The 24,534gt Bretagne of Brittany Ferries leaving Saint-Malo in 2011. She was built in 1989 by Chantiers de l’Atlantique at Saint Nazaire. (Nigel Lawrence)

Saint-Malo is an historic French walled city with very good architecture and is a focus for all that occurs on the east side of the Brittany coast. The elegant walled town today overlooks the yacht marinas of the Bassin Vauban, which has not changed much over the centuries since the four locked ‘bassins’ of the inner harbour were built. It has, as with all of the harbours from Roscoff to Plumanach to Paimpol to Saint Brieuc, an exceptional rocky entrance channel and coastline. Masters of medium sized ferries of up to 160.0 metres in overall length, 30.0 metres moulded beam, and a loaded draft of 9.0 metres have an arduous task of avoiding precipitous rocks to port and starboard, some only twenty metres away.

The beautiful and elegant five storey terrace houses we see today in Saint-Malo have all been rebuilt in post-war years, as this historic town was destroyed in August 1944 by American forces led by the 3rd Army of General George Patton on 5th August 1944, but it took nearly one month of persistent shelling and dive bombing before the last German soldier surrendered on 2nd September 1944. The American 3rd Army under General Patton then took Brest, and swung eastwards to link up with the British battalions that had taken Caen in order to liberate Paris and drive eastwards in long tank columns into Germany. The heavily fortified Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey and particularly Alderney, were by passed by the American battalions as too difficult to attack, and were liberated by two British destroyers on the day after the war ended.


Smaller cruise ships can dock in the port. Here we see the 8,282gt Song of Flower at Saint Malo in 2002. She was built in 1974 by Kristiansands MV as the Ro-Ro ferry Begonia for NV Stoomvaart Mij Oostzee. In 1986 she was sold to Explorer Starship Ltd. of the Bahamas and renamed Explorer Starship. In 1989 she moved to Seven Seas Ltd. as Song of Flower. This company initially became Radisson Seven Seas Cruises and then Regent Seven Seas Cruises. In 2004 she joined Ponant as Le Diamant and in 2012 she was sold to Fleetpro Ocean Inc. and renamed Ocean Diamond. She is still in service for them. (Nigel Lawrence)


Saint-Malo was founded by the Gauls in the 1st century BC (Before Christ), an ancient town on the site of the Roman town of Reginca or Aletum. The fort at Aleth, in what is now Saint Servan, was built by Celtic tribesmen to guard the entrance to the Rance river. The Romans further fortified this site and departed in the 5th and 6th Century AD after the decline of the Roman Western European Empire, leaving the Gauls and a large Saxon Fort that was built on the shoreline to protect the town from seaborne raiders on the Rance Estuary. Many Celtic Britons from the western parts of Britain fled the instability of their homes and settled in Saint-Malo. The rocky island to the north of Aleth was connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, and it was this natural defence that induced the population to move away from Aleth to what is now Saint-Malo during the period of brutal Viking raids.

The modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Brendan and Saint Aaron from Ireland in the early 6th century. The town also received many settlers from Wales including Saint Maclou, corrupted to the name of Saint-Malo. During the twenty years from 1395 to 1415, the city swore allegiance to King Charles VI of France, who granted the port free practice under the Duchy of Brittany. During the three years from 1590 to 1593, Saint Malo declared itself as the independent ‘Malouine Republic’, not French and not Breton, until King Henry IV of France agreed to become a catholic. Stone from the Iles de Chausey was increasingly used from the end of the 16th century to build the terraced houses of the city.


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