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Hidden Brittany

25th August 2021

Brittany, France’s north-western region, is a hilly and rocky peninsula extending out toward the Atlantic Ocean. Its lengthy, rugged coastline is dotted with beach resorts such as chic Dinard and walled Saint-Malo, built on rock in the English Channel. The Pink Granite Coast is famous (as the name would suggest!) for its unusual, blush-hued sand and rocks. But it’s not all about these well-known resorts. Brittany has a great many hidden gems which are well worth exploring!

First on the list are some of the amazing, historic buildings and gardens. The fifteenth-century Château de la Roche-Jagu is on a wooded slope above the River Trieux, with great views of the estuary. It has a re-created medieval garden with beds of herbs surrounded by box tree and an ancient oak. The Chateau is on the north coast of Brittany roughly halfway between St Malo and Brest. The Ministry of Culture has categorised it as a ‘Jardin remarquable’ (Remarkable Garden) – along with 200 other gardens in France. The old castle with strongly fortified bastions was a great place to live and also an observation point with views of maritime traffic on the river ‘like an eagle looking for its prey’! The basins by the river are being transformed into a water garden. It is a truly wonderful place to spend a few hours.

Less than half an hour away from the Chateau – right on the coast itself – is the 13th century Abbaye de Beauport. One of the finest preserved surviving examples of the religious architectural fervour, the abbey was constructed overlooking Paimpol Bay. The French Revolution saw the dissolution of the abbey and over the years it became a town hall, residential accommodation, a school and a cider press. Today, the grounds surrounding the abbey extend over 297 acres and shelter a variety of fragile and threatened ecosystems.

And now to some brilliant landscapes. Close to Quiberon on the south coast of Brittany is the very picturesque Pointe de Percho. A great place to experience an amazing sunset in dramatic settings. You can see the typically rounded rocks of Brittany alternating with vivid sandy vegetation: samphire and beach purslane alongside low growing prickly bushes. It can be a bit windy, but it’s worth climbing up to the high point to sit on the edge of the world as the sun dips into the sea.

If you’re looking for a scenic walk along the Emerald Coast, head to Cap Frehel. About an hour’s drive west of Saint-Malo, this is a popular place for walkers, however if you continue to follow the path along the coast to the west, you’ll find that the numbers soon dwindle. The 70 metre-high cliffs are rugged, and provide a magnificent backdrop for a family walk, with plenty of photo opportunities. As a protected area, you’ll be able to spot lots of wildlife too, particularly birds, and some visitors choose to take a boat trip from Saint-Malo to get even more spectacular views of the coastline.

And, finally, a couple of quiet – off the beaten track – beaches to relax on. The Baie des Trépassés is situated on the west coast of Brittany. Known as ‘the beach at the end of the world’, this is one of Brittany’s most beautiful beaches with awe-inspiring views stretching as far as the eye can see. Baie des Trépassés is surrounded on each side by the stunning coastal scenery of the Pointe du Raz and Pointe du Van.

Back on the north coast again, between St Malo and Brest, is the Corps de Garde beach. King of the hiking trails, the Douaniers (custom officers) path will take you to this beautiful, sandy cove as an end-of-road reward. It’s not uncommon to have this secluded beach all to yourself! Tucked between two headlands on the south side of Binic-Étables-sur-Mer, it bears no traces of human life. Discover the seabeds and surrounding rocks at low tide – the tranquillity and translucent waters will help you escape it all. Your own desert island story for the day!

Not heading to Brittany quite yet? We’ve put together a list of ten of our favourite books set there so you can get a real feel for the area!

Tony for the TripFiction team

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