Grand Bé – Saint-Malo, France - Atlas Obscura
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Saint-Malo, France

Grand Bé

On this romantic tidal island reachable only at low tide the tomb of a famous French writer overlooks the sea. 

Grand Bé is a tidal island off the coast of Brittany where the Rance River empties into the English Channel. When the tide is out, a footpath emerges connecting the island to the mainland at Bon-Secours beach in the walled city of Saint-Malo. Crossing the path you’re rewarded with a lovely stroll around the islet, with beautiful views across the sea.

This small island is uninhabited and nearly empty save for a tiny cemetery housing the grave of the famed French romantic writer François-René de Chateaubriand. After his death in Paris during the February Revolution of 1848, the Saint-Malo native was buried, per his request, at the edge of Grand Bé. Chateaubriand’s tomb is a large marble slab topped with a granite cross, positioned facing the open water. An appropriately romantic marker at his grave reads: “A great French writer wanted to rest here in order to hear only the sea and the wind. Passerby, please respect his last wish.”

Just to the west of Grand Bé is an even tinier island, Le Petit Bé, which is home to the remains of a 17th-century fortification that offers a beautiful view over the ramparts of Saint-Malo. During the war, the islands were used by German coastal artillery and, subsequently, parts of the fort were destroyed by American air strikes during the liberation of Saint-Malo in 1944. This smaller Bé can also be visited on foot, provided you don’t run out of time before the tide comes rushing back in.

Know Before You Go

Grand Bé is located close to the city walls of Saint-Malo but it is only accessible at low tide. Make sure you plan the timing of your way back so you don't get stranded on the island.

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