Bretagne / Brittany

 

Brittany, in northwest France, juts out into the Atlantic Ocean like the proud prow of a ship. And this location has created a rugged weather-worn landscape with a captivating charm. The coastline alternates between steep cliffs, sandy beaches, historic fishing villages and chic seaside resorts. A paradise for yachtsmen and water-sport enthusiasts. But you don’t need sea legs to enjoy Brittany: The town of St-Malo, former haunt of pirates and full of ancient winding lanes, is well worth a visit. As is Rennes, the regional capital, with its Museum of Brittany and bustling Place Sainte-Anne. And if it’s countryside you seek, just follow Brittany’s meandering roads through woodland, marshland and tiny picturesque hamlets, around small lakes, past fountains, Gothic and Roman churches and modest chapels. The Romans called Brittany “finis terrae” – the end of the world – but this wonderful ‘end of the world’ has inspired artists for centuries.

Things to see and do in Brittany:
The Maritime Museum (Port Musée), Douarnenez – 200 vessels from across the world are on view, along with 5,000 objects from the history of sail. (Open all year, but closed Mondays outside school holidays.)
Centre for Arthurian Legend, Chateau de Comper, Concoret – exhibitions, films and live actors playing such characters as Lancelot, Merlin and Morgan are dedicated to keeping the stories of King Arthur alive. Be shown round by guides who are also story-tellers. (Open March to October; closed Wednesdays in July and August, and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays the rest of the time.)
Parc Zoologique, Champrépus – 60 species, including lions, gibbons and penguins, displayed in miniature versions of their natural habitats in themed gardens, rather than in cages. (Open April to October and some days outside those months, but check first.)
Cycling the Léguer Valley, Belle-Isle-en-Terre – a nature reserve with 200km of dirt tracks across moorland, through forests and beside rivers.
Adventure Park, Parc des Grands Chênes, Forêt de Villecartier – 200 activities to choose from, including zip wires, tree climbing, rope bridges and radio controlled boats. Activities for children over 5, and adults.

Places to visit:
Dinan - a small traditional port town with 3km of ramparts, cobbled streets and art galleries.
Cap Fréhel peninsula – cliff top walks with views of the Channel Islands and a fortified castle.
Mont-St-Michel – the iconic world famous island abbey; leave the car and walk up the streets.
Carnac – see the unique and amazing ancient rows of 3,000 standing stones in three fields.
Pont Aven – a very popular port town, on a narrow estuary, full of art galleries and craft shops.
La Pointe du Raz – the “land’s end” of France: high cliff top walks on a wild and windy coast.
Locronan – a picture postcard village of grand 18th century houses, often used in films.

Where to stay:
Camping de Penboch – 5 star site at Arradon, Moribhan. Near a lovely sandy bay, but with indoor and outdoor pools too.
Camping Le Clos du Blavet – small 2 star family site in the heart of the beautiful Blavet Valley. The focus here is on the outdoors, with hiking trails and mountain biking, canoeing and horse riding.
Hotel Manche-Ocean, Vannes – 2 star hotel near the Gulf of Morbihan, and only 100 metres from the historic centre of Vannes.
Hotel Edgar, Saint-Brieuc – this 3 star hotel is just 5 minutes from St Etienne Cathedral in Saint-Brieuc town. Rooms are air conditioned and it has its own restaurant and bar.
La Maison des Amateurs, Saint Malo – this 4 star hotel is only minutes from the cathedral and the railway station. It offers free wi-fi and has a bar and breakfast room.
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