Windmill hunting in the Vendée

The windmill was omni-present in the European landscape and history shows their use wasn't limited to the production of flour. In periods of conflict the windmills were an effective communication tool, including in the Vendée.

A brief history

windmill is a structure that converts wind power into a rotating energy through a series of  toothed wheels, mechanisms and millstones, grinding various grains into usable products like flour. The earliest known wind and water powered grain mills were used by the Persians (Iran) from the 6th to the 10th centuries as well as by the Chinese in the 13th century. The vertical windmills seen in Vendée use a mechanism with sails that rotate in a horizontal plane around a vertical axis. The first mentioned "vertical windmill" in Northern Europe dates to the late 12th century

Bread in its countless variations has always played an important role in cultures around the world. For centuries, women ground grains by hand, a time consuming process. But, necessity is the mother of invention, and this certainly applied to keeping families fed.

After all, the need for flour never ceased. Farmers would bring their grain harvests to the local miller for grinding. The miller often owned the windmill outright, and employed helpers especially during the harvest when the windmills were in full-production.

The profession was very important in the community, and fairly lucrative as well. But being a miller was not without dangers. They often suffered from illness caused by the constant presence of flour dust. Inhaling it could cause anything from asthma to Celiac disease, and extreme fatigue. The presence of dry hay also caused a fire hazard which is why the wheel mechanisms are made of wood, not metal. While metal would require less maintenance, hay could easily catch fire from the sparks caused by metal to metal friction.

The windmill was omni-present in the European landscape and history shows their use wasn't limited to the production of flour. Along the Atlantic coast, fishing boat sailors used the windmills' large white sails to anticipate the direction and speed of the wind. But the reverse was also true. Millers monitored the boats’ sails for sudden wind shifts. This allowed them to quickly make the necessary adjustments.

In periods of conflict the windmills were also effective communication tools. Through various positioning of the sails, a code was derived as a sort of warning system.

  • The X position indicated an "all quiet"
  • Anti-clockwise dog position,  meant that "danger was over"
  • The clockwise dog position meant "danger troops arriving"
  • The + position indicated a "gathering of the troops".

In the Netherlands this system was used as recently as WWII, and anno 2014 after the downing of Flight MH17 the Dutch angled their windmill sails to the X position as a sign of mourning their compatriots.

In the Vendée there are no fewer than 207 known windmills - now in various states of ruin or restoration. During the  Vendée Wars, they were used to relay the position of Republican troops, allowing the Vendéen army strategic advantage. In WWII the German troops sometimes commandeered them as observation posts, and even fortified them.

The longest operating windmill in France stands proudly in the countryside of the village Sallertaine (85300). It has been in continuous use since the 16th century.

Windmill ruins at la Colline des Moulins
Le Moulin à Vent de Rairé
85300 Sallertaine

The skyline around the village of Sallertain once silhouetted fourteen windmills. Today, only the beautiful Moulin à Vent de Rairé remains. The families that have owned and operated this windmill through the centuries have kept it's heart beating continuously since 1555. It is the only windmill in France that has been in constant production, powered solely by the wind. Tours are offered from April, and the gift shop sells flour milled here according to tradition. The hamlet leading up to the windmill is equally charming. **HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. See website for schedule.

Les Moulins du Terrier Marteau

The hills of Pouzauges boast two windmills built in the 18th and the 19th century respectively. The miller has transformed the site into a place of learning and entertainment to please the entire family. A beautiful vista over the Vendéen countryside invites for a stroll around the pastures and mini-farm or participate in a treasure hunt. There are tours and demonstrations, and the bio flour produced here from local harvests is transformed into organic bread and brioches baked "sur place" in the wood oven. **HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with children.  See website for schedule.

La Colline des Moulins
85390 Mouilleron-en-Pareds

The beautiful ridge just outside of the village forms a granite link between the geographical dichotomy as well as the history of the Vendée. Catholics and Protestants, Republicans and Royalists, Vendée Blanc and Vendée Bleue, have lived and fought at this location. While evidence of windmills dates back to the 15th century and possibly earlier, records show the original ones were burned down during the Vendée war. Anno 1852, after rebuilding took place, La Colline des Moulins counted 14 windmills, one of the largest concentrations in the Vendée, eight of which remain in various states of restoration or ruin. The hill is a protected historic site and classified as a Natural Area of ​​Ecological, Faunistic and Floristic Interest by the Ministry of the Environment. It is a gem of the bocage, and well worth a visit. From late April, discover the fantastic miller paths flanked by bluebells as well as a very rare and protected plant: the Silène de Bastard, and Silène vulgaris Bor. ssp. maritima var Bastardii. **HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for discovery, hiking or mountain-biking in the Vendée. See also our article In the Footsteps of Georges Clemenceau.

la colline des moulins in spring: unspoilt by the hands of time
Moulin des Rabouillères
85560 Longeville-sur-Mer

Moulin des Rabouillères was also once known as the "Moulin Bots Piats" because Mr. Raynaud, the miller/owner, who wore flat (worn) clogs, was nicknamed "Bots Pias". At one time 15 windmills stood from west to east in the town of Longeville-sur-Mer. There are four remaining, of which the Rabouillères mill was the last in operation until 1962. The last miller here suffered greatly from the sleeping disease and one could always find him asleep on the job. Not always open, but a beautiful area to visit during Journées des Moulins and Journées Patrimoine when the current owner, a lovely French lady, offers free tours. It is an eco-property with gites and bio-garden, with many wildflowers. The windmill was lovingly restored, with workmen leaving their mark in the form of a small wooden horse as a surprise on the top floor. **WORTH VISITING

Le Jardin du Vent

In a lovely garden that offers visitors an informative walk featuring an artistic look at how the wind can be observed through meteorological instruments sculptures, wind chimes, and sails, stands a windmill with an unusual canopy. The location is a fun excursion at any age, studying the wind through games as well as imaginative art pieces that were selected through a competition. The windmill rises from a dune at the edge of the village and the Atlantic ocean, offering beautiful views of the Vendée coast. Other windmills nearby include Moulin Jodet, Moulin du Bourg, Le Grand Moulin, Moulin du Jardin du Vent, Moulin de la Croix. See website for schedule and more information.

Le moulin des Rabouillères
Le moulin des Rabouillères
Le moulin des Rabouillères
la colline des moulins - mouilleron-en-pareds
Moulins du Terrier Marteau - POUZAUGES
Le moulin des Rabouillères - Longeville-sur-mer
The Moulin de Rairé, in continuous production since 1555
Le moulin des Rabouillères
Le moulin des Rabouillères
Le moulin des Rabouillères

Vendée windmills to explore: a list

Avrillé 85440
Moulin d'Avrillé
Barbâtre 85011
Moulin de la Fosse
Moulin de la Frandière
Vieux Moulin
Moulin de la Plaine
Moulin des Onchères #1
Moulin des Onchères #2
Moulin des Yuccas
Moulin Plage du Midi
Bazoges-en-Pareds 85390
Moulin Garnier
Moulin de la Fambretière
Beaulieu-sous-la-Roche 85190
Moulin aux Trois Moulins
Moulin aux Tessonières #1
Moulin aux Tessonières #2
Beauvoir-sur-Mer 85230
Moulin Ste Catherine
Moulin de St Esprit
Belleville-sur-Vie 85170
Moulin de l'Ardouinière (inhabited)
Bessay 85320
Moulin des Roulières
Bouillé-Courdault 85420
Moulin de la Tonnelle
Bouin 85230
Moulin Voisin
Moulin de l'Hôpital
Moulin du Sud
Boulogne (now Essarts-en-Bocage) 85140
Moulin aux Quatre Moulins
Bournezeau 85480
Moulin de la Cave
Brem-sur-Mer 85470
Le Moulin Blanc
Chaix (now Auchay-sur-Vendée) 85200
Moulin a Chaix
Champagné-les-Marais 85450
Moulin de la Pironnière
Chantonnay 85110
Moulin de Fruiteau #1
Moulin de Fruiteau #2
Château-d'Olonne 85180
Moulin de St Jean         
Moulin du Puits Rochais
Château-Guibert 85320
Moulin de l'Oucherie
Châteauneuf 85710
Le Petit Moulin
Chavagnes-en-Paillers 85250
Moulin aux Rue des Cinq Moulins
Moulin aux le Champ du Moulins #1
Moulin aux le Champ du Moulins #2
Moulin de la Bleure
Moulin de Chavagnes
Commequiers 85220
Moulin de la Minotière
Curzon 85540
Le Grand Moulin
Damvix 85420
Moulin de Goguet
Dompierre-sur-Yon 85170
Moulin de la Braconnière
Fontenay-le-Comte 85200
Moulin de Fontenay le Comte
Fougeré 85480
Moulin de la Grolle
Moulin de Noailles
Givrand 85800
Moulin de Chiron
Jard-sur-Mer 85520
Moulin de la Conchette
Moulin de Bellevue
Moulin Rambaud
L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer 85460
Moulin Rue du Communal   
Moulin Rue de la Moulinette
La Barre-de-Monts 85550
Moulin a La Barre de Monts
La Boissière-des-Landes 85430
Moulin de L'Epinette
La Chaize-le-Vicomte 85310
Moulin de la Gandouinière         
Moulin des Juraires
La Chapelle-Achard 85150
Moulin des Landes
La Chapelle-Palluau 85670
Moulin des Roches
La Couture 85320
Moulin de la Tabarière
La Ferrière 85280
Moulin de la Blaire
Le Grand Moulin
Moulin des Landes
La Génétouze 85190
Moulin de la Davière  
Moulin de Maison Neuve
La Guérinière 85680
Moulin d'Amor
Moulin de la Cour
Lairoux 85400
Moulin de la Tonnelle
Moulin de la Tourelle
La Jaudonnière 85110
Moulin de la Fambretiére
Moulin de La Jaudonnière #1`
Moulin de La Jaudonnière #2
Moulin de La Jaudonnière #3

Landeronde 85150
Moulin Guérin   
Moulin des Richardières
La Rabatelière 85250
Moulin de Bel-Air
Moulin Rouge
La Roche-sur-Yon 85000
Moulin de la Garde
Moulin de la Badiole
Moulin de Boulangerie
La Taillée 85450
Moulin de la Tublerie
La Tranche-sur-Mer 85360
Moulin de La Tranche sur Mer
Le Champ-Saint-Père 85540
Moulin de Le Champ Saint Père
Le Fenouiller 85800
Moulin au Fenouiller
Le Fenouiller 85800
Moulin Neuf
Le Givre 85540
Moulin de la Chenilée
Le Gué-de-Velluire 85770
Moulin de Le Gué de Velleuire
Le Langon 85370
Moulin à La Lisobe
Moulin de la Cour
Le Perrier 85300
Moulin des Loires
Moulin de la Chausée
L'Épine 85740
Moulin de la Bosse
Moulin du Boucard
Le Poiré-sur-Vie 85170
Moulin à Élise
Les Brouzils 85260
Moulin de la Sauvetrière             
Moulin de Maison Neuve
Moulin de la Minoterie
Les Clouzeaux 85430
Moulin de la Polka
Les Epesses 85590
Moulin du Puy du Fou
Les Essarts 85140
Moulin de L'Ansonnière** 
**Fortified in WWII - open 3rd weekend Sept.
Moulin de la Coussaie
Moulin de la Thibaudière
Les Herbiers 85500
Moulin du Mont des Alouettes #1
Moulin du Mont des Alouettes #2
Moulin du Mont des Alouettes #3
Moulin du Mont des Alouettes #4
Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne 85170
Moulin de la Martinière #1
Moulin de la Martinière #2
Le Moulin du Petit Luc
Moulin de Sainte Claire
L'Île-d'Olonne 85340
Moulin Gueffard
Longeville-sur-Mer 85560
Moulin des Rabouillères
Moulin Bots Pias         
Le Petit Moulin
Moulin de la Raisinière
Luçon 85400
Moulin a Luçon
Maillé 85430
Moulin de la Pichonnière
Maillezais 85420
Moulin La Sargente
Mareuil-sur-Lay-Dissais 85320
Moulin Seigné
Martinet 85150
Moulin de Pontreau
Monsireigne 85110
Moulin des Salinières
Mormaison 85260
Moulin du Bois Jarry
Mouchamps 85640
Moulin des Plantes
Vieux Moulin
Mouilleron-en-Pareds 85390
Moulin de Lattre des Tassigny #1
Moulin de Lattre des Tassigny #2
Moulin de Lattre des Tassigny #3
Moulin de Lattre des Tassigny #4
Moulin de Lattre des Tassigny #5
Moulin de Lattre des Tassigny No. 6
Mouilleron-le-Captif 85000
Moulin Roux
Nalliers 85370
Moulin du Champ de la Truie
Nalliers Moulin de Naillers
Notre-Dame-de-Monts 85690
Moulin Jodet
Moulin du Bourg
Lr Grand Moulin
Moulin du Jardin du Vent
Moulin de la Croix
Olonne-sur-Mer 85340
Moulin des Roses
Oulmes (Rives-d'Autise) 85420
Moulin de Pacouinay
Pouillé 85570
Moulin de Pouillé
Pouzauges 85700
Moulin de Terrie-Marteau #1
Moulin de Terrie-Marteau #2

Puyravault 85450
Moulin Galerne
Moulin de la Garne
Rosnay 85320
Moulin de Bellevue
Saint-Benoist-sur-Mer 85540
Moulin Vieux
Saint-Cyr-des-Gâts 85410
Moulin Martin
Saint-Denis-la-Chevasse 85170
Moulin des Jouineaux
Moulin des Jarries
Sainte-Cécile 85110
Moulin Benet
Moulin des Roblinières
Sainte-Foy 85150
Moulin de Baslière
Sainte-Radégonde-des-Noyers 85450
Moulin Vieux
Saint-Étienne-du-Bois 85670
Moulin des Emerillères
Saint-Georges-de-Pointindoux 85150
Moulin des Moullières
Saint-Gervais 85230
Moulin de Châtenay
Moulin de la Rive
Moulin de la Denisière
Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie 85800
Moulin du Fenouiller
Saint-Hilaire-la-Forêt 85440
Moulin de la Jollière
Saint-Jean-de-Monts 85160
Moulin du Pré Dannion
Moulin des Rivières
Moulin de la Sablière
Moulin des Grenouillères
Moulin Cassé
Saint-Mars-des-Prés 85110
Moulin de St Mars des Prés
Saint-Martin-des-Noyers 85140
Moulin des Bois de la Cour #1
Moulin de Villars
Moulion des Bois de la Cour #2
Moulion des Bois de la Cour #3
Moulion des Bois de la Cour #4
Moulin du Chêne Rond
Saint-Mathurin 85150
Moulin de St Mathurin
Saint-Maurice-le-Girard 85390
Moulin de la Chaveche
Saint-Michel-en-l'Herm 85580
Moulin du Rue de la Laiterie
Moulin du Rue des Moulins
Saint-Michel-Mont-Mercure 85700
Moulin des Justices
Moulin des Landes
Saint-Paul-en-Pareds 85500
Moulin Vieux
Moulin de l'Acheneau #1
Moulin de l'Acheneau #2
Saint-Pierre-du-Chemin 85120
Moulin a St Pierre du Chemin
Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux 85420
Moulin a St Pierre le Vieux
Moulin de l'Ardellier
Moulin du Souil
Saint-Révérend 85220**
Moulin des Gourmands
Saint Urbain 85230
Moulin de la Bourrie
Moulin du Petit Morin
Moulin du Poirot
Saint-Vincent-Sterlanges 85110
Moulin de St Vincent Sterlanges #1
Moulin de St Vincent Sterlanges #2
Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard 85520
Moulin du Bouil
Sallertaine 85300
Moulin de Rairé
Moulin de Mauny
Sérigné 85200
Moulin des Poiteaux
Moulin de la Vigne
Sigournais 85110
Moulin Chaigneau
Moulin de Sigournais
Soullans 85300
Moulin de Touvent
Talmont-Saint-Hilaire 85440
Moulin de Talmont St Hilaire
Moulin des Hautes Mers
Moulin du Querry Pigeon
Moulin de la Cour
Moulin Sorin
Tallud-Sainte-Gemme 85390
Moulin du Rocher
Thorigny 85480
Moulin Neuf
Moulin de Bel Air
Vairé 85150
Moulin de la Flaivière
Moulin de la Channière
Moulin du Centre
Moulin du Rétail
Venansault 85190
Moulin des Fontenelles
Moulin de la Nicolière
Vix 85770
Moulin Rambaud
Xanton-Chassenon 85240
Moulin a Xanton-Chassenon

mOULIN Maingourd - Ile d'Yeu

Island Windmills in the Vendée


This beautiful island off the Vendeen coast with its famous access road Le passage du Gois, is ideally situated to capture the winds from the Atlantic ocean. In the 19th century, as many as  32 windmills were operational here. A remarkable 23 windmills are still visible on the island today, only 4 of which are in ruin. Examples:

Moulin de la Lande
Les 4 moulins de la Cour de la Guérinière **** WALKING TRAIL
Moulin de l'Herbaudière #1
Moulin de l'Herbaudière #2
Moulin de Luzéronde
Moulin de la Cogue

ÎLE d'YEU 85350

The archives show evidence of eighteen mills on the island of Ile d'Yeu. Today only a few remain, the oldest windmill being Moulin le Cassé (also called the Grand Windmill) located at the gate of Saint-Sauveur. 

Moulin Maingourd
Moulin du Calvaire
Moulin du Grand Chemin
Moulin le Cassé
Gros Moulin
Moulin le Camp

Route planning... or not?

Windmills have stories  – We leave you with the interesting tale of the Moulin de Conchette in Jard-sur-Mer. Legend goes this windmill was built at the end of the 19th century as a gift to a local boy miller who fought in war for three years in place of the son of a wealthy family. The transaction is said to have been that the miller boy, upon his return from the war, operated the mill which, from then on, belonged to him.

The impressive windmill is perched at the edge of the port in Jard-sur-Mer. Although it was restored, it is not open to the public but visiting the village and port, you definitely can't miss it. We thought the story of its existence speaks to the imagination. It is a sweet reminder that each and every one of the 207 windmills in beautiful Vendée has its own story.  It's up to us to go and discover them.

On route for Vendée sightseeing, it's fun to explore without too much planning. We suggest you pick a general direction or area to explore and let yourself be surprised by randomly following the signs for historical monuments. Being spontaneous allows us to travel deeper and capture the unexpected. Enjoy!

Images: all images snapped by except the windmill Noirmoutier (Wikipedia)

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