With its fretted coastline and incredibly varied landscapes, Brittany is one of France's greatest charmers. The region is bursting with sporting activities and boasts some truly superb islands. Find your own slice of paradise with this primer on the very best of Brittany.
Most scenic landscapes
Presqu’Île de Crozon
One of the region’s best-kept secrets, the anchor-shaped Crozon Peninsula holds many surprises. At the western tip of the Finistère department, the coast swoops between headlands and sheer cliffs. The partly forested hinterland is criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails. As a bonus, you can sun and surf your way around some excellent beaches.
Pays des Abers
On the northern coast, the Pays des Abers offers one of the most dramatic landscapes in Brittany. West of Brignogan, the shore becomes more extravagantly indented, with a succession of narrow estuaries fringed with beaches, weather-beaten rocks, lovely seaside towns and quaint fishing villages.
Golfe du Morbihan
In the crook of Brittany’s southern coastline, the Golfe du Morbihan (Morbihan gulf) has islands aplenty. The area is also known for its bird life, oyster farms and fascinating Celtic megaliths.
Côte de Granit Rose
Glowing with pink granite boulders, this is one of the most scenic spots in Brittany. Enjoy the views with a long stroll along the footpath skirting the coast.
Four unmissable islands
No visitor to the region should miss dramatic Ouessant. From Le Conquet, take a boat across to this rugged, unspoiled beauty that feels like the world’s end. The island’s signature attractions are its two lighthouses, the black-and-striped Phare de Créac’h (the world’s most powerful lighthouse), and Phare du Stiff - walk up its 104 steps for panoramic views. Then rent a bike and head to Plage de Corz, the island’s most stunning beach, or hike along the craggy coastal path.
Separated from Pointe du Raz by a sea channel nine kilometres wide, the misty, tiny Île de Sein makes a wonderfully quiet retreat. Nowhere does it rise more than six metres above the surrounding ocean. This working fishing community, with granite houses overlooking a small harbour, is barely developed - no cars are allowed. From the tight-knit village you can take a bracing walk along the barren and exposed northern shore to get to the Goulenez lighthouse, to the far end of the island.
Brittany’s largest island, gorgeous Belle Île is overflowing with attractive beaches. While Plage de Donnant is popular with surfers, sheltered Plage d’Herlin and Plage de Baluden offer shallow, calm waters - ideal for families. The busy two kilometre-long Plage des Grands Sables, with its gold and white sand, is the pick of the crop. Outdoorsy types can work up a sweat surfing, golfing, diving and sea kayaking - but the best way to experience the island is simply by hiking or cycling the coastal path.
The fishing harbour of Sauzon, with its utterly picturesque houses dotted along one side of a long estuary, is the perfect base for first-time visitors.
Just two kilometres off the mainland, Île de Bréhat is the northern coast’s standout star. The island’s mild climate supports palm trees, mimosa, eucalyptus and rare flowers, such as blue acanthus. Walking from one end of Bréhat to the other takes less than an hour, and the northern coast is dotted with little coves that make perfect picnic spots.
The Bahamas it ain't, but when it comes to thrilling dives for experts and novices alike, Brittany is hard to beat. Budding explorers should make a beeline for the superb WWII shipwrecks of Rade de Brest (Bay of Brest). Off Concarneau, the Archipel des Glenan is surrounded by turquoise waters and has Atlantic fish life in abundance. Île d’Ouessant is another hotspot, with excellent visibility, scenic underwater terrain, a few wrecks and atmospheric kelp forests. The best season is from June to September. A five-millimetre wetsuit is recommended.
Brittany has excellent hiking terrain, with everything from challenging multi-day hikes to easy strolls along spectacular coastline. The most inspirational walks are at Presqu’Île de Crozon and Côte de Granit Rose. It’s also worth following the paths around the islands of Belle Île and Bréhat.
Kitesurfing and surfing
The winds blustering around Brittany have created a kitesurfing paradise. Kitesurf rentals and lessons are available at virtually all centres nautiques (nautical centres) but the best spots are Presqu’Île de Quiberon and Bay of Audierne. There’s also plenty of wind-powered fun to had along the north coast, including St Malo and Aber Wrac'h.
The surfing epicentre is western Finistère. La Torche and Presqu’Île de Crozon are the best spots, with major surf schools established in the area, offering lessons and rent gear. In Morbihan, Presqu’Île de Quiberon and Belle Île are good places to head to. Log on to www.ecole-surf-bretagne.fr for more details.