Sunday, 15 July 2012


Lighthouse at the Pointe du Roc

We had planned an outing to Coutances to see its celebrated Gothic cathedral, but as it was a longish drive from our holiday base in Bayeux, we decided to also see the coast at or near Granville and explore its upper town enclosed behind ramparts. The upper town was fortified by the English when they captured Granville in 1437, but was recaptured by the French in 1442.

When we arrived a market was in full swing and we could not park any where near the entrance to the old town. This was in fact very fortunate as we ended up in the nearly empty car park near the Pointe du Roc lighthouse and were able to embark on a combined coast and town walk.

We followed the clifftop sentier du littoral towards the town and soon had a view of the rocky shoreline, the sea edge of the ramparts and the beach of Domville beyond.

As we approached the town, we passed a gateway near the Notre Dame church and headed round to the right towards the main gate, the Grande Porte, passing under this house with its impressive turrets.

The Grande Porte is not all that grand, but there is still a drawbridge. The plaque over the gateway recalls a siege of 1793.

We now began the tour of the ramparts, initially with views over the port and lower town. At the end of this section you reach Place de l'Isthme. Below the wartime gun emplacements is the trench which the English dug to separate the Roc peninsular from the mainland.

We walked along the seaward side of the ramparts in heavy rain and passed the rather severe church to return to the main gate having completed the circuit. Not the best ramparts ever, but there is a peculiar satisfaction to be had from doing the complete tour. We adjourned promptly to the lower town to get some lunch.

The way back yielded a much more impressive view of the upper town, with its fortified character to the fore.

We climbed up a steep path and retraced our steps past the Grand Porte and under the ramparts. By now the tide had come in somewhat and the port looked much more appealing under a cloudy blue sky.

Further along, we came to a wonderful statue of the celebrated privateer, Pieville-Lepelley.

Privateer sounds much more gentlemanly than mere pirate! Although the distinction is clear in theory - a privateer was given a commission by the state to attack enemy ships in wartime - in practice the boundary was more hazy.

Round the corner we descended to almost sea level to walk around the Point. The coast in the foreground is the continuation of the west coast of the Cotentin, obscuring Mont St Michel, but the Britanny coast can be seen on the horizon.

Further round the Point, the Chausey Islands, the source of the granite from which Granville was built, can be seen, with Jersey to their north west.

Distance: 3.5 miles.

Conditions: cloudy at first, then heavy rain, which in turn gave way to blue sky and sunshine.

Rating: Three and half stars: an interesting combination of town and coast.


We went on to Countances. The Cathedral is a very pure, uniform and harmonious Gothic, but not we thought as impressive as the predominantly Norman one of Bayeux.

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