Fougères (translated as “ferns’ in English which grow abundantly in the region) is a historic little town with the oldest Medieval castle in Europe. The castle dates back to the 12th century when Brittany was independent from the rest of France and required fortress castles (another one was at Vitré) to protect itself against the constant attacks from both France and England. Fougères is now a town very much of two halves, the medieval part around the castle, with pretty half timbered buildings, and the upper town, which was rebuilt in granite following a very destructive fire in 1710. In the 19th century Fougères was famous for its shoe industry and glass production, but those industries have sadly disappeared and Fougères is now regenerating itself as a tourist attraction on the Brittany border.
Visits to the castle are very interesting, and more so if you take the opportunity to use the audio guide which explains in detail the history of the castle and also the daily life of the people who lived there.
Fougères has a busy market on Saturday morning, and there are lots of signed walks to do around the town. One of the prettiest to do, and one that gives fantastic views of the castle starts in the public gardens at the foot of the St Leonard Church. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and the path winds down the hill so that you finish in the Medieval quarter of Fougères where one of the best crêperies in the area is located – Le Tivalo, a pretty half timbered building with an outdoors terrace. Another excellent little restaurant is Le P’tit Bouchon located in the upper town.
La Haute Mancelière is located 17kms from Fougères.
Parc Floral de Haute Bretagne
Only 7kms from Fougères, this park in the grounds of the Chateau Foltière is another beautiful place to visit. The gardens were originally designed in 1847 and include 20 themed gardens set in 100 acres of grounds. The Michelin guide described the parc as “one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in France”. Some of the 20 gardens include the Persian garden, the starry nights garden and the garden of the setting sun. There are 3 mazes and a dinosaur garden. Our favourite time of year to visit is April/May when the camelias and rhododendrons are in full bloom and stunning to see, but there is lots to see in the par throughout the spring, summer and autumn.