www.ot-fougeres.com. Entering Fougères, there are two options: the château is on the Rennes road at the bottom of town, but parking is very limited. Coming in from the north, it is more convenient to head uphill to the centre; continue just beyond the fountains of place Aristide-Briand, then turn right into Parking Douve.
The attractive 18thC ‘new’ town with its cobbled streets and flat-fronted, shuttered buildings stands well above the Nancon valley, where Château Fougères lies in a loop of the river. If hill climbing is not your strong suit, check with the tourist office for details of the mini-trains which shuttle visitors up and down the precipitous slope between the two, otherwise begin your descent on rue de la Pinterie.
As the fortress complex comes into view, you can stop off for a bird’s-eye perspective in a little rampart gardens. Even in brilliant sunshine, the massive granite curtain walls, towers topped with conical slate roofs and pierced with arrow slits, look ominous. It seems impossible to believe this massive pile had a pathetic defensive record, being successfully captured by William the Conquerer, du Guesclin and St Louis to name but a few.
Built on a rocky promontary, the moat is provided by the Nancon. The original castle was razed in the 12thC, but work began immediately to rebuild the fortifications, and the various towers date from the 13th-15thC. Inside the castle precincts, you can explore the battlements, clamber up the Tour Mélusine for the views, and check out a small museum largely devoted to the town’s shoe industry. During summer, open-air theatre performances celebrate Brittany’s Chouan Rebellion, based on Balzac’s colourful version of the tale retold in Les Chouans.
Grouped around place du Marchix, behind the Gothic bulk of the Eglise de Saint-Sulpice, the old town boasts a handful of fine Renaissance houses, and you can cross the river on rue des Tanneurs to another fine viewpoint on place des Arbres. Then head uphill on rue Nationale, where the Musée Emmanuel-de-la Villéon (No. 50) displays works by the popular Breton Impressionist artist.