As you’re perfecting your tan on one of the island’s golden beaches you probably wouldn’t expect a war ship to appear on the horizon and dock just in front of your neatly laid down beach towel. Yet, during the 17th century, the Ile de Ré was a strategic location to protect France from incoming English invasions.
Saint Martin de Ré is surrounded by fortifications built by Cardinal Richelieu in the 1620’s. They were later improved and modernised by Vauban, who transformed Saint Martin de Ré into the citadel we know it as today. Hence why the town only hosts one small beach – La Plage de La Cible – on the eastern side of Saint Martin.
The famous ramparts that protect the town form a clear star shape with four arrow headed bastions, easily distinguishable on aerial shots. If you cycle back from the west – from La Couarde sur Mer or Ars en Ré for example – you will most likely pass through the Porte des Campani, one of the two entrance gates to the citadel.
The fortifications were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
From our holiday homes in Saint Martin de Ré – Maison d’Aquitaine and Maison de Pêcheur – you can stroll down the road towards the harbor and walk along the quayside to admire the fortifications. From our rental villa in La Couarde – Maison de Charme – just head to Saint Martin and you can’t miss them!
Find out more about Saint Martin’s fortifications here.