Brittany, or Bretagne, in Northwestern France is our favourite region in France. It has a long stretch of rugged coastline, to the north along the British channel and to the west beside the Atlantic ocean and the beaches are the most remote, wild and beautiful we’ve ever seen and this region is renowned for it’s Celtic heritage.
We are an Irish family living in a campervan who have been travelling for over a year and a half around Europe and we all agree that some of our best memories were made in Brittany. I don’t know what it is, maybe because it’s the first place we went to as we took the ferry from Ireland to Roscoff. We spent a month there last year where we travelled around the north and western parts of the region and this year we explored the central and eastern areas.
The Breton people are very friendly. They strongly embrace their local customs and traditions and like the Irish, they are very proud of their Celtic roots. Although everyone you meet in Brittany speaks French with a little bit of English and there are many people here who still speak the Breton language, which apparently has become more popular in recent years.
There were Celtic tribes all over Europe at one point. The Celts who lived throughout France were driven west by the Franks and the Celts of England were driven west and north by the Saxons. Celtic regions of Europe today include Ireland, Brittany, north western Spain, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man. Together we share something that’s difficult to put your finger on. It’s a connection, a shared culture, folklore, spirituality and language which survived invading tribes, armies and empires for thousands of years.
Some of our favourite places to see in Brittany so far are:
La Jument, a beautiful tall lighthouse built on a rock off the north coast of Brittany, made famous by the photographs that photographer Jean Guichard took in a storm in 1989. The lighthouse keeper managed to close the door just in time before a wave crashed in around it.
La-Roche-aux-Fées, the fairies rock is a magical dolmen and huge passage tomb in Essé, Brittany. The stones were mined in the forest 4km south of Essé and it is thought that fairies brought them to the site, hence the name.
The dolmen is around 5,000 years old and just like Newgrange in Ireland, it would have been covered with a mound of stones and earth and it is also aligned with the sun’s first rays at Winter Solstice.
Weve been to a few neolithic, tombs, dolmens and standing stones but this one was special as it is so grand, untouched and we could explore it all by ourselves with no one else around. Ellen felt that the fairies lived inside the huge rocks. Magical.
The sculptured rocks in Rothéneuf (Les Rochers Sculptés), on the emerald coast of Brittany in the north west of France.
The man who created them in the 1800’s suffered a stroke in his 30’s and spent the rest of his life living as a hermit in this village of st-malo. He was deaf, mute and partially paralysed as a result of the stroke but that didn’t stop him single handedly creating over 300 carvings and sculptures in these steep granite cliffs with only a hammer and chisel.We loved exploring it all, there was carvings of sea monsters, pirates, animals and other picture carvings too. We had a lovely swim off the rocks in the crystal clear water afterwards.
The fantastic, creative, eco-artistic Rocambole Gardens in central Brittany. The couple who own it opened it to the public only 8 years ago. Everything in the gardens was built using upcycled materials to create unusual structures, a dome solar greenhouse, water circuits, ponds, the garden of colors and the garden of sounds, a wooden play area and lots more. It was such a colourful and inspiring place full of life and character.
Phare d’Eckmühl, located in Penmarch is one of the worlds tallest lighthouses with at 213ft tall with 308 steps to the top. Even Liam, who is used to heights felt a little woozy on the balcony.
Brittany lace, there is a Breton lace display stall and shop right outside the Phare d’Eckmühl lighthouse! There we met Janelle who was just one of (and the youngest) the ladies of a group of local lacemakers who run the shop and one of the few who are keeping the craft alive in Brittany
Châteaux de Suscinio in Sarzeau.
We spent hours exploring this castle imagining princesses, Merlin, knights & dragons. It was built in the late middle ages to be the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. In one of the drawings rooms you can try on lots of medieval costumes. We learned loads in the various medieval tents located in the castle gardens where there was exhibits for children to learn about the different animals names & matching footprints, identifying various types of poops and we learned how to do macramé.
Not to mention the sea views, the exploring at low tide, the incredible rock formations, chatting to the locals, the castles, the ruins, the countryside, the dolmens, the mill wheel stones, so much to see and explore which is why we love Brittany.