Lighthouses of France: Loire-Atlantique

This page includes lighthouses of the west coast of France, south of Brittany, in the département of Loire-Atlantique. Historically part of Brittany but now part of the region known as Pays de la Loire (Country of the Loire), Loire-Atlantique includes the lower estuary of the Loire River and the historic port of Saint-Nazaire, famous for its shipyards. This coast faces the Bay of Biscay, the arm of the Atlantic between the peninsulas of Brittany and Spain. Unlike the rocky and deeply-indented coast of Brittany to the north, this is a relatively low, sandy coast.

The French word for a lighthouse, phare, is often reserved for the larger coastal lighthouses; a smaller light or harbor light is called a feu (literally "fire," but here meaning "light"). The front light of a range (alignement) is the feu antérieur and the rear light is the feu postérieur.

Aids to navigation in France were regulated for many years by the Bureau des Phares et Balises. This venerable agency has been absorbed as the office of Maritime Signalization (Signalisation Maritime) within Ecology, Infrastructure and Energy Ministry (Ministère de l'Écologie, du Développement Durable, et de l'Énergie). However, many of the lights are actually operated by the transport ministries or port authorities of the departmental governments.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. FR numbers are the French light list numbers, where known. Admiralty numbers are from volume D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 113.

General Sources
Online List of Lights - France - Atlantic Coast
Photos posted by Alexander Trabas. Many of the photos for the Loire Coast are by Arno Siering or Thomas Philipp.
Phares d'Europe
A portion of a large, well known site maintained by Robert Guyomard and Carceller.
Phares de France
Another large and well known site, this one by Jean-Christophe Fichou.
Ministère de la Culture - Phares
Historical data on more than 180 French lighthouses, with photos of most of them.
Phares et Balises: Silhouettes
Photos and information posted by M. Mocquant.
Phareland, le Site des Phares de France
This comprehensive site has good photos and information about the major lighthouses.
Leuchttürme.net - Frankreich
Photos and notes by Malte Werning.
Lighthouses in Loire-Atlantique
Photos available from Wikipedia.
Lighthouses in France
Aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Société Nationale pour le Patrimoine des Phares et Balises (S.N.P.B.)
The French national lighthouse preservation organization.
Französische Leuchttürme
Historic photos and postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.


Vieux-Môle Light, St.-Nazaire, May 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Karl Adam

Phare du Plateau du Four
Plateau du Four Light, Le Croisic, August 2007
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Arnaud Devorsine

Pornic Area Lighthouses
* Pornic (Pointe de la Noëveillard)
1846. Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); white, red, or green light, depending on direction, occulting four times every 12 s. 15 m (49 ft) square cylindrical limestone tower with lantern and gallery, attached to the front of a 1-1/2 story keeper's house. Tower painted white, lantern green. Rémi Jouan's photo is at right, Werning has a good photo, Trabas has a fine photo by Christophe Boxus, Christelle Camus-Bouclainville has a closeup, Wikimedia has photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. The lighthouse was originally 11 m (36 ft) in height; it was extended in 1882. In 1886 the keeper's house was also expanded. Located near a large marina on the west side of the entrance to the harbor of Pornic, on the Baie de Bourgneuf about 30 km (19 mi) south of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-372; Admiralty D1156; NGA 1032.
*** Pointe Saint-Gildas
1941 (light mounted on 1861 signal station). Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); quick-flashing light, white, red, or green depending on direction. 17 m (56 ft) 3-story building with a short mast light on the roof. Building painted white, mast green. Werning has a fine closeup photo, Trabas has another good closeup by Christophe Boxus, the Phareland site has numerous photos, Wikimedia has a 2011 photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. According to Fichou's account and Wikipedia's article, it was German troops who first mounted a light on the 1861 signal station. The Bureau des Phares et Balises established a permanent light in 1955. From 1938 to 1993 there was a square pyramidal concrete observation tower atop the building; the light was in front of this tower. In the spring of 2005 the building was opened as a lighthouse and shipwreck museum; among the exhibits are a 4th order Fresnel lens and several buoys. Located at Pointe Saint-Gildas, marking the south side of the entrance to the Loire estuary, about 4 km (2.5 mi) west of La Plaine-sur-Mer. Site open; museum open daily mid February through mid November; visitors can climb to the top level just under the mast. Site manager: Sémaphore de la Pointe Saint-Gildas. ARLHS FRA-479; FR-0979; Admiralty D1150; NGA 0912.
Pornic Light
Pointe de la Noëveillard Light, Pornic, August 2006
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Rémi Jouan

Loire Estuary South Side Lighthouses
* Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef (Port de Comberge) (South Breakwater) (2?)
1965. Active; focal plane 7 m (23 ft); white or green light, depending on direction, occulting once every 4 s. 5 m (16 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with gallery. Trabas has a photo, Christophe Gevrey has a photo, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. There is also a slender cylindrical concrete tower with a castellated top on a spur of the breakwater. A photo showing both towers is available. Fichou has a drawing of the second tower suggesting that it was used as a lighthouse also. Today the second tower carries a small triangular daymarker, apparently serving as the rear beacon of a day range. Located on the south jetty at St.-Michel-Chef-Chef, a town on the south side of the Loire entrance about 7 km (4.5 mi) north of La Plaine-sur-Mer. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-593; Admiralty D1105; NGA 0920.
* Paimboeuf
1855. Active; focal plane 9 m (30 ft); white or green light, depending on direction, occulting three times every 12 s. 9 m (30 ft) round cylindrical limestone tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white, lantern and gallery green. Trabas has a photo, Werning has an excellent photo, another good photo is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a good street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the breakwater sheltering the harbor of Paimboeuf, on the south side of the Loire estuary about 12 km (7.5 mi) west of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-378; Admiralty D1142; NGA 1028.

Saint-Nazaire Harbor Lighthouses
Note: The city of Saint-Nazaire stretches along the north bank of the lower Loire estuary and includes the downstream neighborhoods of Ville-ès-Martin and Saint-Marc-sur-Mer.
* Saint-Nazaire Vieux Môle (3)
1904 (station established 1834). Active; focal plane 18 m (59 ft); three white flashes in a 2+1 pattern every 12 s. 17 m (56 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a small equipment room. Tower painted white with unpainted stone trim; lantern and gallery painted red. Werning has a good photo, Trabas has a closeup, Google has a street view, and Bing has an aerial view. Huelse has an interesting postcard view that shows the former Vieille Entrée light at the left and the 1836 Vieux Môle light in the distance. The Vieux Môle lighthouse was heavily damaged by an Allied bombing raid in April 1943; it was restored after the war using the original plans. Located at the end of the Vieux (Old) Môle, off the Quai des Marées about 800 m (1/2 mi) northeast of the Jetée de l'Est lighthouse. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-495; Admiralty D1126; NGA 0980.
* Saint-Nazaire Jetée de l'Est
1904. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); green light occulting four times every 12 s. 10 m (33 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white with unpainted stone trim; lantern and gallery painted green. Werning has a photo, Trabas has a closeup, Guyomard and Carceller have a photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view of both jetty lights, Google has a street view, and Bing has an aerial view. The west and east jetty lights mark the south entrance to the inner harbor, the Port de Saint-Nazaire, which is entered through locks that maintain a constant water level at the wharves. Located at the end of the east jetty protecting the south entrance to the Port de Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-494; Admiralty D1124; NGA 0976.
* Saint-Nazaire Jetée de l'Ouest
1904. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); red light occulting four times every 12 s. 10 m (33 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white with unpainted stone trim; lantern and gallery painted red. Werning's photo is at right, Trabas has a closeup, Guyomard and Carceller have a photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view of both jetty lights, Google has a street view, and Bing has an aerial view. Located at the end of the west jetty protecting the south entrance to the Port de Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-496; Admiralty D1122; NGA 0972.

Jetée de l'Ouest Light, St. Nazaire
photo copyright Malte Werning; used by permission

Ville-ès-Martin Lighthouses
Les Morées
1893 (light on 1777 daybeacon). Active; focal plane 12 m (39 ft); three flashes, red or white depending on direction, every 12 s. 17 m (56 ft) solid round granite tower with lantern, painted green. Built as a daybeacon, the tower was raised in height when its light was installed in 1893. A new lantern and a propane-fueled light were installed in 1954. Trabas has a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a rocky shoal, the Banc des Morées, about 1 km (0.6 mi) east of Ville-ès-Martin. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-363; Admiralty D1118; NGA 0968.
* Ville-ès-Martin
1865. Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); two white flashes every 6 s. 12 m (39 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery. Tower is unpainted gray stone, lantern painted red. Trabas has a closeup, Werning has a good photo, a 2009 closeup is available, Guyomard and Carceller also have a photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a distant street view, and Bing has an aerial view. Located at the end of an abandoned jetty just off a point of land about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) southwest of the Port de Saint-Nazaire. Apparently accessible at low tide from the riverfront along the Rue Ferdinand Buisson at the foot of the Rue du Port. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-535; Admiralty D1116; NGA 0964.
**** Kerlédé (Portcé Feu Postérieur (1))
1897. Inactive since 1981. 26 m (85 ft) round granite tower with masonry lantern room and gallery, rising from the center of a 1-story keeper's house. Tower painted white; lantern room and gallery are unpainted granite. Sibling of the 1894 Port Maria lighthouse (see below). Werning has a good photo, J. Hache has a 2008 photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has an aerial view. This handsome lighthouse had to be deactivated when another change in the channel required range lights on a new line. The lighthouse was bought in 1997 and renovated in 1998 by the city of Saint-Nazaire and operated as a museum by a non-profit group. In August 2004 this group disbanded and control of the lighthouse reverted to the city's ministry of culture. In September 2005, the lighthouse reopened under the management of the city's museum. Located off the Allée des Pervenches on the southwest side of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower open but the schedule is not known. Site manager: Écomusée Saint-Nazaire. ARLHS FRA-510; ex-Admiralty D1106.1.
* Tour du Commerce (Portcé) (2)
1857 (station established 1756). Inactive since 1897. 39 m (128 ft) round masonry tower, painted white. Lantern removed; there appears to be a communications mast atop the capped tower. 2-story keeper's house. Florent Moritz's photo at right shows the tower and one end of the keeper's house, Jean-François Ghirardi has a good photo, Werning also has a photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has an aerial view. This tower was the rear light of a range, the Pointe d'Aiguillon lighthouse being the front light. The original tower was very similar to the surviving Pointe d'Aiguillon light. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1897 when changes in the channel required moving the range. Located on the Allée du Tour du Commerce off the D92 highway on the southwest side of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-509.
* Portcé Feu Intermédiaire (1)
1897. Inactive. 1-story masonry keeper's cottage; the light was shone through a window. The Portcé range replaced the former Aiguillon range as the entrance range for the Loire. Fichou's page refers to this lighthouse as the rear light, but as he notes elsewhere the Kerlédé lighthouse was the rear light and this was the middle light. Located atop the bluff on the southwest side of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-740.
* Portcé Feu Postérieur (2)
1981 (station established 1897). Active; focal plane 36 m (118 ft); quick-flashing white light, intensified on the range line and synchronized with the front light. 19 m (62 ft) slender round cylindrical metal tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. A white slatted daymark is installed along both sides of the tower for its full height, creating a gigantic white rectangular daybeacon. Trabas has a photo, Werning has a photo, Jean-François Ghirardi has a 2009 photo, and Bing has an aerial view. Located off the Chemin de Portcé on the southwest side of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-409; Admiralty D1106.1; NGA 0952.
Tour du Commerce
Tour du Commerce, Saint-Nazaire, August 2010
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Florent Moritz

Saint-Marc-sur-Mer Lighthouses
Portcé Feu Antérieur (2)
1981 (station established 1897). Active; focal plane 6 m (20 ft); quick-flashing white light, intensified on the range line. 7 m (23 ft) post with a square lantern room and gallery, painted white. Trabas has a photo, Werning has a photo, and Bing has an aerial view. Located about 400 m (1/4 mi) offshore at Portcé, on the southwest side of Saint-Nazaire. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-739; Admiralty D1106; NGA 0948.
* Pointe d'Aiguillon
1756. Active; focal plane 28 m (92 ft); white or red light, depending on direction, occulting four times every 12 s. 19 m (62 ft) round tower, consisting of the original 10 m (33 ft) masonry tower with gallery, topped by a lantern and also by a 9 m (29 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower that rises above the lantern and carries a white slatted daymark. Entire lighthouse painted white with gray trim. Trabas has a photo, the Phareland site has many photos, J. Hache has a good 2008 photo, Werning has a distant view, and Bing has an aerial view. The history of this historic lighthouse is rather complex. It was built to serve as the front beacon of a range guiding mariners into the Loire entrance while avoiding the Banc du Grand Charpentier shoal. The Tour du Commerce was the rear beacon. A lantern and Fresnel lens were added to the tower in 1830. In 1857, the tower was increased in height to 20 m (66 ft). Huelse has a historic postcard view of the extended tower. In 1909, at the demand of the Navy, the tower was reduced to its original height; we don't know the reason for this. Apparently it wasn't so long afterwards that the skeletal tower was added to restore the daytime height of the lighthouse, since the addition appears in another postcard view posted by Huelse. The 1-1/2 story stone keeper's house is privately owned, and in 2009 the property was offered for sale for €780,000. Located on the north bank of the Loire estuary at the end of the Chemin de Port Charlotte, on the east side of Saint-Marc-sur Mer, about 8 km (5 mi) southwest of Saint-Nazaire. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-167; FR-0872; Admiralty D1114; NGA 0956.
Le Grand Charpentier
1888. Active; focal plane 22 m (72 ft); quick-flashing light, white, red, or green depending on direction. 26 m (89 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery, incorporating keeper's quarters. Tower is unpainted gray stone; lantern is red. Morez Pascal's photo is at right, Trabas has a photo, Werning has a distant view, and Huelse has a historic postcard view. Located on a rocky shoal about 3 km (2 mi) southwest of Saint-Marc-sur-Mer. Accessible only by boat, but there are good views from shore. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-014; FR-0855; Admiralty D1104; NGA 0944.
Phare du Grand Charpentier
Grand Charpentier Light, Saint-Marc-sur Mer, July 2006
Panoramio photo copyright Morez Pascal; permission requested

Pornichet and Le Pouliguen Lighthouses
Pornichet
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); white, red, or green light depending on direction, 2 s on, 2 s off. 10 m (33 ft) round concrete tower, painted white with a green band at the top. Werning has a photo, Philippe Poncin has a photo, Wikimedia has Rémi Jouan's sunset photo, Trabas has a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the south breakwater at Pornichet. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-604; Admiralty D1102; NGA 0892.
Le Pouliguen Jetée Sud (2)
1957. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); quick-flashing red light. 15 m (49 ft) rakish pylon in the shape of a yacht's mast, mounted on a small equipment room. Tower painted white; the small lantern is red; a French flag flies above the lantern. Trabas has a photo, Werning has a photo, a closeup and a view from the base of the pier are available, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the south breakwater of Le Pouliguen. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-741; Admiralty D1098; NGA 0884.
La Banche
1865. Active; focal plane 22 m (72 ft); two flashes every 6 s, white or red depending on direction. 30 m (98 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery, incorporating keeper's quarters. Lighthouse painted with black and white horizontal bands; lantern is white. A 2011 photo is available, Trabas has a distant view, and Huelse has a historic postcard view. Located on a rocky shelf about 8 km (5 mi) south of Le Pouliguen, marking the beginning of the approach to the Loire estuary, Saint-Nazaire, and Nantes. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-003; FR-0851; Admiralty D1096; NGA 0896.

Le Croisic and La Turballe Lighthouses
Plateau du Four
1822. Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); white flash every 5 s. 23 m (75 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery, incorporating keeper's quarters. Lighthouse painted in a black and white spiral pattern (unusual for France). The lighthouse was extended in height by 6.2 m (21 ft) in 1846. Arnaud Devorsine's photo is at the top of this page, another closeup photo is available, Trabas has a distant view, and Huelse has a historic postcard view. Located on a rocky shelf, submerged at high tide, about 3 km (2 mi) west of the Pointe du Croisic, on the north side of the approach to the Loire. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-052; FR-0845; Admiralty D1080; NGA 0820.
* Le Croisic (Jetée de Tréhic)
1874. Active; focal plane 12 m (39 ft); white or green light depending on direction, 2 s on, 2 s off. 12 m (39 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery. The central portion of the tower is unpainted stone; circular base painted white; lantern and gallery painted green. A photo is at right, Werning has a photo, Trabas has a photo, a closeup is available, Guyomard and Carceller have good photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a distant street view, and Bing has a satellite view. The tower was damaged during World War II; it was repaired and a new lantern installed at the end of the war. Located at the end of the 900 m (0.55 mi) breakwater on the west side of harbor entrance in Le Croisic. Accessible in good weather by walking the pier; as we see in the photo at right this is a popular walk. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-519; Admiralty D1088; NGA 0860.
* La Turballe (Jetée de Garlahy) (1)
1894. Inactive since 1958. 9 m (30 ft) round cylindrical tower with gallery; lantern removed. Tower painted white. Guyomard and Carceller have an aerial photo that also shows the active light, a sleek metal pylon painted white with a red top (focal plane 13 m (43 ft); four flashes, white or red depending on direction, every 12 s). Werning has a good photo, Daniel Fronton has a 2008 photo, Trabas has Philipp's photo of the active light, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Huelse has a historic postcard view of the original tower with its lantern but without the masonry equipment room that now surrounds the base of the tower. Located on the breakwater sheltering the harbor of La Turballe. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-737; Admiralty D1076; NGA 0844.
Le Croisic Light
Jetée de Tréhic Light, Le Croisic, August 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Emmanuel Parent

Piriac-sur-Mer and Mesquer Lighthouses
* Piriac-sur-Mer (2)
1949 (station established 1906). Active; focal plane 8 m (27 ft); white, red, or green light, depending on direction, occulting twice every 6 s. 8 m (27 ft) semicircular concrete tower, painted white. Werning has a good photo, Trabas has a closeup photo, Wikimedia has Rémi Jouan's closeup, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the Quai de Verdun at Piriac-sur-Mer. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-124; Admiralty D1074; NGA 0812.
Île Dumet
Date unknown (station established 1900). Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); three flashes every 12 s, white, red or green depending on direction. 6 m (20 ft) light mounted on one corner of a square fort. Donald Gray has a photo, Trabas has a very distant view, and Google has a distant satellite view. The Île Dumet is a small island about 6 km (3.5 mi) northwest of Piriac-sur-Mer. There are two ruined forts on the island; the one with the light was built in 1845. Located near the center of the island. Accessible only by boat. Site open, fort open. ARLHS FRA-094; Admiralty D1060; NGA 0784.
* Mesquer (Pointe de Merquel) (3)
Date unknown (station established 1920). Active; focal plane 7 m (23 ft); white, red, or green light, depending on direction, occulting once every 4 s. 7 m (23 ft) post attached to a 1-story equipment room. Trabas has a photo, another photo is available, Google has a street view, and Bing has a distant satellite view. Fichou has a photo of the previous (1955) light, a semicircular concrete tower attached to a small equipment room. The original lighthouse was heavily damaged during World War II; after the war a temporary light was shone from atop the ruins. Located on the jetty at the Pointe de Merquel, the south side of the entrance to the Marais Salants estuary north of Mesquer. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-735; Admiralty D1072; NGA 0808.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Morbihan | South: La Vendée

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Posted October 25, 2005. Checked and revised March 12, 2014. Lighthouses: 25. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.