Brittany is a place where you can rest, relax and recharge – perfect for the stressed out holiday maker says Bob Lyons, Francophile and roving reporter for The Good Life France…
Brittany in north western France is not unlike the West Country of England, Cornwall and Devon; it has the same ancient culture and language variations. Many of the French towns and villages in Bretagne (as it is called in French) have names of Celtic origin and all have their own local style.
An area of wide open spaces, charming villages, beautiful beaches, picturesque towns, rivers and charming little bays dotted along its 1700 miles of coastline. The pace of life is slow and a visit to this lovely part of France will help you to forget about all the tensions of a busy, urban lifestyle.
I have travelled extensively throughout Europe and, more than anywhere else, it seems to me that Brittany has not been spoiled by urban sprawl. The countryside is much as it was hundreds of years ago, a tranquil and peaceful region that brings relief from the harsher realities of life for frazzled holiday makers. Time in the countryside of Brittany seems to run slowly and is not touched by the clamour and consumerism of the rest of the world going on around it.
To get the most from a visit to Brittany you need to take a car or hire a car when you are there, head off on long, empty roads towards your destination, take in the spectacular scenery and unwind…
Major towns of Brittany
The major port town of Brest is a great place to visit. It sits on the western end of Brittany poking out into the Atlantic Ocean and is France’s premier Atlantic Naval port with a rich maritime history, now a modern commercial city.
Rennes lies at the eastern end in the centre and is the Capital city of Brittany. Of Roman origins, the city was built on a hill and protected by ramparts. Rennes has two quite distinctive city centres. It was destroyed by fire in the 18th century when all the timber buildings were razed. The richer, northern centre was rebuilt but the poorer southern section was left in ruins. Here you will find plenty of entertainment, shopping, and leisure facilities.
St Malo on the coast of Brittany and a major port, is a fascinating old fortress town with delightful narrow streets, delicious restaurants and summer street entertainers.
Read more about the beautiful towns of Brittany.
Beaches of Brittany
With 1700 miles of coastline, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches in Brittany. Along the southern coast, the sea is kept warm by the Atlantic gulfstream. The Gulf of Morbihan, Breton for inland sea, is a paradise for sailors. The sea is not exposed to the open ocean and it contains many islands which offer rich opportunities for exploration.
The ancient walled town of Vannes lies on the northern shore and is a lively commercial city with a well-preserved medieval quarter. It provides for an excellent base for exploring the islands in the Gulf of Morbihan. At the nearby Chateau du Suscinio, musical concerts are held on summer evenings in the gardens, take a picnic and join the locals to enjoy these magical Breton festivals.
More on Brittany’s beaches
Off the Beaten Track in Brittany
Seven mysterious and rarely inhabited islands just to the north of the beautiful and popular Côte de Granit Rose. In years gone by monks tried to establish a foothold, but gave up and now the main occupants are the seabirds that congregate here to nest in vast numbers. Join a traditional sailing boat tour either from Perros-Guirec or Port-Blanc to get close to the islands and see the amazing sight of this teeming bird metropolis. Sometimes, you’re allowed to land on l’Île aux Moines, the island where monks had a go at living in the late medieval period, you’ll be able to see what made it so difficult to inhabit and it’s clear to see that birds are the kings of the islands here.
Brittany Tourism website for details of all the places mentioned in this feature.