Posted on 05 May 2010 by Dan Johnson
In a nutshell Brittany has the longest coastline in France and is most famous for its rugged beauty and ancient traditions.
The region is a Gallic mirror of Cornwall, and even has its own Côte de Cornouaille which offers lots for young families who love the seaside, food and history.
Brittany does food very well, and the many ‘gastronomic’ specialities are worth taking the time to try.
There are fascinating places to explore along the coast with white-sand beaches, serene harbours, craggy coves and a strong Celtic culture.
There are quaint fishing villages and typical seaside resorts, plus frequent picnic spots and obscured inlets to discover. There are also many great viewpoints, where you can admire stunning views of craggy outcrops, blue-shuttered houses and the ever-changing Atlantic.
Carnac, which is 50km from the parc, is worth a day trip for its great beaches, including La Grande Plage, which is south-facing and sandy, and has a calm sea that is perfect for families, ideal for bathing and popular for water sports such as sailing. Le Men is a wilder beach and during low tide visitors can walk out to an island for picnics. St Colomban has warm shallow waters that are perfect for young children, and plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide. Even better, the parking at all beaches is free.
The fishing port of Trevignon has a lovely, huge beach with lots of smaller bays. It is stunning, and seldom feels packed. You can also wander along the coastal path to Raguenez, which has its own large sandy beach and rock pools. Raguenez Island can also be reached on foot at low tide. Along the coastal path there are many sandy coves to explore too.
The golden sands of Port-Manech, a pretty harbour town, are rarely crowded and there are plenty of rocks pools for children. A wide variety of water sports can be booked during the high season.
La Baule, in the far south east of Brittany, is perhaps France’s most famous beach, and is often referred to as la plus belle plage d’Europe for its incredible standards. Machines are regularly used to sieve the sand and remove rubbish during the night, leaving the white sand glistening for the following day. The beach is south facing and sheltered, and lined with luxury hotels and a swanky thalassotherapy centre.
We did a beach trip to Trevignon, which was lovely, huge beach area with lots of smaller bays. [TripAdvisor member, UK]. The beach at Trevignon is stunning, and was almost deserted when we were there. [TripAdvisor member, Wigan]
Rospico is a small sheltered bay where the sea laps gently on the sand and rock pools beckon, the beach is unspoilt and perfect for families. It is an idyllic, safe and welcoming hideaway, ideal for spending a lazy day on the beach. [TripAdvisor member, Plymouth]
The village of Port-Manech can be reached after a drive through lush cool forest, after which you will discover a strip of beach with a sentry line of white beach huts. [TripAdvisor member, Plymouth]
Attractions and Adventure
Carnac is the site of France’s version of Stonehenge and is an ancient mystery. More than 3000 standing stones, some more than 20m high, were erected more than 6,000 years ago in lines that stretch for more than 2 miles in perfect alignment. Local myth has it that the stones are a legion of Roman soldier turned into rocks by the magician Merlin.
Oceanopolis, on the outskirts of Brest, is a high-tech sea-life centre containing Europe’s largest marine aquarium. It contains polar, tropical and temperate zones dedicated to a huge amount of sealife. The tropical zone is the most impressive and has species including sharks and large sea turtles, which you can see at close quarter from walk through tanks. The polar is the smallest zone but has some fascinating exhibits such as a recreated penguin habitat and a pack of ice seals, and impressive giant crabs. There’s also an atmospheric movie shot from of a research ship crossing a polar ice flow. Be aware: pick your visiting times wisely. It does get busy and seeing the exhibits can be a battle for smaller children. An early morning start is advised.
Odet Loisir is an adventure park just outside of Quimper. Kids will love the zip slides, treetop nets and mazes, losing themselves in a great day of entertainment.
We went to the zoo at Pont Scroff, this is sooo worth a visit. It’s hilly, but once you reach the top it gives you excellent views of the animals and allows you to feel quite close. [TripAdvisor member, Midlands]
Odet Loisir, near Quimper, is a play park with bouncy castles, rope slides, river traverses and various other climbing and mechanical rides that have been long since been banned by over zealous health and safety in the UK. [TripAdvisor member, Belfast]
Oceanopolis, in Brest, is a huge ocean discovery park with 50 aquariums in polar, temperate and tropical zones. Loved it – possibly one of the best aquariums I have been to. [TripAdvisor member, Jersey]. One word: brilliant [TripAdvisor member, UK]
Cities and towns
The medieval town of Concarneau is one of the most photographed places in Brittany and the third largest fishing port in France. The island of ‘Ville Close’ in the harbour gets most of the attention and you can also enjoy the huge markets which take place on Monday and Fridays, or the fishing museum which tells the story of the town. The narrow streets of Ville Close are packed with tourist shops, boutiques and creperies.
Quimper, on the banks of the river Odet, is Brittany’s oldest city. Head for the medieval quarter where you’ll find charming cobbled streets, pretty boulevards and a slow pace of life. The artist Gaugin fell in love with Pont Aven, which is the town closest to Domaine de Kerlann. It’s a small port packed with crêperies and art galleries, pretty stone bridges, riverside glades and the watermills. Every shop requires a viewing: there are intriguing gift boutiques, galleries displaying original artworks inspired by the area, cafes and restaurants aplenty. As you walk through the town you can catch glimpse of the good looking mansions on the surrounding hills. Walk through the town and you’ll discover the Bois d’Amour, wooded gardens which have long provided inspiration to romantics.
You say :
Pont-Aven, a haven for artists and art-lovers, packed with shops selling original paintings and sculptures in a wide range of styles. [TripAdvisor member, Plymouth]
What to eat, where to find it
Many towns have weekly farmers markets brimming with fresh goods that you can cook and enjoy in your holiday home. Bénodet market is a lively, traditional Breton market, open every Monday from 9h – 13.30h in Place du Meneyer. If you travel to the town, take a free afternoon visit to the François Garrec biscuit factory, which is also the place to discover traditionally made crepes and Breton cakes. Bénodet also has its own local brewery (a revived art in the region), which sells refreshing Breton beer and is open to visits on Fridays in the summer.
The market in Quimper takes place every Wednesday, Friday (when the stalls are displaying gorgeous organic produce) and Saturday.
You say :
Moulin de Rosmadecin Pont Aven has one Michelin star – you must go and try the “tasting” menu for 58€. TripAdvisor member, Belfast]
A Brittany stay is incomplete with sampling the incredible food, such as local delicacies of salty oysters, savoury galettes and oozing sweet crepes. Le Talisman is the best creperie in Pont Aven [TripAdvisor member, Donaghadee]
Lorient, in Brittany, hosts a massive showcase of Celtic arts every August. Over 250 events are performed to 300,000 visitors, on stage, in the street or under tents. There’s a diverse collection of artists and musicians and headline events including Pipe Band and Bagpipe Championships, instrument master-classes and dance competitions (August 2010).
The Festival de Cornouaille in Quimper has concerts, street parades and musicians bring the town to life through July. There’s a wonderful mix of music and dance, with plenty of free events (July 2010).
Travelling to Brittany
There are regular low-cost flights to Nantes and the tiny airport at Dinard, which are both served by the major car hire companies.
The proximity of Pont Aven to the ferry ports makes driving to Brittany a breeze from most locations. The trip is less than 2 hours from Roscoff, and especially easy once you pick up the main N165 toward Quimper. Caen and Cherbourg require longer drives, of around 4 hours, but again the route is relatively straightforward, with most of the journey taking place on the A84 towards Rennes, and then on the N24 toward Lorient. The final leg of the journey can be completed on the N165, taking you to Pont Aven. The 7-hour drive from Calais includes a long stretch on the A16 to toward Rouen and Le Havre, before picking up the A28, then the A29 and the A13 toward Caen, when you join the A84. The drive from Calais is the only journey that includes toll charges, which will cost around 25€. All of the usual road regulations apply, and in France it is also compulsory to have a warning triangle and high visibility vest. If you don’t have these, you can face on the spot fines.
The Climate in Brittany
During the summer months Brittany is generally a few degrees warmer and drier than the south of England, but its weather is marked by changeability. While temperatures will often move into the 20s during July and August, sunny days can be interspersed with cloud and rain, which is why the region is so green and woody.
Where to stay
Kids love Domaine de Kerlann, a four-star holiday parc on the outskirts of charming Pont Aven. The indoor and outdoor pools prove popular and there are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. And best of all, the nearby beaches are stunning.
Pierres Couchees is a short walk from a great beach, with gentle surf that makes it ideal for little ones. This welcoming parc is in a lovely, relaxing location, surrounded by woods of oak trees where you can even see red squirrels.
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