One of the more curious megalithic sites I've visited but well worth a detour to see if (as I happened to be last week) you're in the Loire Valley, specifically in the vicinity of Saumur. It's very easy to find, no tramping around the countryside with an OS map,all you need is a good road map of the area. It's in the suburb of Bagneux, a left turn just off the D960, the main road going south out of town towards Montreuil-Bellay, well signposted. Truth to tell, the bar/restaurant in the garden of which it's situated struck me as a bit rundown with only one old local perched on a stool as I walked in. I had expected to pay an entrance fee to see the monument but as there was no-one behind the bar I stepped through the plastic curtain leading to the garden and there it was, a big rectangular structure sitting in the shade of the surrounding trees. It's had some restoration work with concrete blocks added to support the entrance but they're hidden behind one of the 'porch' slabs and don't detract from its aura. There's no need to stoop as you go in and I could stand to my full height. The car parked by the side would have spoiled my photos but it was moved by the proprietaire after she had demanded 4 Euros from me and I had bought a drink which seemed the proper thing to do, the Kronenbourg slipping down very pleasantly as I took my pictures. It's genuinely impressive in its incongruously eccentric location, the big capstones resting evenly on the walls. There's some homemade information boards and a book of old prints/postcards showing how it once stood in open countryside which makes its survival in such good condition in its present setting all the more remarkable. Well worth 15/20 minutes of your time if you're in the area and fancy an alternative to a chateau.
This is claimed to be the largest Angevin type dolmen in France, and maybe the world. The statistics are impressive, 17.3 meters long by 5.4 meters wide and 3.1 meters high. There is also an antechamber which adds another 4 meters to the overall length. The chamber is covered with four huge capstones, the largest of which is 7.6 meters long and weighs 86 tons. An interior stone is not a supporting pillar but probably the remains of an internal partition, which is usually found in these Angevin type dolmens.
When the site was excavated in the 1775, no burials were found, although other large Angevin dolmens had produced evidence of burials. This has led to suggestions that it was not a burial monument. We can never be sure. The site had been put to various uses before any excavations, most notably a barn for many years.
The dolman is located in the town of Bagneux, a suburb of Saumur and is part of a thriving restaurant brassiere with a small museum dedicated to the monument. Items on display include three-polished stone axes and a piece of flint knife, all claimed to be from the site.
There is an entrance fee of €3.5. Open from 1st April to 30th September, 9am till 7pm (Closed Wednesdays except July and August) - See the owner's web site for full details.