The Breton port of Saint-Malo was situated on an island in a bay. The town was surrounded by walls and had a castle, but there were also a series of outlying forts on islands. Click on the map or use the list below to access the pages about the different fortifications.

In the 17th century Saint-Malo became a haven for corsairs preying on ships in the English channel, which made it an inevitable target for an attack. For this reason in 1689 Vauban was ordered to strengthen the town's fortifications. He not only modified the town and castle ramparts to mount artillery, but also designed a series of outlying forts on the islands in the bay. Some of these small islands had been fortified before 1689, but Vauban consolidated the defences of the whole bay and strengthened the existing fortifications in order to protect Saint Malo against the Anglo-Dutch fleets.

The English attacked Saint-Malo in 1693 while the fortifications were still under construction and again in 1695. The forts proved their worth during both these attacks, which left the town relatively undamaged and failed to deprive the French corsairs of their base. Another abortive attack was made by the British in 1758, which was abandoned when the attackers saw the strength of the fortifications.

Visiting Saint-Malo

See the individual pages above for information on visiting some of the fortifications around St Malo. St Malo is well connected by road and rail, as well as ferry links to the UK. The town fortifications can be visited, as can the three island forts closest to the town. The best way to appreciate the other island forts is from a cross-channel ferry or by taking one of the boat trips around the islands.

Back to the "Fortresses" page