it was occupied by the German forces during World War II, then recently a sailing school till 1980 and finally now a museum.
The tour started with a beautiful commentary by our guide while we were on a boat. One of the amazing things I have learned from our guide was about a black species of bird that thrives in the Bay (I can’t remember the exact name of the bird), which is able to dive 30 meters deep into the sea and stay there for about 3 minutes. In addition, our guide gave us information about the islands surrounding the area. On top of it, the views were great from the boat.
After a 45 minutes boat trip from Le Diben port, we reached this wonderful fortress. It is beautifully restored and has been renovated over the years as some parts were destroyed during the revolution. As soon as we arrived in the fort, the guide gave us a very clear picture of the history of fortress and then we were free to wander around for about an hour and let our imaginations wonder. The rooms are mostly empty except for activities such as chess, domino, etc. While roaming around, I could imagine what life would have been like for a prisoner of soldier inside this building.
To me, exploring the Château du Taureau is more than just another visit, this is a journey into the heart of History itself, and a tribute to the memories of the Bay area whose natural treasures are still intact. We meandered around the place, explored the bunkers on the terrace area, strolled along the passageways and had a look at the drawbridge. There are lots of rooms for wonderful panoramic views and stunning 360 degrees views from the terrace.
Our tour at the castle of the Bull was very nice and it was an excellent historical visit. The castle is rooted in local history and it was explained and presented well by our guide who knew how to tell it with passion. It was an experience to discover and it’s pretty rare to see a strong open sea.
If you wish to go there, there are many kinds of visits and many ways to feel the magic of a place such as – a guided tour, a theatrical encounter, a singing or a storytelling experience. In addition, this year, the Château du Taureau has offered new things to do including picnic spots, historic visits and “pirates for little ones” activities.
Trivia: the Castle of the Bull, because of its location, remains a fairly isolated place. The German army had a garrison there during the Second World War. When Germany capitulated, the garrison at the Castle of the Bull was so isolated that they did not hear about it. The U.S. army had to send a battalion to the castle to inform the surprised German occupants that they had lost the war about a month ago. The US officer in charge of this battalion returned as a tourist to visit the castle in the 1970s.
Little Lilly travel tip:
- You need to book the trip in advance because the tides do not allow access by boat throughout the whole day.
- It is not accessible by wheelchair, as there are steps from the boat to the entrance, and in between all levels of the building.
- A great castle to visit for kids (at any age) and adults alike.
- All visitors are free to roam around the three levels of the building.
- There was no toilet in the fort for the public, but there were two on our boat.
- There is a small gift shop in the fort.
- When the bells ring, you have to say goodbye to the castle and return to the ship.
- There is an island near the castle that people can rent.
Have you visited the Château du Taureau? What’s your favourite experience?