A thousand years of history behind it, and a bright future ahead
Châteaugiron, standing at the gateway to Rennes, is part of France’s network of charming Small Towns of Character. The high towers of a medieval castle rise up proudly to the sky, guiding you towards the town centre. Many colourfully-painted half-timbered houses, built for merchants, still survive as reminders of the town’s prosperous history.
A fortress in town centre
Châteaugiron’spièce de résistanceis its castle, built in the 11th century to defend Brittany’s capital. The moat, the impressive 13th century keep and the clock tower are reminders of its military function. The castle’s living quarters, dating from the 14th century, were revamped in the 18th century to create the attractive building you see today. It continues to play a central role in the town, and is currently home to the town hall. The castle’s chapel, which has been magnificently restored, is now an arts centre, known as ‘The 3 CHAs’ (as in CHApelle, CHÂteau and CHÂteaugiron). Its tall windows provide plenty of light for the art exhibitions held there.
Half-timbered houses: the canvas on which the town was painted
In the Middle Ages, a great many houses were built below the castle towers. Trade flourished there, driven by the manufacture of sailcloth. A walk round the streets of the town centre will take you past these canvas merchants’ establishments. In Rue de la Madeleine, their ornate half-timbered houses are painted in a palette of bold colours, straight from the 15th and 16th centuries. Your path through history continues to the market hall, built in 1858.
Paths to discover nature
The word ‘canvas’ makes you think of hemp and flax, and also weaving, which are all associated with a good supply of water. And there is plenty of water here, domesticated in the Saint-Nicolas wash house and flowing free in La Glaume marsh, a protected natural zone in the very heart of the town. Going for a walk around this site brings you up close with nature. You’ll be in the company of dragonflies, grey herons and wagtails, and surrounded by irises and sedge. Whether you’re walking or cycling, you can head off on this trail towards other lush places, such as the gardens of the Château du Bois Orcan at Noyal-sur-Vilaine.