Towards the Atlantic Coast

Very rarely does an inhabitant of Saintes not reminisce about summers on the beaches at Royan and the surrounding seaside resorts. The ocean borders the Saintonge, the Island of Oleron lies close to the bridge, the little coves of the rocky coast alternate with the long sandy beaches. The paths which lead “to the sea” through the “land of Eleanor of Aquitaine”, who, it is said, was fond of this land, also hold some fine things to explore.

Castle of La Roche Courbon

Castle of La Roche Courbon

At Saint-Porchaire, between the Arnoult and the Charente, the Castle of La Roche-Courbon, conjures up fairy tales. Reawakened after a long period of neglect at the urging of the novelist Pierre Loti, from Rochefort, who had called it Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, it is a graceful representation of the 17th century surrounded by verdant formal gardens. It stands at the heart of a thousand-year-old forest with prehistoric caves, set on the edge of the legendary Bouille Bleu marsh.
At Nieul-les-Saintes, the 14th century medieval castle is a reminder of more troubled times. A moat, walls flanked by square towers and a drawbridge, all patiently restored, fire the imagination of lovers of fortified castles. The valley of the Arnoult, shaded by poplars, leads to Pont-L’Abbé-d’Arnoult. The town, which was the Priory of the Abbaye aux Dames, was fortified in the 13th century and still bears traces of the period when Saintonge swung between France and England, including the imposing town gate. Beyond lie the marshes along the coast between the Charente and the oyster beds of the Seudre.
Church of Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult

Church of Pont l’Abbé d’Arnoult

Sablonceaux Abbey

Sablonceaux Abbey

On the way there, between fields and meadows dotted with copses and live hedges, the passer-by stops at the Abbaye de Sablonceaux. It was founded in the 12th century on the orders of the Duke of Aquitaine, often damaged, converted, sometimes abandoned and renovated without losing its elegant beauty. The bell tower and the Gothic chancel, the Romanesque openings of the chapter house, the conventual buildings set round a magnificent American walnut, listed as a remarkable tree, watch over this tranquil landscape.
The walk ends in the vines, present everywhere in Saintonge. The ecomuseum in the hamlet of Pirelonge brings together farms of winegrowers and distillers, settled since the 18th century. They guide you, in French and English, as you explore rural Saintonge and discover how cognac is made.
The ecomuseum of Cognac

The ecomuseum of Cognac