Even smaller than Île d’Aix is Île Madame which is only accessible during low water from Port des Barques, via La Passe aux Boeufs, a slender causeway which gives any visit a pleasing sense of adventure.
Although just 1km long and 600m wide, its strategic location, at the mouth of the Charente estuary opposite Fouras, meant that in 1704 it too acquired a military fort designed to reinforce nearby Rochefort’s defensive system. The tiny island’s history also recalls a sad event in 1794 (during the Revolution, when it was briefly renamed l’Île Citoyenne) when 275 priests were starved to death and buried where they dropped. A white cross in pebbles (la Croix de Galets) marks their mass grave. Today, in happier times, you can visit the island’s Ferme Aquacole (05 46 84 12 67) to see oyster and sea-salt production, along with small-scale organic farming. There’s also a restaurant and a well-stocked gift-shop – and the owners’ sheep, who obviously enjoy quite a privileged setting for their peaceful grazing!