Well Kept Secret: The Chausey Islands near Granville

The Chausey Islands are the largest archipelago in northern Europe and yet their rugged coastline welcomes only a handful of tourists every year.

Located in the most southwestern corner of Normandy, these white sand beaches were once a battlefield and are steeped in a history dating back to Napoleon III.

The Chausey Islands

Les Iles Chausez près de Granville
The Chausey archipelago includes 365 islets at low tide and 52 at high tide, the large island is located 17 km from Granville

The Chausey archipelago includes 365 islets at low tide and 52 at high tide, the large island is located 17 km from Granville

The fishing culture is flourishing thanks to the presence :

  • of crabes,
  • of lobsters,
  • and musssels.

You can even find a dolphin during the one-hour boat trip to reach the islands from Granville on the French mainland.

Chausey is a paradise preserved thanks to its isolated location and the absence of cars gives it a timeless dimension.

This haven of peace with its six white sandy beaches, three of which are dedicated to tourists and swimming, is much sought after during the summer.

It is particularly frequented by hikers.

A history dating back to Napoleon III

When you go by boat on the shores of this island, located only 17 km from Granville, one of the first things you will see is the imposing 39-metre high lighthouse.

It has been in service since 1847 and guides local fishermen to the main landing ramp.

It is interesting to note that the airstrip was built at the beginning of World War I by 300 German and Austrian prisoners who were detained in the fort.

Commissioned by Napoleon III and completed in 1866, the fort is an impressive relic.

It even housed a small garrison of the Third Reich during the Second World War.

Many historical monuments are scattered in this island

The lighthouse and fort may be the most majestic historical remains, but there are many more hidden in the landscape.

The castle on the west coast of the islands is the ultimate jewel, built in 1559 and restored in 1923 by the industrialist Louis Renault, who fell in love with the islands.

The chapel is also worth a visit: it was built around 1850 with magnificent stained glass windows created by Yves Durand de Saint-Front (son of the painter Marin-Marie).

There is also a beautiful Louis XIV altar and two ship models that pay tribute to the maritime tradition.

There is also the semaphore, built in 1867, on top of a hill called Gros-Mont (the highest point of Grande-Île at 31 meters above sea level) and the Baudry and Lambert towers.

It is interesting to note that the construction of these towers in the middle of the 19th century, located on the way to the lighthouse, was to put an end to a quarrel between the inhabitants of Granville in Normandy and Cancale in Brittany.

If you are an art lover, you can also choose to visit the home of the artist and maritime navigator Paul Marin Durand Couppel de Saint-Front (Marin-Marie), who considered Chausey as his home port.

France’s best kept secret is actually easy to discover

Les Iles Chausez près de Granville
The best kept secret in France, it is actually quite easy to visit for tourists

You can board from Granville in Normandy with “Jolie France”, a shipping company created in 1977, with three passenger ships.

They offer daily crossings to Chausey from April to September and on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from October to March, so that you are not likely to find yourself stuck.

But if that were the case, it would be an excellent excuse to spend the night in Chausey’s only hotel, the relaxing Hotel du Fort et des Îles, which has eight rooms.

Make sure to book in advance

Also to read: Mont Saint Michel: Is it Really Worth the Visit? (in 2021)

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