Ile aux Moines

Article and pictures by Jeroen van der Werf, all rights reserved.

The Ile aux Moines is one of the islands of the Sept Iles archipelago just off the coast of Perros Guirec. In the 17th century they formed a perfect hiding place for pirates, smugglers and other malevolent persons.

During the 1690s pirates from Jersey and Guernsey invaded the islands and used them as a base for attacking the coast and passing ships. This led to the decision to fortify the islands.

The Ile aux Moines was the most suitable island for the fortifications. This is because it is the most accessible, its surrounding waters are deep and offer a sheltered harbour for ships, while the waters around the other islands are crowded with rocks and are not very deep. In addition, it is the only island with springs for drinking water.

The first plans for the fortifications of the island date from 1694, but the construction work only started in 1740. The fortifications were completed in 1746. Garangeau designed the fort in 1718 and 1739, which was his last design; he died in 1741.

The fortifications cover the whole island. On the east side a semi-circular battery with a guardhouse was built, overlooking the small harbour on this side.

There are barracks on the north side, sheltered by the high ground where the main fort stands (as well as the modern lighthouse). On the west side, the highest, most commanding part of the island, the actual fort is located. It consists of a casemated'two storey tower with a low wall around it.

The top of the hill is closed by a low wall with a small gate. The south side of the wall holds a semi-circular battery.

In front of the tower on a lower platform is another semi-circular battery. The south side of the island has another three stone batteries. Most of the fire power of the tower, actually most of the fire power of all the batteries, is set in the west/south west direction.

This side of the island is where the main anchorage is situated. Apart from that the north side of the island is protected by shallow waters with many rocks in them. Large parts of them are left dry at low tide and form a natural barrier.

From 1764 onward the garrison of the fort consists of invalid soldiers. These soldiers were from the same garrison as the one at Fort du Taureau. The fort lost its military value in the 19th century and became a monument.

It looked as though some restoration work was being done when we visited the island, but maybe that was just wishful thinking.

Visiting Ile aux Moines

The Ile aux Moines can be visited as a part of a small cruise along all of the islands: The boat leaves from Perros Guirec, sails along two of the islands, stops for about half an hour at the Ile aux Moines and then sails back to Perros Guirec along the coast of the red rocks.

The islands form a reserve for birds and during the trip you get some really spectacular views of the islands, the coastline and the birds.

The tower can only be seen from the outside. Once more a visit to this fort not only gives you the chance to see a beautiful small coastal defence work in very good condition, but also a great trip through the spectacular coastal landscape of Brittany.

Article and pictures by Jeroen van der Werf, all rights reserved.

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