For much of its history, Brittany has been isolated from the rest of world by dense forest and a rugged coastline, with the result that its inhabitants have retained unique traditions and a regional pride. Its Celtic past is evident. Settlers arrived from Cornwall, fleeing Roman invaders, and their descendants joined William of Normandy on his conquest. Thus ‘Breton Cornish’ legends and language became intertwined with those of the British Celts.
Pont Aven is a pretty artists’ village, not far from Concarneau and fully equipped with cafés, shops and galleries. A pleasant spot for mooching around on a day when you’re in no rush to hit the beach.
Holidays like they used to be
But for all this proud independence and steely self containment, it has long been a popular holiday destination for families who enjoy a taste of holidays ‘as they used to be’. Brittany remains seemingly untouched and wonderfully old fashioned – in a good way.
You’ll find bustling little fishing ports, sheltering jauntily painted fishing boats and some of France’s finest seafood restaurants. A lazy afternoon spent toying with some fruits de mer in Bénodet is one of life’s more simple pleasures. Inland you’ll drive through sleepy villages, often disconcertingly deserted, past lush orchards of cherries and apples, and you’ll be incessantly tempted by charming little creperies bedecked in gingham.
You’ll discover a range of great beaches, from intriguing rock pools – a rite of passage for youngsters with their shrimping nets – to endless ribbons of clean, sandy beach. Off the coast, you’ll spot the white sailed boats that seem motionless out in the bay. Camping de Kéranterec near Concarneau is a friendly campsite that ticks a number of boxes: great sandy beach, nearby oyster beds, rock pools to explore and choice of crêperies – it was even once an orchard, so you can buy cider from the trees on your pitch. That’s Brittany camping in one.
Catch an overnight ferry to St Malo, Caen or Roscoff, docking early morning and arrive on site in good time for a swim. If driving down from Calais, the good news is the autoroutes, unusually, have no tolls.
Coasts with the most
This striking region features a varied coastline that is endlessly fascinating and beautiful. In the north lie the rugged cliffs and jagged inlets of the Emerald Coast. Stay at Camping Le Vieux Moulin, in Erquy and you’ll be close to no less than seven superb beaches, including the 9 km stretch of gleaming white sand at Le Val- André, one of the best beaches on the north coast.
Further along the north coast, the Pink Granite coast features otherworldly shapes of weathered granite – some outcrops even have their own descriptive names like Napoleon’s Hat, The Witch and The Rabbit. Stay at Camping Les Capucines at St Michel en Grève, perched high above a stunning beach: it’s a fine spot for enjoying a spectacular coastal drive along the pink granite formations between Perros-Guirec and Trebeurden. Take a late afternoon stroll here and admire the pink tinged boulders that catch the soft light at the end of the day.
To the west the Crozon peninsula, on the tip of Finistère, reaches out into the Atlantic like a dragon’s tongue. The Pointe du Raz, Brittany’s equivalent of Land’s End is a wild, evocative place with dramatic heather topped cliffs and atmospheric granite hewn villages.
Further south, the landscape is much gentler. The soft sandy beaches and tidal pools around Concarneau are what childhood was invented for, and the beaches at Beg Meil are safe and gently shelving. Further south still, beyond Lorient, it’s a sunny region, blessed with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and there can at times be an almost sub-tropical feel as you head down the Quiberon peninsula with its palm trees and white sandy beaches. The little islands that speckle the bay are visited by ferries and make a lovely day out for a change of scene.
It’s a cliché but Brittany really does offer something for everyone – just choose your destination and campsite carefully. You’ll find colour, spectacular surroundings and fabulous coastlines. So, as the toast goes, ‘Be Breizh!’ – celebrate all that is Breton and embrace its individuality.