Ile Cézon

Article and pictures by Jeroen van der Werf, all rights reserved.

The village of Aber Wrac'h is situated on the Brittany coast at the mouth of the river of the same name, about 50 kilometres north of Brest.

Vauban'recognised the strategic significance of the site during his inspections of Brittany’s coasts in 1685; the enemy could sail up the river, disembark and attack Brest from behind. Plans for the site were ready the same year but it took until 1694, the year Brest came under attack and its defences needed to be in order, for the fort to be built.

Some batteries were built around the bay and on the smaller islands, dominated by a larger fort on Ile Cézon. On the water side the fort had low batteries for cannon and on the land side a curtain wall, with the entrance gate, flanked by two demi-bastions'with a dry ditch'in front of it.

The fort was dominated by a tower mounting seven cannon. Inside the fort the living quarters, powder magazine, etc. were situated. In the 19th century the batteries outside the fort's walls were abandoned and the powder magazine was rebuilt to make it more bomb proof.

During the Second World War the Nazis built 17 blockhouses of various sizes on the small island. Looking at the map one might wonder why the mouths of the rivers Aber Benoit (situated 5 km east of Aber Wrac’h) Quillmadec and Aber Ildut don’t have forts like this.

As far as I know they don’t. That might be because these rivers were inaccessible because of strong currents or because they weren’t deep enough and crowded with too many rocks. The fact that there are so many blockhouses on this very small island highlights its strategic significance and its unique position.

Then again the other rivers might be protected by smaller batteries that have been demolished or are overgrown like the most of Fort Cézon.

Visiting Ile Cézon

The island is accessible at low tide when most of the bay becomes dry. The buildings inside the fort are in ruins, the land front and costal batteries are totally overgrown and hardly visible, but the tower, its best feature, is still very much intact.

From the tower you’ll have a spectacular view of the bay and its surrounding landscape. The fort is private property but can be entered during the summer. Don’t be fooled by the closed gate, you can climb over it with a ladder. Inside you’ll find the reason why the gate is closed: sheep.

Article and pictures by Jeroen van der Werf, all rights reserved.

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