The beaches of Brittany: fine sand and wide open spaces
Brittany's beaches are awe inspiring and among the most beautiful in Europe. They're widely varied from the chic villas and beach cabins at Dinard, the dunes and breakwaters at Erdeven, secluded coves, large sandy bays and ones scattered with rock pools. But they all have the same things in common: fine sand and a magical place to watch the beautiful colours of a sunset the sea meets the sky. Brittany's beaches are places where you can just relax, or enjoy sports and activities. They’re places to unwind and at the same time they're Nature’s adventure playgrounds for children and so easy to get to.
Brittany has 2800 km so the beach is never far away whenever you get that irresistible urge to dip your feet in the water. They are a paradise for small children and big kids. Brittany's beaches have remained unspoiled and in July & August many provide supervised swimming areas and clubs for children. Families can enjoy the wide open spaces, making sandcastles, shell collecting, sunbathing, picnics and swimming. At the beach there's something for everyone. Sporty types won't be left out; there's a huge number of watersports centres and most beaches have a sailing school and surf board hire.
There are many candidates for the title of Best Beach in Brittany. Let us know which your family voted ‘the best’ and want to return to.
These are the beaches by our campsites in Brittany:
Benodet: Camping Pointe St. Giles – opposite the beach – less than a minute’s walk.
Beg Meil: Camping Atlantique – direct access to a beach (no roads to cross) about a 7 minute walk
Dol de Bretagne: Domaine des Ormes – about 20 miles away.
Some of Brittany’s beautiful Towns & Villages:
There are some wonderful medieval towns and villages to visit, such as Dinan, Locronan, Quimper, the walled city of Concarneau, Vannes, the old part of Auray (St. Goustan) and Rochefort-en-Terre to name just a few. Wander round their cobbled streets, see their ancient buildings and fortifications.
Not only is Quimper the administrative capital of the Finistère department, it is also generally regarded as the cultural heart of Brittany. The town is known for its cathedral, atmospheric old quarter and museums but most of all for its annual festival celebrating Breton culture.
Quimper gets its name from the Breton kemper, which refers to the junction of two rivers: the Steir and the Odet. The Odet, generally regarded as Brittany’s prettiest river, runs east to west, parallel to the old town, and enters the sea at Benodet – there are some beautiful boat trips up this river.The river in Quimper is crossed by little bridges, which are lined with pretty geranium-filled boxes.
Quimper’s most impressive building is its cathedral, which is said to be the best example of Gothic religious architecture in Brittany. Building started in the 12th century and continued at intervals until the 19th century, when the two spires were constructed and new stained glass windows were installed. The cathedral is named after St Corentin, Quimper’s first bishop.
Next to the cathedral is the former Bishop’s Palace, which is now the Musée Départmental Breton. The museum displays finds from archaeological digs around Brittany and is highly regarded for its collection of Breton costumes and furniture. Quimper’s other museum of note is the Musée des Beaux Arts, which has a fine collection of paintings from renowned Breton artists and the Pont Aven School.
West of the cathedral is the atmospheric old town, where you’ll find many half-timbered houses dating from the 14th century. The streets are named after old job titles and the Place au Beurre, where butter was sold, is one of Quimper’s prettiest locations and a good place to stop for a crêpe. The central market (Halles St Francis) is open daily and is particularly lively on Saturday mornings.
Quimper is known throughout Brittany and the Celtic world for its Festival de Cornouaille, which takes place for a week each July (23rd – 28th July 2013) and celebrates Breton culture in all its forms – traditional dress, traditional dancing, traditional crafts, music, etc.
The walled town of Vannes is without doubt one of Brittany’s most attractive sights and a must-visit on any trip to Morbihan. Wander around the well-preserved medieval streets before enjoying a harbour-side lunch then taking a boat trip around the gulf. Kids will love the aquarium and butterflies.
The main gate into Vannes is the Porte St-Vincent Ferrier, named after the Spanish monk who died in the town in 1419 and became its patron saint; he is buried in St-Pierre cathedral. To the left and right of the gate are town houses: many of their ground floors have been turned into cafes and make a lovely location for lunch as they face the marina.
Heading down Rue St-Vincent you’ll arrive at Place des Lices, which once hosted jousting tournaments but is now the venue of an open-air market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. In Place Valencia you’ll see a carving of a man and a woman on the corner of a half-timbered house – they are known as ‘Vannes and his wife’ and are a popular subject for tourist snappers.
Vannes has two museums within its walls: the Château Gaillard, a 15th-century mansion house, accommodates the museum of archaeology and the town’s history while La Cohue, a 13th-century covered market that hosted the Breton Parliament from 1675-89, is now the museum of fine arts.
Outside the town walls to the east is the Château de l’Hermine, which was once the home of the Duke of Brittany but is now an exhibition space; its lovely public gardens host the Images de la Mer photography festival in May. Vannes has a full annual events calendar, which includes a jazz festival in August.
The Parc du Golfe is about a mile south of the town centre and it’s here that you join boat trips around the Gulf of Morbihan. A boat trip around the Gulf of Morbihan is magical on a sunny day. This is also the place to head for with children, as there’s an aquarium with a huge collection of tropical fish and the Jardin aux Papillons, a glass dome filled with vegetation where hundreds of butterflies fly free.
Locronan This exquisite village in west Finistère occupies a long-sacred spot named after a revered Irishman who settled here in the Dark Ages, but the place’s spiritual roots go back much further. From the late Middle Ages, sail-making brought prosperity, and an exceptionally handsome architectural legacy.
Locronan wows everyone, voted both a Breton Petite Cité de Caractère (Small City of Character) and one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France). It has a sumptuous Gothic church that dominates the village. Its beauty stems from the success of local weavers and merchants, who supplied fine sails not just to the French navy, but also to English and Spanish. Locronan’s grandest houses, with their remarkable dormer windows, are mainly 18th century. As sails died out, trade dried up, and Locronan stayed pickled in the past. The village museum covers the weavers, and the area, in paintings. Filmmakers have frequently shown Locronan’s charms on the silver screen, and tourists flock here in large numbers, hence all the tempting boutiques. Walk up the nearby summit for calm but dramatic views to the Bay of Douarnenez.
One of the most famous ancient pilgrimages is the Locronan pardon – It is called La Grande Tromenie name. Every 6 years, the Grande Troménie (7th July 2013) follows the course of a Celtic sacred path around Locronan’s hillside, reflecting the Celtic calendar and gods. This is a glorious pagent in full traditional dress.
Once one of the busiest ports in Brittany, picture-perfect St-Goustan is now one of the most popular quaint little ports to visit in Morbihan. Enjoy lunch in a waterside restaurant while admiring the half-timbered houses before joining a boat trip around the gulf or crossing the stone bridge to explore Auray.
Originally a fishing port on the estuary of the River Loc’h, St-Goustan reached its zenith in the 18th century when the port became a centre for boat building. It was during this time that St-Goustan received its most famous visitor, Benjamin Franklin, who arrived here in December 1776 from the United States en route to Paris to ask France for help in the American War of Independence; one of the quays is now named after him. The port itself is named after the patron saint of sailors and fishermen.
The main reason to visit St-Goustan is to take a walk around the quays and along the riverbanks before enjoying a waterside lunch in one of the many restaurants that line the port. St-Goustan owes its allure to the density of half-timbered houses, some of which date back to the 15th century; the imposing Église St-Sauveur was constructed in 1434. The quays regularly host book and craft fairs and in September there’s a lively oyster festival.
From June to September visitors can join a boat here to take a trip around the little islands in the Gulf of Morbihan, although landlubbers might prefer to explore the town of Auray. Cross the narrow stone bridge, which has linked the two banks of the Loc’h since the 13th century, and then make your way up Les Rampes du Loc’h – a specially built walkway that leads up the hill to the site where the château once stood; the views back over the port are worth the climb.
Market day - The best day to visit Auray is on a Monday when a market takes over the town centre. The main sites are the 18th-century town hall and the 17th-century Église St-Gildas, which has an impressive porch and houses a sculpted wooden organ.
High above the River Arz, Rochefort-en-Terre has been voted one of France’s most beautiful villages and as a result is one of Brittany’s most visited sites. Make your way through the narrow streets, past craftsmen and workshops, admiring the geranium-bedecked houses along the way.
Rochefort was put on the map in the early 20th century after a wealthy French-born American painter called Alfred Klotz who bought the local château in 1907. Dating back to the 12th century, the château was destroyed by Republicans in 1793 and only the façade remains; the current building was constructed by Klotz. The château is open from May to September and houses some of Klotz’s paintings as well as a collection of objects from rural life in times past.
Klotz encouraged the local residents to dress their houses with geraniums, a tradition which continues, leading to Rochefort winning many awards for being one of France’s most beautiful villages in bloom.
The best way to explore Rochefort is to wander around its attractive streets admiring the mix of architectural styles, which range from 16th-century half-timbered buildings like the Café de la Pente to symmetrical stone-built Renaissance structures like the Post Office in Rue Notre Dame de la Tronchaye. From April to September, the streets are illuminated from dusk until midnight.
As you’d expect from a ‘little town of character’ with an arty past, the streets are dotted with artists and craftspeople: potters, a candle maker, a toymaker ……… but don’t leave town without visiting one of the artisan biscuit makers like Le Rucher Fleuri in Rue du Porche, which is highly regarded throughout the region for its pain d’épices (gingerbread). Whichever shop you visit look upwards: Rochefort is known for its unusual and colourful signs. Concarneau & it’s walled city
As well as being France’s third most important fishing port, Concarneau has other assets that make it a very popular summer resort. The main draw is the quaint ville close (walled town) followed by some lovely sandy beaches and a lively maritime festival in August.
Concarneau has made its living from the fishing industry for hundreds of years and the town remains an important centre: more than 100,000 tonnes of tuna are caught each year by Concarneau-based boats. It’s possible for tourists to visit the fish auction, canneries and also sometimes to assist the deep-sea fishermen to unload their catch. But more adventurous sorts might like to join an organised trip on an old sardine boat to try their own hand.
The ville close (walled city) is without doubt Concarneau’s most popular tourist attraction. This old stone fortified ‘town’ has just a few narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants, where geraniums tumble from window boxes. Its character houses were built during the 17th and 20th centuries by lawyers, tradesmen, painters and sailors.Take a walk around the ramparts for spectacular views over the area. Near the entrance to the ville close is the Musée de la Pêche, where visitors can learn all about the fishing industry and visit an old trawler.
One of Brittany’s most colourful and authentic festivals takes place in Concarneau in August: A must to experience – you will be carried away by the music, traditional dress, traditional food and atmosphere. Over a hundred years old, the Filets Bleus festival takes place every August, when it gives the town of Concarneau and its inhabitants an opportunity to go back to their roots. A typically Breton-flavoured costumed parade, with dancing and games. Some come out of curiosity, others to see all the pomp and pageantry of the parade. Some want to win a bout of Gouren, a type of Breton wrestling, while others hope to learn a few steps of a traditional Breton dance or try their hand at palets, which is ‘boules’ Breton-style. And of course they come to see the new Miss Filets Bleus, chosen among the wealth of pretty young girls from Concarneau. It’s hard to imagine that this vibrant festival has been around for over a hundred years! Back then, the quays of Concarneau were covered in the blue sardine-fishing nets that have since given their name to this festival. In 1905, hard times hit the fishing industry and the inhabitants of Concarneau decided to pull together by creating the Filets Bleus. From that point on, this local event has never ceased to grow, becoming one of the most popular and unmissable festivals of traditional Breton culture. And it goes without saying that each and every visitor takes away a little piece of wonderful Breton culture. And once the sardines have been hauled in then it’s time to sound the Breton bagpipes or biniou and blow the bombard to announce the start of the Filets Bleus festival.
Dinan is without doubt one of the most attractive and best preserved small towns in Brittany. With its 1.8 mile (3km)-long ramparts, half-timbered houses, attractive port and cobbled streets filled with art galleries and craft shops, it’s worth a day of anyone’s time.
The most attractive part of Dinan is arguably its port. The quay is lined with old stone houses, many of which are now waterside restaurants and chandlers’ shops. Take a walk along the old towpath or cross the 15th-century stone bridge to Lanvallay to find out about life on the river in the Maison de la Rance discovery centre. Wherever you are, you won’t miss the 131ft (40m)-high viaduct.
From the port, make your way up the steep Rue du Petit-Fort, which was Dinan’s main point of access until the 18th century. This cobbled hill with its half-timbered houses appears on many a postcard; have a browse in the arts and crafts shops. Dinan has been designated a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History) and the town is filled with artists, sculptors, engravers, bookbinders, glassblowers and more.
Dinan’s old town is a warren of narrow streets where it appears that time has stood still. The quaintest part is Place des Merciers where you’ll find the best examples of the town’s half-timbered houses; just opposite is the pedestrianised Rue de la Cordonnerie, also known as ‘thirsty street’ as it has nine bars.
To get your bearings, climb the 158 steps to the top of the 40m (132ft)-high Tour de l’Horloge for wonderful views over Dinan and the surrounding area – you can see as far as Mont St Michel on a clear day. Nearby Place du Guesclin is the site of the Thursday-morning market.
The 13th-century castle now houses the town’s museum and this is the best place to start a tour of the magnificent ramparts, 8804ft (2684m) long, which are the some of the oldest and most impressive in Brittany.
Take advantage of the abundance of shellfish and seafood of this region. Many restaurants specialise in “Fruits de la Mer” - large platters are served piled high with shrimps, langoustine, crayfish, crabs, mussels and oysters.
A contrasting gourmet delight can be found in the “Creperies”, which are small family restaurants, often in delightful thatched cottages offering an entire menu of savoury or sweet pancakes. They are reasonably priced and appealing to children and adults alike.