Welcome to Brittany - France's Celtic fringe
tourist attractions are undoubtedly its beaches, coastal
walks, rocky shoreline and small
fishing harbours; but beyond this the region has an impressive
collection of sites that are worth a visit, for their historic or
culturalvalue, or just because they are really worth seeing.
Le Mont Saint Michel
First among these - though technically in Normandy
- is the Mont
, St.Michael's Mount, the
most visited tourist site in France after Paris, and listed
as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mount, right on the border between
Brittany and Normandy, stands on an outcrop of granite bursting through
in the middle of a very flat bay, and has been a sanctuary since the
year 709. Most of the buildings that now stand on the rock date from
the XIIIth to the XVIth centuries, and include the gothic
Benedictine Abbey, the houses that went with it, and the fortifications
to protect this strategic location.
In the olden
days, the mount stood in the midst of quicksands and moving
courses, and access to it was treacherous; the causeway that now
carries tourists and pilgrims across the bay was built in 1880, and its
construction led to a heavy silting up of the area round the mount,
transforming much of the bay into grazing lands. There are currently
plans to turn the clocks back, and remove the causeway, so that the sea
can once again come in and wash right round the mount.
The most visited town in Brittany, St Malo
is, like the Mont St.
Michel, a fortified enclave standing on a peninsula at the mouth of a
river. The city grew up many centuries ago at the mouth of the river
Rance, and became famous as the home of adventurers and pirates.
Jacques Cartier - the man who discovered Canada - came from St. Malo,
but so too did the privateers and corsairs who for centuries preyed on
shipping rounding the western tip of France.
Built in the local grey granite, St Malo has a historic centre crammed
in behind its ramparts which owe their current form to the great French
XVIIth century military architect, Vauban. A large part of
historic heart was severely damaged by action during the second world
war, but has been carefully renovated to its former glory. The city has
a number of interesting places to visit, notably the Cape Horn museum
devoted to the mariner-explorers of the past, the aquarium, and the
castle - known as the Bastille of the west - which has exhibits about
the city's history and its pirates.
With over 2700 km of coastline, Brittany has something for everyone.
In the northeast, between Mont Saint Michel and Cancale,
there are large wide sandy beaches, popular for land-yachting. At low
tide, it can be quite a walk to the water's edge. From Cancale
westwards, the coast is rocky, with small sandy beaches and inlets. The
Pink Granite Coast, between Paimpol and Perros Guirec is particularly
The western tips of Brittany are wild headlands
jutting out into the Atlantic (see la Pointe
below). The south coast of Brittany - though facing
out onto the Bay of Biscay - has plenty of long sandy beaches, as well
as small fishing ports. The south east coast of the Morbihan, with its
sheltered inlets, is particularly popular with yachtsmen, and La
Trinité sur Mer is a very popular yachting harbour.
du Raz and the tips of Brittany
"Land's End", the Pointe du Raz is the most westerly point of the
French mainland, the end of Cape Sizun , which forms the westerly tip
of the department of Finistère (which means the End of the
Earth - or Land's End).
After decades of over-exploitation, operation of
was handed over to a nature conservancy organisation, with a remit to
return the area to its natural state and manage it as an
environmentally sensitive area. Many of the buildings that once
disfigured the site have been demolished, and today a new visitor
centre has been built near the car park, which is weel away from the
point. Visitors can either walk from there, or take
the gas-powered shuttle bus. The area of the Pointe du Raz is
served by a network of managed footpaths, allowing visitors to admire
this exceptional natural site, and the Atlantic waves crashing onto the
Brittany - Monts d'Arrée and Montagne Noire.
Monts d'Arrée, forming alarge part of the Armorique
Regional Park in
Finistère, are the wildest and highest part of Brittany,
Roch Trévézel, an altitude of 384 metres and the
second highest point
in Brittany. This part of Brittany is very similar to Dartmoor or parts
of Wales, both in terms of landscape and outdoor opportunities. An area
of moorland, with rocky outcrops, heather and bracken and grassland, it
offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horse
riding. The Montagne Noire, in the south of Finistère, is a
area, but has plenty of hiking trails and opportunities for outdoor
pursuits, and also the western section of the Nantes Brest canal.
A visit to Brittany would be incomplete without a boat trip.
There are a dozen or more accessible islands off the Brittany coast,
and most of these can be reached for a day-trip from the nearest ports.
there are boats to Ouessant
and the Ile de Sein
from Brest or Audierne. Or trips to the tiny Iles Glénan
at Concarneau. On the north coast, the Ile de Batz
can be reached
by boat from Roscoff.
In the Morbihan
there are ferries from Quiberon to Belle
Ile en Mer,
the largest of the Breton islands, and ferries
to the little Ile de Groix
bird-watchers will not want to miss a trip to the Sept-Iles
the coast from Perros-Guirec, an important nature reserve for sea
In Ille et Vilaine
and eastern Morbihan
those who prefer a calm inland waterway to the possibility of being
tossed on the Atlantic
waves, can take river or canal cruises.
On the river Rance, near
Dinard and St. Malo, cruises allow visitors to see the famous Rance
tidal hydroelectric plant, the world's original full-scale
power-generation unit, opened in 1966.
Arzal, Morbihan, there are boat trips on the river Vilaine,
and in la Gacilly, near Redon, small cabin cruisers can be hired for
day's or an afternoon's excursion.
Brittany has some 600 kilometres of
waterways, and self-drive boats can be hired in many locations.
& events in Brittany 2023
The annual Lorient Interceltiques
(5th - 14th August 2023) is
one of France's biggest
international festivals. Morbihan, south Brittany.
For more details, see the Celtic
(14th to 17th July 2023) takes place each year in July near Carhaix,
Finistère. Started in 1992, this open air music festival has
established itself as the French equivalent of Glastonbury, and is now
the biggest open air music event in France, attracting an eclectic
variety of top musicians from France and abroad.
( July 2023) Quimper, Finistère; Brittany's
festival of Breton culture. The annual parade will take place on Sunday
des filets Bleus
(the Blue Fish Nets festival) (11th - 15th August 2023) in Concarneau
(Finistère). An opportunity to see the old streets of this
filled with people in traditional Breton costume, and see traditional
Breton dancing to the sound of traditional music. The festival first
took place in 1905 !
Classical music in Brittany.
There is no major classical music festival in Brittany, but many small
festivals : more information on Classique-Bretagne
towns in Brittany and other various
Fifty aquariums, divided into three climatic zones, and stocked with
over 1000 varieties of fish and marine life from the polar regions,
temperate zones and the tropics. The city of Brest is one of France's
main naval ports - a bit like Plymouth in the UK. ► Website
- Combrit / Pont l'Abbé, Finistère. Extensive
botanical gardens and
arboretum, stocked with 3500 plant varieties from all over the world.
Brittany is famous for its ancient monuments, the most famous of which
are the standing stones of Carnac
(photo left / below). See The
One of the great traditional Breton fishing ports - all the atmosphere
of a traditional Breton port.
One of the most visited historic towns in Brittany, with ramparts, old
streets and old houses, plus plenty of tourist boutiques.westerly point
of the French mainland, the end of Cape Sizun , which forms the
westerly tip of the department of Finistère (which means the
End of the Earth - or Land's End).
Dinard (near St.
Popular and well established seaside resort on the "Emerald
Fort la Latte (near
Fréhel, Côtes d'Armor)
la Latte, on the north Brittany coast
Historic fortress clinging to a rocky headland jutting out into the
ocean; the castle dates from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Plenty to
Old walled town with, ramparts, an impressive castle, and
attractive historic centre.
Attractive old town, with a magnificent chateau, with gardens and a
de La Bourbansais,
(Ille et Vilaine); located in the grounds of a chateau, which can also
be visited, the zoo, involved in the protection of endangered species,
has a wide collection of animals from different continents. The
giraffes are particularly popular.
At the end of a long and very narrow isthmus, Quiberon stands as on an
island in the gulf of Morbihan. It is an attractive small town, with
port, plenty of beaches, and boat trips to the islands.
no longer links the two cities, the canal, running westwards from
Redon, is an attractive trail for boating, hiking or cycling. The canal
(and rivers that form part of the waterway) is navigable from Pontivy
to Nantes, via Josselin and Redon.
walled and fortified granite city at the mouth of the river Rance - the
most visited city in Brittany - once the home of explorers and pirates,
now more popular with yachtsmen.