Brittany

Populated by Celtic settlers who came from Cornwall in the 5th century, Brittany still has today many specific characters of the Celtic civilization. It is quite different from the rest of France. These differences not only show in the landscape and wild scenery of the coast, along the Atlantic, but also in the language (Breton) akin to Welsh, and in the traditions.

The coast line, 750 miles long, was called Armor by the Gauls, the land along the sea. Reefs, cliffs, rocky peninsulas, offshore islands are swept by the Atlantic winds and beaten by high waves. Tides with range between 15 and 50 feet wash sandy bays and enter narrow valleys. A majority of French fishing fleet, naval forces, commercial harbors and shipyards share the coast with many tourist resorts.

Inland, opposite to the Armor is the Argoat, the land of woods, for the Gauls, once covered with forests, but now much wilder with landscape of heath and moor. The long and mysterious past of Brittany with prehistoric remains, menhirs, dolmens, lines of megaliths (around Carnac) as well as the dramatic landscape of caps, and corniches, the Breton buildings being either church, chapel, castle, chateau, rampart or humble granite house, all contribute to make the province unique and attractive… Without forgetting the delicious food and the multitude of gourmet specialties, from seafood and fish to crepes and galettes just to name a very few.

To plan a trip through Brittany you can consider its 4 “départements”: Côtes D’Armor, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine & Morbihan. Then, Celestial Voyagers will build up your itinerary through Brittany selecting the best visits appropriate to your own taste of activities and interests.

Cotes d’Armor

Most of the tourism activities are facing the sea coast of the English Channel (La Manche in French).

First, Cap Frehel, where you can see from the top of it’s red cliffs a panorama which embrace the Pointe de Grouin in the East and the Island of Brehat in the West.

Then westwards comes, named after the color of the sea, the Emerald Coast, the Bay of Saint Brieux, where you will find a Natural Reserve, paradise for ornithologists, with tides up to nearly 4 miles, the Coast of Goelo with the Falaise of Plouha, the Coast of Pink Granite where copper color rocks have been sculpted by the winds and the sea in shapes called the Rabbit, the Turtle or the Devil Castle; Ploumanac’h shelters many of these unique rolling rock formations. Enjoy a visit to Perros Guirec or Tregastel, nice sea resorts with thin sand beaches or Trebeurden and it’s menhirs.

Inland we specially recommend the Valley of the Rance River or the Canal of Nantes to Brest where the old barge howling trails are now great peaceful hiking promenades. Treguier, Pontrieux, and Dinan are among many small towns of the interior which have kept their medieval character. A visit will be no disappointment.

Finistere

The extreme western part of France, pointing its nose in the Atlantic is the Finistere which in French means “land ends”. The coast covers more than 500 miles of the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. Life in general is mostly related to the sea.

In Brest you can visit Oceanopolis showing the Breton marine life in an ultra modern building shaped like a giant crab and the Maritime National Museum. Douarnenez honors Sailors and Boats in its harbor-museum and Concarneau offers a Fishing Museum. Along the Finistere Coast you will go from surprise to surprise. The Cote des Legendes is cut by deep estuaries, called “Abers”, invaded by seawater during high tide, appreciated by hikers and divers. The Presqu’Île de Grozon, the Cap de la Chevre, the Pointes de Pen-Hir and des Espagnols, Cap Sizun, offer monumental landscapes, the most famous of all being the Pointe du Raz which, with its jagged cliffs battered by the waves, rise over 220 feet and is classified by the French as “Grand National Site”.

Small neighboring islands are worth a day excursion: Ouessant, Molene, Batz or Sein. Cities are extremely attractive with their Briton character, they are many to pick from for a longer stay such as Morlaix, Roscoff, Brest, Douarnenez, Audierne, Le Guilvinec, Pont-L’Abbe or Doelan. Concarneau is built on an islet linked by a bridge to the mainland; it is closed by medieval fortifications.

Pont-Aven known for it’s galettes and its painters, particularly Paul Gauguin, has a local museum presenting this 19th c. painting school. Quimper, the historical capital of Cornouaille is famous for the Locmaria old quarter, the beautiful Cathedral St Corentin and its unique faience decorated with Breton figures.

Ille-et-Vilaine

It stretches over nearly 45 miles from Saint Briac to Mont Saint Michel which is Breton for the Bretons and Norman for the Normands. We will not settle this long historical battle here! This is the entry to Brittany and some of its treasures, especially the Emerald Coast, are shared with the Cote d’Armor neighbor.

Saint Malo, the “City Corsaire” is a walled city built on the East bank of the Rance River. Its prosperity dating from the 16th c, is due to the discovery of the new world and the maritime traffic mostly with Canada and the Colonies then into the Pacific. The first tall timbered houses were soon replaced with granite mansions trying to compete with Parisian architecture. Due to rivalry with England, Vauban was commissioned to build strong remparts to defend the city. Walking along the remparts allows beautiful views towards Dinard. Within the walls, the old town has been entirely rebuilt to its original form after WWII. But there is more to see in Saint Malo, The national Fort and the Fort of Grand-Be, Saint Vincent Cathedral, the 15th c, Castle, Saint Servan district at the mouth of the Rance River, Solidor Tower and also the fascinating Grand Aquarium with a sunken wreck with sharks.

A few miles away Cancale is famous for its delicious oysters. The Custom Trail links Cancale to the Pointe du Groin with a beautiful view over the bay of Mont Saint Michel. Dinard with its British flair tries to compete with Nice or Biarritz.

Inland are some hidden treasures like the Forest of Paimpont filled with the legends of King Arthur.

Rennes is a very pleasant and dynamic University town with its students, various festivals, festive Thursday evenings and Saturday’s Marché des Lices.

Old medieval fortresses, crowning the town, have made the fame of other inland sites such as Vitre or Fougeres.

Morbihan

Situated on the southern part of the nose of Brittany Morbihan has mysterious megalithic sites and hundreds of islets scattered in the Golf. The peninsula of Quiberon is the most well known with its international center of thalassotherapy. Islands are part of the region. Green and blooming l’ile aux Moine is very popular during the summer months. L’Ile d’Ars is much wilder with nice small beaches and rocky points. Belle-Ile-en-Mer is the largest of all and quite charming. Ile de Groix used to be the first tuna harbor in France; it has kept traces of this early 20th c. period in the ecomuseum of Port-Tudy.

The main cities of Morbihan are Lorient which count no less than 5 different harbors and its reconstruction after WWII has not pleased everyone. Various local sites are reminders of the wars.

Carnac is at the same time a beach resort and a Neolithic site with one of the heaviest megalithique concentration with more than 3000 stones.

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