Dinan is a walled town located in the department of Côtes-d’Armor, overlooking the River Rance, in the Brittany region. We visited Dinan during one of our incursions into France when we lived in Jersey. We took the ferry to St-Malo and then drove around.
The history of Dinan goes back many, many centuries. Some of that history is still alive in the medieval buildings and ramparts that surround the city. We enjoyed strolling around the medieval quarter, the gardens and the ramparts. The views of the Rance from the top are simply gorgeous.
I am a sucker for all things medieval and there was no shortage of medieval stuff to see in Dinan. The heart of the medieval city is the Place des Merciers, or Haberdashers’ Square. This is where different merchant and craft guilds congregated. Each street carries the name of a guild, such as the Rue de la Poissonnerie – Fishmongers Street. The square, and the whole area for that matter, is lined with stunning half-timbered houses painted in bright colours. A disused granite water well marks the centre of the place. One can easily imagine neighbours and craftsmen gathering round the well for gossip and a bucket of water.
The Créperie Le Connétable is off the Place des Merciers on 1, Rue de l’Apport. We had an unforgettable lunch in this ancient timbered building. They serve crepes and galettes, both sweet and savoury. Galettes are made with buckwheat flour and are typical of Brittany. We washed them down with dry cider served in traditional ceramic mugs.
Down the Rue de l’Horloge is, not surprisingly, the Tour de l’Horloge. This clock tower dates from 1505 and housed the old town hall, Maison de la Ville, until the French Revolution. Those who dare climb the 158 steps to the top are rewarded with great views of the town. We didn’t.
The visit to a medieval town would not be completed without a visit to a church. So we headed to St. Sauveur’s basilica. This church was built by the Lord of Dinan in about 1120 as thanksgiving for his return from the Holy Land. It has been rebuilt and added to throughout the centuries but the lower part of the façade is original. It is decorated with imaginary beasts so popular in the Middle Ages as well as wild animals discovered during the Crusades, like lions or parrots.
The heart of one of France’s greatest heroes, Bertrand du Guesclin, is buried in St. Sauveur. The place is marked with a 14th century gravestone. Du Guesclin was a commander during the Hundred Years’ War against England’s House of Plantagenet. He was made Constable of France, the country’s highest military leader, for his outstanding services (although I shouldn’t praise him too much in case I upset my English friends and family). Behind the basilica we found the Jardin Anglais, a beautiful garden created in 1852 over the old cemetery.