Ile Sainte-Marguerite visitor guide

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The Ile Sainte-Marguerite is in the small group of islands called the Iles de Lérins, in the Mediterranean a short distance away from the Cote d'Azur and Cannes. The principal departure point to get here is from the old port in Cannes: boats are operated by Planaria de l'Abbaye de Lérins.

While the nearby Ile Saint-Honorat was named after Honoratus, who established a monastic settlement in the 4th century, this island is named for his sister, Marguerite, who established a nunnery on the island.

Explore Ile Sainte-Marguerite

There are several reasons to visit the Ile Sainte-Marguerite, with the walk around the island and a visit to the Royal Fort being the most important.

Walls and entrance to the Royal Fort

The Royal Fort, on the north coast of the island, was built by Richelieu then later fortified by Vauban. It has several buildings to explore and also includes a Marine Museum. You can follow the path around the ramparts of the fort for panoramic views across the fort and to Cannes to the north.

The fortress is well known as being the place where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned for 11 years, from 1687 to 1698, before being taken to the Bastille. Little is known of this prisoner, made famous in a book by Alexandre Dumas in the 1840s, and it is not even certain whether his mask - which was never removed - was made from iron or cloth, but he was believed to be a relative of King Louis XIV and his life and story has inspired many films and books.

On the coast to the east of the Fort Sainte-Marguerite, various excavations show that several villas with mosaics stood here in the the Roman period.

Two other interesting buildings at the extremities of the island are the small 'fours à boulets', ovens that were originally used to heat cannon balls to very high temperatures. These were then fired at attacking ships, with the intention that as well as causing damage they also start a fire on the ship. Two more of these can be seen on Ile Sainte-Marguerite.


Walk around the Ile Sainte-Marguerite

The most popular walk on Ile Sainte-Marguerite follows the circumference of the western half of the island, crossing the centre of the island along a path through the eucalyptus trees that cover the centre of Ile Sainte-Marguerite, between the Maison Forestière (in the south) and the Fort Royal (to the north). If you prefer you can follow the coast path all the way around the island.

The walk is easy to follow, about five kilometres long, and will take you about two hours, plus the time to visit the Royal Fort.

There is a bird observation point at the Etang du Batéguier, the sea lake that you walk around to the west of the island.

Well in the grounds of the royal fort of Ile Sainte-Marguerite

Attractions nearby

The island of Ile Saint-Honorat, the other important island in the Iles de Lérins group of islands, is a short distance south of Ile Saint-Honorat and has an abbey and fortress to explore.

See more islands of France. You can find more travel ideas in the Alpes-Maritimes guide and the Provence guide.

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The French version of this page is at Ile Sainte-Marguerite (Francais)