Feature: Breton Language Redux

Throughout Brittany you'll see bilingual Breton street and transport signs, and many other occurrences of the language popping up. Even though all Breton speakers also speak French, this is seen as an important gesture to normalising the use of a language that was stigmatised (and even banned) throughout much of the early and mid-20th century.

Historically speaking, Breton is a Celtic language related to Cornish and Welsh, and more distantly to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Following on from the French Revolution, the government banned the teaching of Breton in schools, punishing children who spoke their mother tongue. Between 1950 and 1990 there was an 80% reduction in Breton usage.

The seeds of the language's revival were planted in the 1960s, particularly after France's May 1968 protests, driven by the younger generation rebelling against the oppression of their cultural heritage. Bringing about the rebirth of the language, no longer passed on generationally, wasn't straightforward. As Breton is more often spoken than written (with regional differences in both within Brittany), settling on a standardised language for teaching in schools remains a complex issue.

Breton now extends beyond its former boundaries. Originally, residents of Basse Bretagne (Lower Brittany, in the west) spoke Breton variants, while Haute Bretagne (Upper Brittany, in the east, including areas such as St-Malo) spoke Gallo, a Latinate language similar to French. But today you'll find Breton signage in Rennes' metro stations and many other parts of the east as well.

Feature: The Breton Coast

Brittany's rugged coastline is one of the region's best-kept secrets, with strong shades of the west coast of Ireland. With brilliant sandy beaches framing traditional fishing villages, rocky cliffs towering above the churning swell of the North Atlantic, and loads of outdoor activities to keep you occupied, there's plenty to discover.

Superb Stretches of Sand

Don't associate Brittany with beaches? Think again… Yes, the water may be freezing, but the sand is spectacular and the backdrop sublime at St-Malo and the wild, beach-punctuated Côte Sauvage of Quiberon. Alternatively, find your own patch of sand on the beaches of Belle Île.

Hiking the Coasts

Get out into nature on the coastal hiking trail from Morgat to Cap de la Chèvre. For a challenge, walk the 45km coastal path on Île d'Ouessant or the 95km coastal path around Belle Île.

Coastal Villages

Find your own quiet bliss in the village life of charming Camaret-sur-Mer, the fishing port of Roscoff and, our personal favourite, oyster-rich hideaway Cancale.

Island Life

Take the ferry to Île d'Ouessant, with its rugged coastal path and energising activities, or head out of season to Belle Île, the southern coast's star. To get off the beaten track, head to Île de Batz.

Activities

You can dive, windsurf and hire catamarans in Dinard; canoe or kayak in Paimpol, St-Malo, Îles de Glénan and Quiberon; and hire bikes pretty much anywhere, though we recommend Presqu'île de Crozon and any of Brittany's islands. You can also learn to surf at schools around Brittany and try your hand at land-yachting in St-Malo.