Fort Boyard is a large stone fortress with a rich history. The structure is located in the Antioch Strait in the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of France. The fortress was built on a stretch of shoal, between two islands: Ile d’Aix and Oleron. Outwardly it is a majestic structure of impressive size. For its rich history it is considered one of the most interesting historical monuments of France and a fascinating place for tourists.
History of origin and description of Fort Boyard
The first idea about the decision to build the fort appeared in 1666, but it was finally realized only in 1857. In the XVII century between France and Britain were heated relations, which was accompanied by wars, attacks. The ruler of France, Louis XIV decided to strengthen the protection of vulnerable places of his state, which could be attacked by the British army, by building a fortress in the middle of the strait.
In Louis’ view, a fort at that location could protect the military shipyards recently built at Rochefort. Although two batteries had already been erected along the banks, this did not provide the desired protection against the British armies. The guns of the French armies proved insufficiently long-range. And the distance between the islands was too great for a battery to defend. So the ruler decided to create an additional barrier by constructing a building.
Louis suggested that the best engineer of that time, Sebastien Le Pretre de Vauban, undertake the work. But the specialist refused, as he considered the idea impossible to carry out. The idea of building the fort turned out to be in the past, but it was returned to in the XIX century, when relations between France and Britain were strained again. Conditions became favorable: a natural bank was formed, and building technology improved.
Work on the construction of the fortress began in 1801 on the bank, which became the name of the fort. They began to build it by putting stone blocks right on the bottom of the sea. Because of that there was a difficult technical obstacle: the blocks were failing under the pressure of their own weight, they moved apart in different directions and were deformed. It was decided to stop the construction in 1809, and then it continued for many years.
In 1837, relations between the countries again heated up, work on the construction of the fort continued again. Difficult natural conditions and other factors have affected the realization of the idea and the fortress was a long construction. The construction was fully completed only 20 years later in 1857. The fort turned out to be an impressive fortress, housing a garrison of 250 men. But by the time the building was completed, it had become unnecessary.
Construction took 50 years, and during that time the capabilities of artillery weapons had changed dramatically. The range had increased so much that the batteries on the shore could easily repel attacks from their positions. Therefore, the fort was no longer needed in terms of military strategy. The fortress remained under the control of the French War Office for the following years, but was not used in the war; it was turned into a prison.
In 1913 the fort was no longer in the care of the military army, even the guns were sold off. During World War II, German troops conducted firing exercises in the fort, which caused considerable damage to the structure. The next 20 years the building was not used anywhere and was in a great state of neglect. Constant moisture, sea waves, wind and birds caused the destruction of the structure. The fortress was put up for auction and was purchased by Eric Ert.
The new owner did not have enough money to rebuild the fort. The structure continued to fall into disrepair, tourists began to take everything they could as souvenirs. In 1979, Ert tried to sell the Boyardee, but was not able to do it immediately. There was only one buyer, but the price was too high. The very next year the fortress became of interest to television. It was eventually bought by a producer for his new show.
Since 1989, extensive work began to clean, reconstruct and improve the Boyard for the filming of the TV show. The building was cleaned of a thick layer of accumulated bird droppings, halls were equipped for the famous TV game Fort Boyard, and a new pier was built for the pier. A few years later even the platforms for artillery and later the courtyard in the center of the fortress were restored. Today the place is open to tourists.
The Boyardee is an imposing structure: its length is 68 m, width – 31 m, and a height of about 20 m. Inside the fortress is divided into three tiers. All of them have balconies, spacious corridors and cells. The latter formerly housed the soldiers of the French garrison and stored weapons and other supplies for the army. Above the upper tier is a tower for viewing the grounds. The building now houses props from TV show filming.
How to get to Fort Boyard
To get to the fort, you need to buy a ticket for any boat that sails specifically to the fort. Such services are provided by different boat owners. Not all boats pass by the fort, so you need to look specifically for the appropriate routes. At the ticket office with tickets to the historic building is marked with the name Fort Boyard. This serves as a reference point for tourists not to get confused.
Pleasure boats take tourists to the fort from almost all the port towns on the surrounding islands, from the shores overlooking the strait. French port towns from which you can take a boat trip include the islands of Oléron and La Rochelle, Tranche-sur-Mer, Tremblade and Cape Foura. Finding a place to buy a ticket is not difficult. There are many ticket booths on the pier with plenty of tickets for free seats.
There are virtually no lines at the ticket office, so it is not difficult for tourists to plan their time and travel. But it may depend on the time of year. During the tourist season, there are more visitors than at other times of the year. Therefore, the tourist needs to know in advance about the influx of people in the period in which he plans to travel. Accordingly, it is necessary to find a suitable way to buy tickets: on the spot in line or through the Internet before the trip.
When it is best to visit Fort Boyard
It all depends on the weather conditions, the wishes of the traveler and his plans for his vacation. Between tourist seasons, there is a smaller influx of people, which allows you to buy tickets more freely, perhaps even on better terms. There are no lines, so it’s easier to plan your time. During tourist seasons there are more people, but the conditions for visiting the fortress are much better, especially in terms of weather.
In general, the climatic features in that area are unpredictable. We can focus on the work of the TV show set. They are on the fort from mid-April to the second half of August. This is the most favorable time. During the cold season, constant winds blow, cold and stormy, so it is dangerous to visit. Large waves that can reach more than 20 meters in height are raised. It is better to go in the warmer seasons.
What the tourist needs to know when visiting Fort Boyard
You need to know that, although earlier tours were conducted to all visitors inside the fortress, now there is no such opportunity. Fort Boyard is closed to public access. But you can see the fortress from a distance of 400-500 meters. For this purpose, there are special boat rides. Ships pass around the structure at a suitable speed, so that travelers can examine the fort in detail from all sides. It is possible to take pictures, shoot a video.
The distance from the boat to the fort is sufficient to appreciate the impressive structure. The walk is held not only to look at the fort visually. The organizers offer travelers two basic programs: a walk by sea with a return to the port of departure (duration 2-2.5 hours), a walk by sea to the fort with a visit to other neighboring islands with stops for walking and swimming (4-4.5 hours).
Since the programs are quite long, the tourist should take this into account. If there is a problem with carrying the sea, you need to take care of pills to help you feel better. The cost of the ticket depends on the distance of the tourist from the fort and other factors: the particular seller, the chosen program of the event. The price varies between 15-40 euros, the difference is about 1-3 euros. You can choose a flight to fit your schedule.
What else to see around Fort Boyard
There are many interesting places to visit in the area besides Boyard. One of them is the historically important town of Rochehof. It is an old port-type town. The town has many houses with amazing architecture, old buildings, unusual ships and historical monuments. There is a rope workshop of the XVII century with various equipment, the International Maritime Center and other interesting places.
It is also worth visiting the neighboring islands, between which the fort is located. Oleron is considered one of the oldest and largest in France. From the city you can get to the coast over a bridge. There are many oyster farms on the island. They have accumulated their experience for decades, different generations have been able to develop and create the best conditions for the cultivation of oysters. Local oysters are famous for their bright taste, fans can try them.
The island blows constant winds is shaped like a boomerang and has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. The shores with clean sandy beaches are a good place to walk. There are many forts, bastions and ramparts on the island, as it used to be frequently attacked. You can visit Fort Ene, built during the Napoleonic era. The fortress was used for defense and was a prison. You can visit inside with a guide.
A trip to Fort Boyard Fort and the surrounding islands is a good choice for a vacation. Especially for those who like active walks, fresh air and history. A well-planned trip will help avoid the hassles of buying tickets and unsuitable weather conditions. To appreciate the imposing structure and other historical monuments, it is advisable to learn more about their history.