Note: this blog post on Suscinio is the first appearance for my second daughter, Isabella!
Last year whilst in Paris I came across an advertisement in a bus stop displaying a large photo of a castle with ‘Suscinio’ written underneath it. I never heard of the castle before so I had to do some research. I noticed it was located in the region of Brittany and thought if I ever visit the region, I will check it out. With the current Coronavirus pandemic and all my travel plans being shafted this year, I took the opportunity to book a trip to Brittany as soon as the UK Government lifted the restrictions regarding travel. To be honest, I was on a ferry on the day the ‘essential travel’ was dropped and was checking out the castle a few days later.
The castle was built in the late Middle Ages (around the 13th century) and was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. Located near the town of Sarzeau, the castle is a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean. There are some certainly great views of the ocean from the top of the castle and can understand why it was built here (to see oncoming armies traveling by boat). At first the castle was designed to be a ‘place of leisure’ for the dukes as there was the sea but also a lot of forest around the area which was fantastic for hunting animals. However over time the castle was fortified and made bigger because the country of France which was still forming at the time by taking regions, was attacking the Brittany region. Eventually the region fell to France in 1514. It was Bretrand du Guesclin (who was the infamous Constable of France who did many terrible things in his time) who managed to grab the castle and declared victory for France.
However before France grabbed Brittany, the castle had some famous visitors staying, a group of exiled Englishmen, the biggest name being Henry Tudor who later became King Henry VII of England. History around this time for the region and the castle was very messy. Francis II, who was the Duke of Brittany at the time, supported the group of bad boys from England and turned the castle into an armed camp. Any attempts of anyone trying to kidnap the Englishmen (probably the English who wanted them back in England), would be killed. This would go on for eleven years.
In 1483, the Duke then supported the failed rebellion of the exiled Englishmen and the invasion of England (another battle between the neighbours…sighed). He supported them with 15,000 soldiers, lots of ships and for some reason, thousands and thousands of gold crowns (money talks). In the end it didn’t go well and Henry was given back to the English by agreement between the two sides. In return, the Duke of Brittany got 3,000 English archers to defend Brittany against the French (well, that didn’t turn out well in the end). Time passed, Brittany, the English and the French had many battles in the area and in the end, France won. Before France won, Duke Francis II died in 1488 and was succeeded by his eleven year old daughter, Anne of Brittany, the last ruling leader of Brittany and somehow was Queen of France (twice!). She died in 1514, the battles stopped and the region became a part of France.
A few years later, France didn’t care about Suscinio castle and was abandoned. Parts of it were destroyed and still can be seen in places today. Before and during the French Revolution, people used the castle for its stones and took them elsewhere in the region making the castle more ruined than before. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that work was done to rebuild the castle to its former glory.
Whilst walking around Suscinio, I saw the ruined chapel, a few ruined outbuildings, a dovecote and noticed that all the staircases were rebuilt. For some reason there are some displays on King Arthur and the Round Table and floating dragons hanging down from a ceiling in one room in the dark.
Outside I took a walk around Suscinio castle and its moat (very pleasant) and had a bite to eat at an outdoor snack bar which was located in a set of trees nearby. Archery can also be done for visitors.
I noticed that during the restoration that a lot of concrete was used, on the floors of certain rooms as well as the staircases and looked a bit out of character. However as I was traveling with two young children and a mother who can’t see very well, it was easy to guide them around the castle. So I was a bit disappointed about this and it kinda lost its charm inside. Then some of the rooms which had a few displays looked a bit dull and empty but that’s my own personal view. Otherwise I really did enjoy my morning out here at Suscinio and would totally recommend it. It may not be one of the most spectacular castles I have come across in France however it has a history and I do love the nature and the sea surrounding it.
Enjoy my post on Suscinio Castle? Check out other castles I have explored in France and Europe here.