The Lighthouse of Chassiron
The lighthouse of Chassiron, at the extreme western point of the island of Oléron, is a place that you will never grow tired of visiting, even if you don’t climb the 224 stairs steps at each visit.
Its environment and the possibility of walks along the cliffs are much appreciated by visitors.
The pointe of Chassiron, formerly called "The End of the World ", is situated in the municipality of Saint-Denis d'Oléron. The lighthouse is easy to find and well sign-posted as soon as one crosses the bridge to the island of Oléron.
In the summer season, one has a first impression of a fun fair with merry-go-rounds and various stands. But do not be mislead by this, because after passing the big car parks, which are free and well equipped to deal with the flow of visitors, you soon arrive at a beautiful area where the path leads to the lighthouse.
Open all year long
The lighthouse is open
all year long, 7 days a week, and continuously from 10 am until
8 pm from July 1st to August 31st. The entrance fee
is 2,00 Euros and this price includes a well-presented leaflet
with attractive photographs.
The history of the lighthouse
A small museum in the room near the entrance gives you a full introduction to the lighthouse of Chassiron.
Panels on its history are very clear and for the "scientists", the evolution of the technology of lamps and optics and references to Fresnel are quite interesting. We summarise below the texts of both panels on the construction of the lighthouse:
" Further to a decision of Colbert, a first tower, 33 metres high, was built on the site and finished in 1685. It operated for 150 years.
The first stone of the current building was laid on September 4th, 1834. It was inaugurated in December, 1836. Since then, technical equipment has advanced. Indeed, the lighthouse operated successively with oil of colza, mineral oil, gas of acetylene, to be finally electrified. "
As regards materials, the stones come from the quarries of Crazannes, in Charente-Maritime, the sand is extracted from the nearest dunes.
The granite comes from Vendee. Timber consists of oak of Holland and of red pine from Prussia or from Finland. The lead comes from Holland and the iron, intended for the serrurerie, from Berry.
Originally, the tower was painted white. However, in the grey, daylight weather, it was difficult to distinguish it from the lighthouse des Baleines (island of Ré) and the first accident occurred in 1905. Following the successive complaints of the captains of vessels, the decision to paint it black and white was made on November 13th, 1925. "
An exceptional panoramic view
Having climbed the 224 steps (it is the figure indicated on the leaflet, I didn't count), which lead to the top, you arrive on the balcony and you are rewarded with a magnificent view of the coast and the island of Oléron with Fort Boyard in the distance.
The circular balcony gives an exceptional panoramic view over the islands, the coast, the ocean and the Pertuis d' Antioche, which is the part of the sea between the islands of Ré and Oléron.
Some hundred metres from the lighthouse, looking towards the coast, the Tour d'Antioche is clearly visible, This is the beacon that alerts sailors to the presence of rocks, A last glance to memorise the geography of the island of Oléron and one starts the descent, but the visit does not end at the foot of the stairs. You should not leave the lighthouse without visiting the small museum in the room near the entrance.
Afterwards, take time to walk along the cliffs which surround the lighthouse and to see, at low tide, the famous locks for fishing, stony walls which retain the fish at low tide.
On leaving the car park, join Saint-Denis d'Oléron by taking the small road " Saint-Denis by the coast ". The road goes along the west coast for approximately 5 km. The colours of the green meadows and marshes and the blue sea give an impression of a vast and restful landscape.