Pleasant fortifed town
www.dinan-tourisme.com. Fortified, crenellated and beseiged by ramparts, fortress-Dinan rather belies its he-man reputation with the patrician air of a jolly and prosperous market town. In season, its pretty cobbled streets are over-run with holiday makers; but come in early May or late September, or in winter, and you’ll be able to stroll around the few ‘sights’ with ease, then spend a lazy afternoon propped up outside a café eating crêpes and drinking the cider.
For a bird’s-eye view of the town centre, climb the Tour de l’Horloge, rue de l’Horloge; and there are views from the Donjon de la Duchesse Anne. The donjon guarded the southern approach to the town, and dates from the 14thC, though it was built on the site of an earlier stronghold which appears in the Bayeux tapestry. Part of it is now occupied by a local history museum of Breton furniture, costume, crafts, and paintings of local scenes. In the Tour de Coëtquen, a beautiful but eerie collection of 12th-15thC tombs of knights and their ladies lie spot-lit in the gloom, frozen in time like cryonics from the film Cocoon.
North of the castle, Frémiet’s statue of du Guesclin stands on place du Guesclin, where in 1364 the Breton warrior defeated English knight Sir Thomas of Cantorbéry in single combat and lifted the siege. When du Guesclin died fighting for the King of France in the Ardèche in 1380, he asked to be buried at Dinan. After various vicissitudes (not for the sensitive stomach), only his heart made it back to his native land. It rests in a cenotaph in the Basilique de Saint-Sauveur. Something of a Romanesque-Gothic hotch-potch beneath an 18thC steeple, the church backs on to the Jardin Anglais with views down to the Rance sunk in a towering green valley. Rue du Petit-Fort slides down to the tiny marina, and picturesque Quai de Rance.