Top 12 Awesome Things to do in Brittany

I love the lovely region of Brittany. It’s one of the great historic provinces of France, located in the northwest. It’s my most favorite place in France for so many reasons – great diversity and unique with its remarkable history and Celtic heritage, spectacular natural landscape, gorgeous beaches, and excellent cuisine. To me, even the most idyllic postcard perfect picture of Brittany does not do justice to the place.

Brittany

Typical flower in Brittany

There are so many activities for visitors to enjoy during a stay in Finisterre – meander through the countryside or organize a tour of any of the region’s historic place. Brittany is all about living the good life – nature, heritage, good food and cider, and incredible people. Personally, after a month of stay in Brittany, I found it incredibly difficult to leave.

Love this garden in Roscoff

Since Brittany is a popular location for family holidays in France, here’s my top 12 awesome things to see and do when you visit this impressive region:

1.Wander along Carnac’s long and mysterious rows of standing stones.

The magnificent collection of Standing Stones in Carnac is one of the most extraordinary sites of Brittany. While you can find isolated manmade standing stones scattered throughout the whole region, Carnac features miles and miles of aligned standing stone. It has been protected by UNESCO World Heritage since 1996. We went there with our friends to see the exceptional 6000 years old Neolithic sites and the largest megalithic sites in the world.

Carnac

Carnac

2. Visit the 2nd oldest manmade  monument in the world.

The great Cairn de Barnenez is truly amazing – big pile of stones (75m long, 28m wide, 8m high) and very old (about 7,000 years old) as it was built between 4,800 and 4,000 B.C on a hill overlooking the Bay of Morlaix. It is known as the oldest and largest megalithic burial chamber in Europe, and the second oldest manmade monument in the world.
Did you know? It is about 2,000 years older than the first step pyramid of Egypt and it is much bigger than Stonehenge in the UK.

Cairn de Barnenez

Cairn de Barnenez

3. Explore the beautiful castles.

If you are tired of laying in the sunshine, there are quite a few beautiful castles in Brittany to explore and enjoy. We have visited the following: The Château de Brest (Castle of Brest), which has about 1700 years of history, and considered as the oldest castle in the world still in use. The Château du Taureau (Castle of the Bull), a 16th century defensive castle (about 500 year old castle) which has a messy past but also had lots of different uses in its history. The 16th century Château de Kerjean (Castle of Kerjean), which was originally built as a home for the Barbier family. It was open to the public in 2005 after being restored in the early 21st century.

The Castle of Brest

The Castle of the Bull

The Castle of Kerjean

4. Discover the amazing churches and abbeys.

In Brittany, I love the ancient, massive and elaborately embellished Catholic parish churches. We have visited at least 6 parishes: The Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica of the Virgin Mary is a gem of Gothic Flamboyant architecture as it has stunning beautiful Gothic style towers and stunning stained glasses. The Saint Thegonnec Church is famous for its funerary chapel and triumphal arch. The Guimiliau church in the village of Guimiliau is populary known for having the largest calvaries in the region, which are sculpted with about 200 figures. The Chapelle Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle in the little town of Locronan is one of the 12 stages along the pilgrimage route called Grande Troménie. The 16th century Notre Dame de Croaz Batz in Roscoff is well-known for its unique elegant Renaissance style bell tower.  The Cathedrale of St Corentin in Quimper is lauded to be the most beautiful gothic building in Brittany with its majestic stained glass windows.

Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica of the Virgin Mary

Saint Thegonnec Church

Chapelle Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle

Notre Dame de Croaz Batz

Cathedrale of St Corentin

5. Amble in the medieval towns.

There are so many medieval towns scattered everywhere in Brittany. Walking through the narrow, winding medieval lanes is all part and parcel of Brittany’s charms. In fact, we had a beautiful walk in the famous town of Locronan which has been listed as a Historic Monument in 1924 and has been awarded the title of most beautiful village in France. Landerneau is another gorgeous medieval town known for its remarkable architectural heritage most specifically the Rohan Bridge, built in the 16th century and inhabited for more than 500 years.
Did you know? Rohan Bridge is the only bridge in Europe that has still people living on it up to these days.

The little town of Locronan

Behind me is the Rohan Bridge in Landerneau.

6. Stroll in Foret de Huelgoat.

I love the stunning landscape and enchanting views in Foret de Huelgoat. It is a charming place to visit for an easy good walk or a picnic. Just time it right with the weather and stroll around the forest for a wonderfully enchanting excursion. In there you can find a great “chaos”, a large collection of huge boulders left after a glacier has melted.

Huelgoat

Huelgoat

7. Hill walking in the Moors of Cragou.

Are you fed up with seaside views but still up for a walk? In a beautiful area in Brittany, not far away from the ocean and with a fabulous climate, lies the wild Moors of Cragou. It is a Reserve area and serves as a haven for the wildlife so that the animals and plants can reproduce. In this area, people are forbidden to build houses, buildings or roads. The rocks stand 282 m above the sea level and remain untouched by mankind, with the exception of a few brave hill-walkers.

Moors of Cragou

Moors of Cragou

8. Day trip to Brittany’s islands.

Apart from its quaint villages, historic towns and breathtaking countryside, Brittany is also known for its pretty islands where you can have a perfect and peaceful break. While we were in Brittany, we hopped to Ile de Batz, one of its beautiful islands. We had a fantastic time there and one of the activities that I would never forget was when we leisurely walked around the whole island while enjoying its superb landscape. Indeed, it’s an exotic gem.

The island of Batz

The island of Batz

The island of Batz

9. Enjoy the magnificent coastal scenery.

Who wouldn’t love wonderful coastal scenery with rich flora and fauna, solitary lighthouses, pretty harbors, dramatic cliffs, amazing rock formations sculpted by the waves? There, the Channel sea meets the Atlantic ocean. The coastal area around Pointe Saint Mathieu provides a splendid views of the coast and a walking area for those who are nature lovers. The extraordinary coastal hamlet of Meneham is notable for its 17th century coastguard’s cottage with a stone roof surrounded by great boulders that are also scattered along the Kerlouan coastline. I am sure you’ll be bewitched by the serene landscapes because everywhere you turn the view is beautiful.

Pointe Saint Mathieu

Kerlouan

Hamlet of Meneham

10. Laze at Brittany’s lovely beaches.

Brittany has loads of great sandy beaches. I noticed that they are rarely really crowded because the water is so cold. Personally, I love the beach, though! We usually go to the Pontusval and Keremma. In Pontusval you can see a lighthouse, the water is very clear and many rocks that have formed intriguing shapes are scattered everywhere, while in Keremma there’s a 6km line of sand dunes (slowly disappearing though L) and translucent water. There are many seaside activities and watersports to enjoy – sunbathing, swimming, fishing, shellfish gathering, diving, sailing, kayaking, etc. The beaches in Brittany are simply a must see!

Pontusval Beach

Pontusval

Keremma Beach

Kerlouan Beach

11. Smack Breton luscious food.

Another thing that you should not miss when you are in Brittany is to try their delicious food – oysters, crepe, Breton butter cake and many more. If you are an oyster lover you can find great oysters in Cancale, a small town in Brittany. Crepe is a traditional Breton food. There are sweet crepes which are made with wheat flour and savory crepes made with buckwheat flour. The Breton butter cake (Kouign Amann) is a rich, mouth-watering dessert made of dough, butter and sugar.

Crêpe Flambée

Breton butter cake (Kouign Amann)

12. Don’t forget to taste Cider.

Even though Brittany does not produce wine, it produces Cider which is considered as Breton’s traditional drink. It is usually drank from clay cups to bring out the earthy flavor of the cider.

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France: The Beautiful Collection of Megalithic Sites in Carnac

We traveled to Carnac in the Southern part of Brittany, France, with our dearest friends to see the exceptional 6000 year old Neolithic sites. It is thought to be the largest collection of megalithic sites in the world because there are more than 3,000+ large, free standing stones scattered around the countryside of Carnac; which is only a fraction of what was originally there. The estimate for what was originally there was 10,000+ Neolithic Menhirs (from the Britton “Long / Upright Stones”), also popularly known as standing stones. The magnificent collection of standing stones in Carnac is one of the hidden gems of Brittany; it has been protected by UNESCO World Heritage since 1996.

Stones as far as the eyes can see

It was erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany during the Neolithic era which is approximately between 4500 BC to 2000BC. The reason why those stones were erected remains a mystery. There are several hypotheses, such as: First, it might be related to astronomy, the way Stonehenge is supposed to be. Second, it might be related to religion. Third, successive generations might have visited the site and erected stones to see who had the biggest one. One might see a correlation with the way even humble villages all over Brittany had been building big churches with rather impressive bell-towers from the 15th century till the end of the 19th century to see who had the biggest one. Possibly. Occam’s blade and all…

Lots of stones

We went there during the summer, July 2013, during which the number of people in Carnac swells from the influx of tourists, since this place is very popular, especially during July and August. We wanted to get inside the sites so that we could see the Menhirs closely and appreciate them even more, but when we arrived at the place there was no available guide and we couldn’t get inside the site without a guide even if we had tickets.

Amazing number of standing stones

It was a nice wander.

There are many sites which display outstanding collection of these upright megalithic Menhirs and if you wish to visit all the sites you need to buy a ticket for each site. The ticket costs €6 for an adult and free for children below 18 years old. It used to be free all, indeed it had been free for about 6000 years, but the UNESCO decided about 15 years ago that tourists were a danger to the standing stones. One even has to wear closed shoes to get inside the Menhir fields. Strange. Not even Petra, the Mont Saint Michel, the Angkor Wat or Notre Dame de Paris have so stringent rules for visitors. It seems to me that the UNESCO had turned a 5-star walk into a succession of graveyards for standing stones.

We spent few minutes relaxing here. Love the different shades of green. 🙂

We walked around the sites in order to bring the prehistory to life for a short while since we couldn’t get inside the sites. I was told that 15 years ago, there was no fence and everybody was free to get closer to the Menhirs. There is a local association called “Menhirs Libres (Free Standing Stones)”, which still campaigns for the right to see those Standing Stones without having the feeling that both the visitors and the Stones are in some kind of jail-like cemetery.

A local organization called Menhirs Libres

Anyway, during this visit, I have learned that the size of each monolith varies from thigh-high size up to roughly 6 meters high. Awesome! Also, the megaliths include: Alignment which means rows of standing stones, Dolmen which means Lying Stone, Cairn which means a stone monument covering burial places, Enclosure which means a space which is closed off by adjoining or close megaliths, and Menhirs which means large, free-standing stones.

A Cairn

I would say that it was a lovely walk amongst the megaliths. Indeed, Carnac is a place one should not miss when you visit Brittany, France. 🙂

Have you visited the Megalithic sites in Carnac?