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Castle of the Week 17 - Fort la Latte

Fort la Latte is in a stunning position jutting into the sea on the 70m high cliffs of Cap Fréhel, a rocky peninsula on the northern coast of Brittany, France. It is connected to the mainland by two drawbridges over rifts in the cliffs. Despite being besieged several times during its history, none was successful and the keep was never taken.

Several films have been shot there, most notably Vikings (1957) starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis.

Legend has it that there was a castle on the same site built in the 10th century, but the current castle was built in the 14th century by one of the oldest Breton families, the Goyon-Matignons, and was originally called the Roche Goyon (Goyon Rock). In 1379 the castle was besieged by du Guesclin but was given back to the family by the Treaty of Guérande in 1381.

After Brittany became part of France, in 1490 the castle was besieged once again. This time by the English.

It was besieged in 1579 and this time as a reprisal, it was plundered, devastated and set on fire. Only the keep remained. The castle was rebuilt at the end of the 17th century by Louis XIV as a coastal defence fort to protect Saint-Malo from the English and Dutch. This is the castle that can be seen today.

In 1715, James III of Scotland took refuge there and thought the place sinister and later that year Louise-Hippolyte Grimaldi, heiress to the throne of Monaco married one of the Goyon family on condition that he took the Grimaldi name and coat of arms.

In 1793 an oven to make cannon balls was built and can still be seen today. The castle was used as a prison for counter-revolutionaries. The last time the castle came under attack was in 1815 by a few young men from Saint-Malo during the “Cent-Jours”. As before, the attack was unsuccessful.

It was allowed to fall into disrepair during the 19th century with one man left in charge and sold by the family in 1892. It was scheduled as a place of historic interest in 1925 and was slowly restored to its former glory. Despite all the restorations, there are still many signs of the 14th century castle such as machicolations, loopholes, battlements and the drawbridges.

Although privately owned, it’s now open to visitors during the summer.

Write-up and images provided by GillB*

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