France: Great Cairn de Barnenez

It was a beautiful day and the sky was blue, the air was crisp and the sun was shining gloriously that we organized a trip to visit a Neolithic wonder called Cairn de Barnenez, since we have always been historical monuments enthusiasts and have visited quite a few over the years.

Europe's largest Mausoleum.

Europe’s largest Mausoleum.

The great Cairn de Barnenez is located near Plouezoc’h, on the Kernéléhen peninsula in northern Finistère of Brittany in France. It is indeed a big pile of stones – 75 meters long, 28 meters wide and 8 meters high and very, very old – about 7,000 years old. It was built between 4, 800 and 4, 000 B.C on a hill overlooking the gorgeous Bay of Morlaix (from the north) and the rolling hills of Brittany. It was then occupied until around – 2, 500 B. C. It is known to be the oldest and largest megalithic burial chamber in the entire Europe and it is the second oldest monument in the world. It is also 2, 000 years older than the first step pyramid of Egypt and it is much, much bigger when compared to Stonehenge in the UK. It is truly awe-inspiring!

For Megalithic enthusiast.

For Megalithic enthusiast.

This massive stone cairn was built in phases. The overall structure covers 11 passages leading to what is believed to be funeral chambers. Unfortunately, 9 out of 11 passages have been sealed off which includes the ones with artwork on the stones. However, we could couch very low to pass through one side of the cairn to the other. I think it’s got a romantic history of being saved in the 50’s from a building company who were quarrying and selling the cairn’s stones.

Stunning facts, stunning monument, and stunning views.

Stunning facts, stunning monument, and stunning views.

Even though this enormous structure is a bit away from the main roads, if you are a megalith buff it is well worth the time and effort. Personally, I appreciate the skill and determination of those Neolithic-to-Bronze-Age people who built the largest mausoleum in Europe. We spent about an hour and a half here. We joined the French-spoken tour and I was kindly translated the gist of it in English by my traveling buddy. I loved the meadow that surrounds the site. It is full of the most beautiful variety of wildflowers, butterflies and bees. When I looked at this wonderful site, I tried to imagine how it would have looked 7000 years ago. To me, it is an impressive testimony of history.

Magnificent.

Magnificent.

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • It is open 7 days a week except on certain holidays.
  • Reasonable admission charge. We paid 5.50 euros when we went there.
  • There are informative hand-outs and additional information at the reception building.
  • Shops and toilets are available at the reception building.

Cairn de Barnenez indeed looks very interesting. Is it in your bucket list?

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France: A walk in the town of Locronan

During our summer vacation in France on July and August 2015, we decided to spend a day climbing the mountain of Locronan and exploring an impressive and unspoiled village in Bretagne, France called the town of Locronan (Locrono). It was built at the foot of a hill and the first settlement was in the 5th century B.C. The village was granted town status in 1505 by Anne of Brittany, who went there on a pilgrimage. I have learned that the town has a population of about 800, and welcomes about half million of visitors every year.

Picturesque small town. :-)

Picturesque small town. 🙂

The town of Locronan is located around 15 kilometers north-west of Quimper in the Finistere department of western Brittany. It is a famous small town in Brittany, which is listed as Historic Monument since 1924 and has been awarded the title of most beautiful village in France. It is also one of the most visited sites in the Finistere and in Brittany. Because of its magnificent scenery, art, culture and rich history, it inspired numerous actors, producers and movie directors to visit the place.

A lovely place to visit.

A lovely place to visit.

I have also learned that at first it was a sacred place for the Celts known as “nemeton” and later on it became an important religious center during the Middle Ages and important center for the manufacture of sail-cloth for the local ship-building industry during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Just love this place.

Just love this place.

When we parked our car in the main car park, the tourist office gave us a leaflet that suggested the best route to follow when visiting the village to ensure that we didn’t miss the highlights.

Fabulous.

Fabulous.

But before we visited the village, we decided to climb first the “mountain” of Locronan even though it was raining hard. It is about 300 meters high above sea level. The road up to the mountain was very good but very steep, making it quite difficult to climb. While we were finding the way to the mountain, we asked some residents there about the way to the hill of Locronan but we found it interesting when they said “mountain”of Locronan and not hill. LOL!

Saw these flowers while we were finding the way to the mountain of Locronan.

Saw these flowers while we were finding the way to the mountain of Locronan.

On the way to the mountain we saw plenty of blackberries everywhere and everybody can harvest them. However, when we went there, the blackberries are still red, which means they would be ready to eat in 2 or 3 weeks time when they turned black.

Blackberries.

Blackberries.

At the top of the mountain of Locronan, there was a small chapel overlooking the village. It was very peaceful as there were no other tourists there, since it was pouring down. I also noticed a Celtic cross outside the church. I have learned that the Celtic monks from Wales and Ireland went to Bretagne during the Anglo-Saxon invasion circa 580, and founded villages and churches.

The small chapel at the top of the mountain.

The small chapel at the top of the mountain.

Views from the top of the mountain.

Views from the top of the mountain.

When we visited the village, the afternoon showers had just stopped. The village looked very lovely. It looked deserted, the old stones were still wet, and the streets were shiny, reflecting the colors of the beautiful sky.

Locronan did not disappoint us.

Locronan did not disappoint us.

While we were walking in the village, I noticed that the whole center of Locronan was extremely well preserved and quite extensive. The houses are built in the distinctive local granite. I also observed that the solid houses with traditional slate roves are interspersed with plenty of greenery such as various kinds of pretty flowers and trees, making the village a very attractive place to see.

Don't miss their delicious crepe and yummy hot chocolate.

Don’t miss their delicious crepe and yummy hot chocolate.

At the center of the town, there’s the delightful Chapelle Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle. It is an ancient chapel and it is situated in a picturesque setting. The chapel is also one of the 12 stages along a pilgrimage route called the Grande Troménie that follows the route between the villages originally followed by Saint Ronan and other saints. There’s also a short procession called Petite Troménie that takes place there on the second Sunday in July each year.

The beautiful church in the beautiful historic town.

The beautiful church in the beautiful historic town.

I enjoyed my day hiking to the mountain and strolling round the tiny cobbled streets admiring the old houses, the church and the fascinating views. It is a must if you are in the area. To me, Locronan is one of the most charming little towns that I have ever visited.

Little Lilly Travel Tip:

  • Bring an umbrella and a light jacket because the weather in Bretagne is unpredictable.
  • During the summer, it gets very touristy, so it’s better to get there early as the parking area is limited.

Have you been to the village of Locronan? What did you like best about the town?