Brittany, Dinan and The Sculptured Rocks

Dinan Brittany France

We had enjoyed two good days in Dinard and St Malo but the next morning it was time to move on.  We woke earlier than planned on account of some seagulls flying past our window and screeching so loud it was as though it was a fleet of police patrol cars driving by on the way to attend an incident with emergency sirens blaring.

Before travel I always carry out careful research but sometimes something just crops up while you are away.  At a shop in Dinard I was looking at postcards and came across one for the nearby town of Dinan and it looked exactly like the sort of place that we should visit.  Kim was elsewhere in the shop and spotted exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.  Simultaneously we said “come and look at this, I think we should go here” and we decided there and then that we should.

Dinan Postcard

It took longer to drive to Dinan than it really should have on account of major road works which required a lengthy and tedious detour which doubled both the distance and the time to our destination but as it turned out it was well worth the inconvenience.

Even as we arrived I was thinking half an hour might be more than enough but I was forced to recalculate very quickly when we arrived in the old town which is a warren of narrow streets where it appears that time has stood completely still. Dinan it turns out is one of the best preserved medieval walled towns not just in Brittany but in all of France.  After only a moment or so in this picturesque setting I had elevated it straight into my top ten of favourite places even leaping above Santillana del Mar in Spain, Shiltach in Germany and Hallstatt in Austria and before very long we were looking in the Estate Agent’s windows.

From the town we made our way down the steep Rue du Petit-Fort, which was Dinan’s main point of access until the eighteenth century. An uneven cobbled street, the stuff of picture postcards flanked with half-timbered houses and arts and crafts shops on account of the fact that Dinan has been designated a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History) and is filled with artists, sculptors, engravers, bookbinders, glassblowers and more.

Brittany France Dinan

The road twisted and turned and seemed like it would never end as it spilled half or mile or so down towards the River Rance and the old port, passing through the ancient main gate of the walled town and down to a medieval stone bridge which crossed the river towards another labyrinth of tiny streets on the other side.

The sun was shining and the temperature was rising and there were a string of inviting bars and restaurants alongside the banks of the river so we stopped for a while before tackling the return journey back up the steep hill.

At the mid way point we climbed the fortress steps and took the path around the castle walls with magnificent and commanding views over the surrounding countryside.  The town walls are sadly incomplete so it cannot become my favourite walled city and that distinction has to remain with Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

What a fabulous place, what an unexpected find and if you take only one piece of advice from me then if you are ever in Brittany or Northern France then I urge you to visit Dinan.  At the end of the visit Kim declared it the highlight of the holiday and that included Mont St Michel.

Dinan Brittany France

Reluctantly we left Dinan clutching a fist full of property details and followed the road back to the coast and St Malo.  We were behind schedule so the sensible thing to do now was to go directly to Mont St Michel but Kim was intrigued by a visitor attraction marked on the map called the sculptured rocks so sensing another unexpected delight we left the main highway and set out on the coast road.

Let me now give you a second piece of advice – unless you are really determined to see rock carvings do not take an unnecessary detour to Les rochers sculptés!  We were expecting a stack of rocks standing in the sea pounded by waves into interesting formations but the site is a small area of stonemason carvings in the side of the granite cliff.

Rock Sculptures St Malo

These sculptures were carved just over a hundred years ago by a hermit priest, Abbé Fouré, who had suffered a stroke and lost his ability to hear and speak and the story goes that he began these sculptures as a means of alternative communication. I am not trying to underestimate the value of the work here you understand, what I am saying that it is a tedious detour and the visit is going to be over in about twenty minutes.

If you do want to go and see them then I would do it soon because after one hundred years they are seriously eroded by the sea and the rain and it can’t help a great deal that visitors are allowed to climb all over them.

I was impatient now to get to Mont St Michel but stuck on the coast road progress was infuriatingly slow as we passed through several towns and villages all with inconveniently snail like speed limits.  Out in the Gulf of St Malo we could see the abbey on the island but it seemed to take a frustrating age to get there as the road snaked around the coast and every few miles or so we came across a tractor or a school bus which slowed us down even more.  Several times I cursed the decision to go and visit Les rochers sculptés.

Les rochers sculptés St Malo France

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45 responses to “Brittany, Dinan and The Sculptured Rocks

  1. Oh this looks divine. The gallery of photos with the bicycle looks like it could be a postcard collage. I love that both you and Kim decided at the same time you should visit. Now did those real estate flyers have anything interesting?

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  2. It looks a really beautiful, and photogenic place!

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  3. Lovely place – thanks for the heads-up!

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  4. I’ve overlooked Dinan during many trips to St. Malo. I will have to rectify that on next trip.

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  5. Looks to me like an amazing trip, felt sorry for the frustrating leg to Les rochers sculptés though, I know exactly what you mean by slowly meandering on narrow roads that seem to attract obstacles and barriers, which tend to feel bigger when you’re feeling frustrated anyway 🙂 But you endured and good for you, Andrew

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  6. I’ve always wanted to go to Mont St. Michel but if ever I manage that hop over the Channel I’ll add Dinan. A house in France, Andrew? Seriously? I could be visiting Kim’s B & B 🙂

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  7. What a charming little town!

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  8. Oh how I love this! THIS is exactly why I believe in being flexible when you travel. All of the wonderful little gems to be found that aren’t on your ‘schedule. What a lovely town,

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  9. Whimsical and something out of a fairy tale. I’m smitten. What’s not to love despite uneven walkways and slanting and endless, tiny street. ❤ ❤ ❤

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  10. So beautiful. That town actually reminds me of Mont St Michel with its high walls and cobbled streets and colorful paint. And those carved stones are awesome!

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  11. Wow, that looks like such a lovely place!

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  12. Love those walking roads through town.

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  13. One of France’s best kept secrets by the sounds of it, Andrew. That last sculptured rock looks like Mr Punch.

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  14. Maybe you should apply to go on A Place In The Sun – Home or Abroad. Will it be Brittany, Wales or will they stay in Grimsby?

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  15. It’s great when you can be spontaneous on holiday and it’s even greater when it works out so well….with the exception of the frustrating drive 😛
    But that’s the reason why France still has these amazing historical places to go visit – because they don’t knock them all down to build eight-lane superhighways.
    I hope that Dinan is still there when I finally get to France 🙂

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  16. I am swept away by the photos, but *both* of you finding the village of Dinan a highlight confirms it for me: I want to go there. Everything in your photos and description shows that it is the kind of place that would make me grin during my entire visit.

    That last photo. I imagine that’s a stone selfie of yourself, stuck in traffic, thinking about how much you wish you did not go look at stone sculptures by the sea.

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  17. Pingback: Entrance Tickets – The Sculptured Rocks near Saint Malo | Have Bag, Will Travel

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