There has been a castle in Fougères for more than 1,000 years as this site, on a promontory sheltered by hills and surrounded by marshes, was identified by the Duchy of Brittany as the perfect spot to defend its lands from the French. The current castle dates from the 12th century and consists of three enclosures whose walls are dotted with towers: the most impressive is the Mélusine Tower. The castle, where history is brought to life via images and sounds, is a must-visit for both adults and kids alike and a walk around the ramparts is not to be missed.
The old town
The medieval town sprung up to the south of the castle around the River Nançon whose waters were used by the cloth-makers, dyers and tanners; tanning was a by-product of cattle-breeding, which was a major industry in the surrounding area. The prettiest and most atmospheric part of the old town is Place du Marchix, which is lined with half-timbered houses.
The new town
These days the main part of Fougères is the upper town, which overlooks the castle. On the main shopping street, Rue Nationale, you’ll see a 14th-century belfry, which is the oldest one in Brittany. At the far end of this street is St Léonard’s church whose bell tower is open to the public in summer and offers fabulous views over the castle and surrounding area; at other times of the year the views from the adjacent gardens are almost as good.
Fougères is closely connected with the 18th-century writer and politician Chateaubriand, whose sisters lived in the town; their impressive stone mansions can be seen at 3 Rue Leseur and 18 Rue Chateaubriand. The Marquis de la Rouërie aka Colonel Armand, a hero of the American War of Independence, was born in the Hôtel de la Bélinaye in Place Aristide Briand.