Wedged into a small gap in a massive granite boulder formation, Castel Meur is a tiny house whose modesty belies its unusual courage.
Technically, the house is part of the Plougrescant commune in the Côtes d’Armor, though it has the appearance of having been set adrift, and the stony outcrop that it sits on connects only barely with the rugged Breton coastline.
Castel Meur’s four windows face inland. Its back is hewn into the granite fronting the Channel, which shields the dwelling from the high winds that rage across the the water. The property is ringed by a low stone wall.
Today it would be impossible to obtain planning permission to build a house on such a wild stretch of coast, and it is doubtful whether many people would be fond enough of their own company to want to do it in the first place.
Back in 1861, however, there were no planning restrictions, and one man loved the lonely spot enough not only to construct a cottage there, but to live in it for a number of years. Castel Meur is in the possession of the same family to this day.
From the turn of the 20th century, it was inhabited only periodically, perhaps once every two to three years.
Then, in 2004, the original builder’s granddaughter wound down her business in the US and returned to live permanently in the property.
Just a few metres from the house is the entrance to the gouffre de la baie d’enfer, or the chasm of hell’s bay, a small ravine carved out of the rose granite that makes up the coast, and which appears to suck in the sea.
Its infernal name comes from the sound made by the wind as it whips down the chasm, reverberating against the rock faces on either side.
By standing and listening to the frightening sounds produced by the gouffre, you can get some idea of what it must feel like to live in Castel Meur during a fierce coastal storm.
The house’s defiance of the elements has drawn curious visitors from around the globe.
Ironically, tourists have proved more of a menace to its continued survival than the most hardened of tempests.
Drawn in by a postcard bearing a photo of the property, one sunny day a coachload of Japanese tourists walked across to Castel Meur and proceeded to take photographs. Unfortunately, some of them decided to pose on its roof, causing considerable damage.
As a result, the current owner obtained legal means to prevent unauthorised access to her crop of land, and all commercial images of the house are similarly banned.
None of this prevents you from pausing to admire Castel Meur as part of a trip to the Côtes d’Armor.
The coastline the property inhabits is renowned for its wild beauty, and there are footpaths and trails that you can follow from which you will have an excellent vantage over the house and the rocks shielding it from the pounding waves.
You simply need to respect the privacy of the cottage’s current incumbent, and to resist the temptation to take home a pebble or two: over the years this particular tourist habit has contributed to the erosion of the coast and has placed some of the local wildlife under threat.