The river Aulne at Pont Coblant, Finistere
The Aulne is our closest big river. We try to visit a different part of this majestic waterway each time we are in Brittany. I thought that I would share with you some of the beautiful places along the river that we have discovered during our stays at Ty Hir. Port de Carhaix, Nantes-Brest Canal
Some sections of the river have been canalised as part of the Nantes-Brest Canal. The canal was built by Napoleon in the 19th century after the English blockaded the port of Brest. This was to provide a safe inland passage to the south east of Brittany.
The mighty Aulne is famous for salmon, trout and Allis shad fishing
. If angling is not your bag then the towpath along the canal makes for easy walking and cycling. The river passes through green wooded valleys and pretty towns with plenty of bars and restaurants from where you can drink in the beautiful views.
Port de Carhaix Châteauneuf-du-Faou overlooking the Nantes-Brest Canal
We stumbled upon this tranquil spot quite by accident. The port was created as part of the Nantes-Brest canal in 1830. Once the war with England ended in 1855 the port was used for the transport of local slate, granite and cereals such as buckwheat for which the area is well known.
With the development of the railway the port fell into disuse. The construction of a dam at Guerledan sounded the final death knell for the port. Port de Carhaix lies about 6 kms to the south west of the bustling market town of Carhaix-Plouguer
Perched on a steep hill, the picturesque town of Chateauneuf du Faou
overlooks the meandering canalised Aulne. The towpath here passes through a heavily wooded valley of alders (from which the Aulne takes its name) against a backdrop of the Monts d'Arree
in north and the Black Mountains to the south. At the foot of the hill lies the arched 17th century Pont du Roy. At one end of the new road bridge you is the
Auberge Tal Ar Pont bar where we were entertained by the Good Time Jazz band one Sunday afternoon. On the other side of the river y
ou will find a river-based leisure center that provides boat rentals if you fancy a potter on the water.
Port-Launay Le barrage mobile de Guily-Glaz, Port Launay
This colourful little town lies a few kilometers from the sea. The port was prosperous in the 19th century due to its strategic location at the start of the Nantes-Brest canal. The river bank is lined with pastel coloured merchants and shipowners houses which reflect attractively in the calm waters.
Cimetière des navires de Landévennec, Finistere
Head downstream from the port passing under the impressive twelve arched Viaduc de Guily-Glass. Here you will discover le barrage mobile de Guily-Glaz
The hydraulic barrier was built after floods in 1995 and 2000 devastated the area. The total cost of the project was around €6 million.
There is a fish ladder or 'les passes à poissons' which enables salmon and sea trout to migrate upstream to breed. After the barrier the river becomes tidal and brackish as it makes its final journey towards the Rade de Brest and the Atlantic.
Landevennec Abbaye de Landévennec on the Aulne Estuary
In the last loop of the Aulne, just before it reaches the Rade de Brest, you will find a ship graveyard. Tucked away in the sheltered bend are a number of rusting hulks from the nearby naval base. It is strangely haunting to observe these abandoned boats floating quietly at rest. You can find a great viewpoint over the site in the village of Kerberon which lies a short drive up hill from Landévennec Abbey
The ruins of Abbaye de Landévennec
lie at the mouth of the Aulne estuary. The story goes that St Guénolé walked over water from the nearby isle of Tibidy to found a monastery here. He was believed to help babies learn to walk, as well being able to cure warts and neuralgia.
Attacks by the Vikings in the Dark Ages, the 14th century Breton War of Succession, the French Revolution and subsequent neglect have left us with a picturesque waterside ruin. Here you can let you imagination run free to imagine tonsured Benedictine monks gliding silently by on their way to vespers.
We are off to Brittany next week for a short break. Hopefully we will have a chance discover a few more treasures from the Aulne to share with you in the future.
Pont-Aven, southern Finistere, Brittany
The scenic vistas of southern Finistère in Brittany have inspired some of the world’s finest painters.
The Route des Peintres or Painters' Trail follows landscapes which inspired the French masters Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard and Paul Sérusier as well as foreign artists such as Robert Wylie, Joseph Bulfield and Meyer de Hann.
They were all members of the so-called Pont-Aven school founded in the late 19th century.
Watermill, Pont-Aven, Finistere
This pretty granite town on the banks of the Aven was once home to 14 water mills, as immortalized in Paul Gauguin's 1888 painting "Les Lavandières" ("The washer-women").
In the 1880s the then small settlement was a refuge for artists from Paris, notably for Gauguin whose name is inextricably linked with Pont-Aven. Here, he met Bernard and Sérusier, and they dedicated themselves to the simplistic style called Synthétisme. The mild climate and the quality of the light was a major attraction to the new artistic community.
The port at Pont Aven, Finistere
The town now attracts around around 50,000 visitors a year who come to enjoy the pretty tea shops and the flower-lined riverside walk which crisscrosses the shallow fast flowing Aven.
A major attraction is the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Pont-Aven
which has a collection of over 1,000 works, many of which represent the School of Pont-Aven. Numerous private art galleries are dotted around the winding streets if you fancy taking your own little bit of Breton art home with you.
Concarneau's Old Ville
’s picturesque walled Old Town, which sits on an island linked to the mainland by a bridge, is renowned artists’ haven. Paul Signac, Alfred Guillou and Edward Emerson Simmons figured among countless painters for whom Concarneau was a draw.
The town is famous for the Fête des Filets Bleus
or the Festival of the Blue Nets which takes place every August. You can see the blue sardine fishing nets drying in the fishing port which is home to the third largest fish market in France.
Ville Close, Concarneau's old town
The atmospheric narrow lanes of the Ville Close bustle with people enjoying locally made ice creams and other treats. The streets are lined with restaurants and bistros specialising in fresh locally caught seafood - unsurprisingly enough!
Pop into the Fishing Museum
for a fascinating insight into this important industry which is still the lifeblood of Concarneau.
If you want more fishy stuff you can take a tour of Maison Courtin
, one of the last functioning sardine canneries, or, visit the Marinarium
, the world's oldest institute of marine biology which was founded in 1859.
Quimper, capital of Finistere, Brittany
The colourful half timbered columbage buildings lining the cobbled streets of the old town justify a visit to Quimper
, but the impressive cathedral and Musée des Beaux Arts
make it unmissable.
The museum has a beautiful 19th century façade and houses a collection of 14th to 21st century paintings, many by local Breton artists. You will also find pieces by Rubens, Boucher and Corot on display.
Quimper at the confluence of the Odet and Steir
Quimper, which lies at the confluence of the Odet and Steir rivers, is the captial of Finistere.
The city is famous for its ceramics, known as Faïence
. This pretty distinctive hand painted pottery features brightly coloured scenes of locals in traditional Breton costume. Faïence has been produced here since 1709 and if you visit the Boutique musée de la faïence
you will find some fine examples of this unique pottery on display.
In the center of town is the market hall which is great for picking up a few local treats. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday. After all this sightseeing you will be ready for a little refreshment. Fortunately Quimper abounds with lots of yummy Salon de Thés as well as a wide variety of cafes and restaurants. Don't miss out on the multi-coloured macarons
which are another Quimperoise speciality.
If you would like to learn more about the places mentioned above then please visit our Cities and Towns
page for more information.
Andy walking at Loctudy, south Finistère
One of the reasons that we try to visit Ty Hir as often as possible is to enjoy the many lovely local walks.
The French are fanatical about walking
and hiking or randonnée as they call it. You will find miles of well marked trails all over the country.
Finistère is blessed with over 5000 km
of marked paths just waiting to be discovered.
Here are a few of our favourite walks that we would like to share with you.
Circuit des passerelles passes over the Ellez river
1. Circuit des passerelles, Collorec
We are very lucky to have a wonderful walk right on the doorstep of Ty Hir
Le circuit des passerelles or the footpath of wooden bridges, is a 7.5 km circular route which wends its way through beautiful rolling countryside. This marked trail can be accessed from the lane which passes in front of our holiday cottages. It crosses and recrosses the amber coloured river Ellez which is only a five minute stroll down the hill from Ty Hir.
We first did this walk with some of our friends on a sunny September afternoon, translating it from French as we went. To make things easier for our guests from the UK we have translated it into English and there are laminated copies in each gite or, you can download it here
A local joins us on the Circuit des passerelles walk near Collorec
One of the furry friendly locals decided to join us on the circuit. Two of our party had to escort her back home when she wouldn't return of her own accord. The best bit of the walk is, of course, when you return home to Ty Hir to enjoy a celebratory glass of wine (or two!) on the terrace.
Circuit des Roc’hs, Monts d’Arrée
2. Circuit des Roc'hs, Monts d'Arrée
A short drive from Ty Hir you will find the scenic Le circuit des Roc’hs
. This 14 km hike starts at Plounéour-Ménez and crosses the spine of the Monts d’Arrée, at the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique
The "Monts", or mountains, may make this sound a little daunting but in fact the highest point reaches 385 m so this is not exactly the Alps, though the far reaching views are just as spectacular, providing a panorama of 360 degrees.
Taking a break on the Circuit des Roc'hs in the Monts d'Arrée, Finistere
In the course of the walk you will encounter many impressive granite outcrops, each an excuse to stop and catch your breath while you admire the heather clad moors stretching down to the St Michel Reservoir, or the views north towards Morlaix and Roscoff on the coast.
Pointe du Raz Coastal Path on the the Baie des Trépassés
3. Pointe du Raz Coastal PathIf you fancy a coastal route with breathtaking views you'd be hard pushed to surpass the 7.3 km circular walk from Pointe du Raz via the Baie des Trépassés. Pointe du Raz
is France's Land's End, as far west as you can go on the mainland.
By the parking area (fees payable peak season) for the Pointe, you will find cafes and souvenir shops. There is also a local heritage center where you can obtain a mini-guide for
Le Sentier des Lutins or the Elves trail. The trail is especially designed for children and the guide provides information on local flora and fauna
Point du Raz, Finistere, Brittany
From the car park head towards the semaphore tower. Once you have passed the tower the view across the Raz de Sein, a treacherous stretch of water guarded by two light houses, opens up towards the very flat Île de Sein.
After you have had your fill of the amazing view (or the wind!) go left to follow the costal path towards the beautiful Baie des Trépassés or Bay of the Dead. Don't worry, if you don't want to do the whole circular walk, there is a short cut back to the car park!
River Aulne footpath near Landeleau
4. 'Kastell Gall' Walk on the River Aulne, Landeleau
Less than a 15 minute drive from the cottages you will find the small town of Landeleau which marks the start of the 18 km Castle Gall
This is another walk that we have translated from French, so we felt it was only fair that we try it ourselves. Fair to say that we took a couple of wrong turnings but never strayed too far from the route - thank goodness! I blame the French instructions meself...
River Aulne near Landeleau, Finistere
you quickly descend to a wooded riverside path that follows the slow flowing river Aulne. Aulne in Breton means "alder". We had the trail all to ourselves for duration of the whole walk - talk about relaxing! I wrote about our 'Ramble by the River Aulne' in an earlier blog post which you can read here
Autumnal walk in the Forest of Huelgoat
5. Huelgoat Forest
Nearby mystical Forêt d'Huelgoat is one of our favourite destinations. We try to visit it each time we are in Brittany, either for a quick peek at the boulder strewn 'Le Chaos de Rochers', which you can easily reach from the center of Huelgoat, or for a longer walk like the lovely leaf scattered hike we did in Autumn.
You can find out more about Huelgoat on our dedicated webpage here
There are plenty of marked circular paths in the forest, long and short, including one that goes out to the old silver mine
where you can still see some of the workings. Click on the link to download this walk in English.
Le ménage de la Vierge or The Virgin’s Household, Huelgoat Forest
Many legends are associated with the Forest, including stories about King Arthur, Princess Dahut and the devil! I wrote about some of these in a blog post last May which you can read here
. The Virgin Mary does her washing up here allegedly...
You can pick up a leaflet which details all of the walking trails in the Forest of Huelgoat from the friendly folk at the Tourist Information
office in the main square in Huelgoat (closed at lunchtimes).
I hope that this post has given you some inspiration. If you wish to find out more about walking and hiking in Finistère please see our Walking, Hiking, Mountain Biking & Cycling
webpage. Bonne randonnée!
Our Lady of the Shipwrecked memorial, Pointe du Raz, End of the World
Fascinating Finistère lies at the far western end of Brittany in France.
The Breton name for Finistère is Penn ar Bedd
which translates as End of the World
- a very appropriate description!
There are lots of activities
for visitors to enjoy during a stay in Finistère. Here is my personal top ten of things to see and do when you visit this fantastic region. If you have any other ideas that you would like to add, just leave me a comment. I am always keen to discover new places!
The River Argent & the Chaos of Huelgoat
1. Visit Mystical Huelgoat
Cradle of many Celtic legends, the forest of Huelgoat
is best known for its "chaos" of huge moss covered granite boulders that have inspired many local folk tales.
Located in the Parc naturel régional d'Armorique on the edge of the picturesque lakeside town of Huelgoat
, la forêt du Huelgoat (meaning "high wood" in Breton) abounds with mystery. The sparkling rivière d'Argent or silver river dashes its way between green clad trees and rocks.
King Arthur is reputed to have camped here, the devil awaits those who like to imbibe at little too much and the Virgin does her washing up here apparently...
Mougau-Bihan Alley Grave, Commana, Finistere
2. Discover Magical Megaliths
Brittany has one of the highest concentrations of megalithic sites
in the world. It is famous for its standing stones, mostly dating from 4,500 to 2,000 BC.
The sites include burial chambers, menhirs (standing stones), alley tombs and dolmens.
There are two megaliths in fields close to Ty Hir, Le menhir à Kervic
near Plouyé and Dolmen de Saint Thelo just off the D17 on the way to Landeleau.
Sizun Parish Close, Finistere
3. Check out a Breton Parish Close
Parish closes (enclos paroissiaux) are characteristic of rural religious architecture in Brittany.
A parish close, usually enclosed by a wall, generally includes a church, a calvary, an ossuary, a cemetery and a triumphal gate.
When visiting some enclosures I have found that you sometimes need to step over a small barrier to enter the close. These puzzled me and I recently found out that these were designed to keep wandering animals out of the churchyard!
There are three Circuit des Enclos Paroissiaux
driving tours which you can download. The routes are signed posted by the local tourist board and are easy to follow.
Andy enjoyed a crepe and some cider in Brittany
4. Eat Crêpes and drink Cider!
If you had to name a single symbol of Breton
cuisine, it would undoubtedly be crêpes! A stay in Brittany is not complete without indulging in this local speciality - whether sweet or savoury, or both!
Crêpes are made from wheat flour (crêpes de Froment) or buckwheat flour (galettes). They are traditionally accompanied by cider in a small ceramic bowl.
My favourite topping is le caramel au beurre salé
or salted caramel sauce, though lemon and sugar also goes down quite well. I did once bravely try Andouille
which is a smoked sausage made using pork intestine; suffice to say it is an acquired taste which I shall not be acquiring!
5. Take part in a festive Fest Noz
Though we are yet to be lucky enough to attend one of these traditional Breton celebrations (we never seem to time it right!) they sound like great fun.
A Fest Noz
usually takes place on the evening of a Pardon
. A Pardon marks the feast of a patron saint
of a church or chapel
, during which indulgences are granted, thus the name.
A Fest Noz involves plenty of food and drink, and above all music and dancing with lots of foot stamping. All kinds of Breton and other Celtic music are played featuring the Celtic harp and Breton bagpipes.
Jardin exotique & botanique à Roscoff
6. Visit some Tropical Gardens
The coast of Finistère is bathed by warm waters the Gulf Stream. This means that an unexpected variety of plants survive here.Jardin exotique & botanique à Roscoff
, overlooking the Bay of Morlaix on the north coast of Brittany, makes a great day out. This lovely garden
has one of the largest collections of southern plants and cactus grown outdoors in Brittany with plants from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and South America.
A short boat trip from Roscoff takes you to Ile-de-Batz where you will find the Georges Delaselle Garden another exotic garden.
Plants from America, Australia and Africa grow side by side in this island oasis.
Photo of Onion Johnnies from Brit France website
7. Discover the Onion Johnnies of RoscoffLa Maison des Johnnies et de l'oignon de Roscoff
traces the story of the Breton farmers who used to sail to England from Roscoff to sell their pink onions. The onions have an AOC (Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée) label.From the middle of the 19th century the onion sellers used to set off in the summer to sell their onions door-to-door. They were a familiar sight in southern England wearing berets with strings of onions dangling from their handlebars until the early 20th century.
Their story is told via photographs and films at this unique museum. You also have a chance to taste onion based products or, you can take a little train to visit to an onion grower.
The Nantes-Brest Canal at Châteauneuf-du-Faou
8. Walk or ride the Nantes-Brest Canal Towpath
Napoleon decided to create a safe inland passage from Nantes to Brest after Brest was blockaded by the English in 1803 to 1805.
Upon completion in 1842 the Canal de Nantes à Brest
reached a length of 360 km in length. This included the canalisation of eight rivers and the creation of 236 locks. There is 100 km of towpath in the department of Finistère.
One of our favourite sections of the canal can be found in nearby Châteauneuf-du-Faou
. You can enjoy a flat stroll along the towpath through the pretty wooded river valley and then indulge in a tasty a pizza at Le Chaland on the banks of the canalised river Aulne.
Landévennec Abbey, Finistere
9. Haunt a ruined Abbey
There are a number of atmospheric abbey
ruins in Finistere well worth a visit including Landévennec Abbaye
. It was founded by one of Brittany's greatest saints, St Guénolé in the 5th century.
The ruins are located on the banks of the river Aulne where it enters the Bay of Brest.
Another ruined monastery is the Abbaye de Saint Mathieu
which sits on a headland overlooking the Iroise Sea. It is made all the more attractive by the presence of a lighthouse and a signal station. It is a very popular photographic subject.
Pentrez beach, Finistere, Brittany
10. Swim in a Sandy Beach
Finistère has 300 miles (500 km) of coastline and there are plenty of wide sandy beaches
within easy reach of Ty Hir.
The three coasts of Finistère are approximately a 45 to 60 minute drive from the gîtes
. The local roads are quiet so a day trip to the beach is an easy prospect.
Our closest sandy beach is Pentrez-Plage
on the Crozon Peninsular. It is around a 45 minute drive from Ty Hir. There is plenty of parking and cafes and restaurants on the beachfront.
Carantec, northern Brittany
Last week we spent some time getting Ty Hir ready for the new season.
The weather was quite mild for March, so we took a little trip to the north coast of Brittany in order to take in enjoy a little sea air.Carantec
is a popular seaside resort during summer with cafes and restaurants lining the beach.
Despite the cool weather we were surprised to see quite a few people on the scenic coastal path. We even saw some brave souls sea kayaking - rather them than me!
One of the first jobs that we had to tackle during our stay was to reduce the 30 foot hedge at the front of the property to around 5 foot. We couldn't wait to reveal the hidden view across the valley. Fortunately we had lovely sunny days for the work.
By the end of the second back breaking day, Andy and John had completed the job and we now have a brand new view! I even let Andy sit at our new garden table to enjoy the vista for a few minutes as a reward. Can't wait to see what it looks like in summer!
Our shiny new internet satellite dish at Ty Hir
Another major milestone that we achieved during our trip was to get connected to the internet. We can now offer complimentary WiFi to our guests and I can work from our second home if the need arises.
I was impressed to find that I could connect easily to the internet from the terrace at the front of the gites so I was able to enjoy the sunshine whilst surfing - perfect!
Chateau de Brest on the river Penfeld
Despite having owned Ty Hir for over 18 months, we haven't really visited the port city of Brest other than to shop in the behemoth that is IKEA which lies in a retail park on the city outskirts. The city lies on the impressive Rade de Brest
and is only an hour's drive away.
Brest was heavily bombed by the Allies during WW2. As a result there is little of touristic interest remaining other than the Château de Brest which is part of the still active naval base where you will find an interesting maritime museum. Also worth a look is the Tour Tanguy which is a 14th century tower. It houses a museum with an exhibition on old Brest before it was bombed. We found a couple of hours was sufficient to see the chateau and tower, though you will need longer if you wish to visit the museums.
New en suite double bedroom, Grand Longere
Another major development at Ty Hir is the new bedroom on the ground floor of the Grand Longere
which was created over the winter.
The conversion from a loft bedroom was completed just in time for our arrival. There is a new black metal bed with matching bedside tables and lamps and a comfy memory foam mattress.
I enjoyed dressing the room with new bed linen and curtains. My only frustration was having to strip it all away before we left, it looked so nice I wanted to use it! I envy the first guest who gets to stay in it.
We also put in a new double shower in the bathroom that has become the en suite to the new bedroom - a much better arrangement we think!
Circuit des Roc'hs, Monts d'Arrée, Finistere
Whilst the sun was shining we managed a quick walk on the Circuit des Roc'hs
trail in the nearby Monts d'Arrée
Spectacular vistas abound in every direction as the paths passes over the highest point in Finistere. Views reach as far as Roscoff on the northern coast on one side. Glinting in the distance, the St Michel Reservoir lies at the foot of the heather clad hills.
Menhir de Men-Marz, Brignogan, Finistere
It wouldn't be a trip to Brittany without a visit to a megalithic site for us now would it?
We discovered the Menhir de Men-Marz in Brignogan on the north coast of Finistere. At 8.5 metres high it is the fourth tallest menhir in Brittany. It has been Christianised with the addition of a cross at the top and another one carved into the side of the stone.
It is known as the Miracle Stone. Local legend tells that St Pol de Leon commanded the sea to stop encroaching on the land here.
I shall close now with one more picture of our "new" and improved hedge...roll on Spring!
The view now goes both ways at Ty Hir
Les Plages Amiets, Cleder, Finistere
During the last two years we have been lucky to be able to visit many of the beautiful beaches
of Brittany. It is easy for us to reach all three coasts of Finistère from our central location via the quiet local roads.
We accidentally discovered the white sandy beach of Les Plages Amiets on a day trip to Roscoff
last June. This peaceful oasis is about a 15 minute drive west from the old pirating port. Odd shaped boulders honed by the wind strew the turquoise coast.
Brignogan Plage, Finistere
is another expansive northern beach. It can be found on the romantically named Côte des Légendes.
We enjoyed our traditional baguette picnic on the seafront, being wished "bon appétit" by the few passers by we encountered. I love it when that happens, food is so important to the French, it is just natural to them to comment on the fact that you are eating!
Plage des Sables Blancs, Douarnenez, Finistere
Winter doesn't deter us from picnicking on the beach. During our property hunt in January 2011 we enjoyed a sunny winter's day near Douarnenez
on the west coast of Finistere. Douarnenez was once famous for its thriving sardine fishing and canning industries.
A lovely local lady came to speak to us after her dog tried to join us for lunch. We had a very entertaining discussion on politics, religion and the local area, conducted in broken French and English - it was a good test for us!
Plage Pentrez, Finistere
Our closest sandy beach is Plage Pentrez
near Saint-Nic at the start of the Crozon Peninsular. It is around a 45 minute drive from Ty Hir. This wide long beach shelves gently so is great for paddling in the waves or for taking a refreshing stroll.
Anse du Loch, Cap Sizun, Finistere
Anse du Loch (anse means cove) lies on the southern side of the Cap Sizun peninsular near Plogoff. The pebble strewn beach is overlooked by honey coloured cliffs. It is a great place for rockpooling.
The road to Pointe du Raz runs alongside the cove and you can park by a path that takes you straight onto the golden sands.
A bar and crêperie is perfectly placed to take in the fantastic view whilst enjoying some local cidre and galettes
Plage de Kerloc'h, presqu'île de Crozon, Finistere
Another beautiful beach overlooked by impressive cliffs is the Plage de Kerloc'h
on the Crozon Peninsular. This photo was taken in the middle of winter and we had this magical place all to ourselves.
We stumbled upon a flock of sanderlings sheltering on the shore amongst small rounded rocks. They blended in so well it took us a while to realise they were there!
Morgat Plage, Crozon Peninsular, Finistere
The picturesque resort of Morgat is situated on Douarnenez Bay on the Crozon peninsula in western Brittany.
It is an ancient fishing village which gradually became a seaside resort, from the late nineteenth century, under the impetus of Armand Peugeot, of the motor company. The impressive mansions built by wealthy Parisian families can still be seen overlooking the bay.
Baie des Trépassés, Finistere
Le Baie des Trépassés or the Bay of the Dead lies between Pointe du Raz and Pointe du Van at the end of the Cap Sizun peninsular. It is very popular with local surfers who enjoy riding the big Atlantic rollers that crash dramatically onto the beach. A stream links the beach with Etang de Laoual, a reed bed encircled lake that is a great place for birdwatching.
I hope this has given you some idea of the many beautiful beaches that you can visit during a stay at our cottages in Brittany. We are looking forward to discovering more of the scenic coast of fascinating Finistere during our upcoming trip next week. À bientôt!
New ground floor bedroom in the Grand Longere - WIP!
Well, excitingly for us, it's only a few weeks until our first holiday in Brittany for 2013. We are both looking forward to seeing the new bedroom that has been created on the ground floor of the Grand Longère
gite over the last few months.
We have a lovely new black metal frame bed with matching bedside tables to go in the new bedroom - can't wait to get it all set up! Watch out for the photos.
There is also a brand new double shower in the bathroom directly off the new bedroom - it's all change at Ty Hir!
Andy with our free bikes on the Circuit de Passerelles
I've already been thinking about places to visit whilst in Brittany. As well as catching up on gardening and getting the gites ready for the season, we hope to get to see a few new sites and do a couple of walks. A good way to do this will be to do a little Geocaching
is a free outdoors treasure hunt. Participants of all ages try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates.
There are well over 2,000 geocaches in Finistère and nearly 5,000 in Brittany so a holiday at Ty Hir is the perfect opportunity to get involved in this fun and healthy activity!
We are planning to stash a couple of caches on the route of the circular "Circuit des Passerelles" trail which passes by our front door for our guests to find. They can ride the trail using our free bikes
or walk the 7.5 kilometres.
Dolmen de Saint Thelo near Landeleau
On the agenda is definitely another megalith
hunt, which you will know, if you've been following this blog, is a slight obsession of ours. In case you find them equally fascinating I thought that I would share with you some more megalithic sites.Our closest megalith is the Dolmen de Saint Thelo. It lies in a field just off the D17 on the way to Landeleau, about a 5 minute drive from the gites. We went looking for it one September but couldn't find it as it was in the middle of a field of maize. Andy was able to get this picture when he returned in November after the maize had been cut. The dolmen is made up of three large slabs of granite.
Le menhir à Kervic, near Plouyé.
Megalithic construction began earlier in Brittany than in the UK, between 5000 BC to 2000 BC, starting in the Early Neolithic with long passage graves and single standing stones.
Our closest standing stone is Le menhir à Kervic which can be found near Plouyé. It is 3.6 m high and sits on its own in a field. It lies between the D764 and D14. Again, it is likely to be surrounded by a crop during summer so it is best viewed from late autumn until spring.
Allée couverte de Castel-Ruffel, St-Goazec, Finistere
L'Allée couverte de Castel-Ruffel near St-Goazec sits atop of a hill in the Montagnes Noires. It is an interesting example of what would have been a covered burial chamber. This alley grave was formed by leaning large stones against each other, a bit like a card house. Arrowheads and spears have been found at the site.
Legend has it that the giant Ruffel once lived in a castle on this site. His daughter fled with a servant who had seduced her. The giant threw the stones from his home at the fleeing couple but they managed to escape. These stones are now thought to be some of the many menhirs that can be found in the surrounding area.
Guinivrit allée couverte, Anse de Kernic, near Plouescat
The alley grave of Guinivrit allée couverte, Anse de Kernic, near Plouescat is submerged twice a day by the tide. The sea level has risen by around 7 meters since it was originally placed here.
The grave would have been covered by capstones but these have long since disappeared. An excavation was carried out on the site in 1986 and flint blades, polished axes and arrowheads were found. Check the local tides before a visit to make sure you get to see it!
Just in case you haven't had enough megaliths, here's a shot that I took at Carnac
in neighbouring Morbihan - just a few of the 3,000 odd standing stones to be found on this amazing site!
Mushrooms at Ty Hir
In October we returned to Ty Hir to enjoy the late Indian Summer. The garden was carpeted with mushrooms and we referred to our Collins Fungi Guide in order to try to establish if they were edible.
We decided that they must be woodland mushrooms which are safe to eat. As there are many similar fungi are listed as deadly, we thought that we would stay on the safe side and just photograph them instead!
Some pharmacists in France are trained to identify certain fungi and, if in doubt, they will inspect your mushrooms and advise whether they are dangerous or edible - maybe we will do this next year!
Our neighbours with Ty Hir in the background
As the weather was so lovely we decided to go for a quick stroll on the local lanes. The birds were singing, the bees were buzzing and the butterflies were feeding on the ivy flowers - bliss!
We stopped to say hello to our neighbour's cows but they were too busy enjoying the lush green grass to exchange pleasantries. Can't blame them I guess...
Kerampeulven Menhir near Huelgoat
We were able to combine two of our favourite things on this trip, walking and menhir hunting, in one expedition.
The Kerampeulven Menhir, which is over 6 metres high, lies on a circular walk that links Berrien and Huelgoat. The stone has always drawn many visitors.
In past times, women who could not have children would come to rub their stomachs against the standing stone and hope this would improve their chances of conceiving!
The trail passed through the magical boulder strewn Huelgoat Forest where we were delighted to discover a plethora of fairy tale red toadstools dotted amongst the pine trees. These were enhanced by the colourful autumn leaves that littered the forest floor.
Viaduc de Guily-Glas overlooking the Aulne, Port Launay, Finistere
Another place that is great for a picturesque walk is the river Aulne at Port Launay. Just beyond the pastel coloured town you will find the lock which marks the start of the Nantes-Brest Canal
This majestically flowing salmon river
is overlooked by an arched viaduct. It was constructed in the 19th century to carry trains to Brest at the far north-western end of Brittany.
Breton lady in traditional dress (ZEPPELIN/SIPA)
Towards the end of our trip we decided to venture further south to the Pays Bigouden
. There is a strong sense of Breton tradition in this area, known as Cornouaille.
You can still see ladies in the market town of Pont-l'Abbé
wearing the distinctive Breton costumes including the lace headwear called coiffe brettone
Loctudy fishing harbour, Finistere
Our first stop was at the busy fishing port of Loctudy
. Here we enjoyed our traditional baguette picnic whilst watching the azure blue streak of a passing kingfisher and the snowy white of egrets fishing off the granite water break.
Next we moved on to another fishing harbour, Kerity, which is flanked by long sandy beaches. Piles of colourful shells dotted the deserted seashore like piles of precious jewels.
On the other side of the dunes lay marshes where we discovered coffin shaped seaweed ovens. These were used by the locals in days gone by to create fertilizer from seaweed which was an important source of income to the area.
Anse du Loch, Finistere, Brittany
In November we made a flying visit to Brittany, spending only two nights at Ty Hir
. We did manage to squeeze in a visit to Pointe du Raz which is most westerly mainland point in France.
As we made our way along the Sizun Peninsular towards the Point, we stopped at the pretty cove of Anse du Loch as the sun broke through the clouds - perfect timing!
Pointe du Raz, Finistere, Brittany
Pointe du Raz
is the most visited tourist site in Brittany. During summer you have to pay to park by the Visitors Centre which is located 800m from the point itself but out of season parking is free.We walked along the winding northern coastal path from the Pointe du Raz to the Baie des Trépassés, 2.5kms away. The scenery in this part of the world is truly is stunning and the entire Sizun Peninsular is a must visit when you are in
Well that concludes the summary of our adventures in Brittany in 2012. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about them and I look forward to sharing more of our adventures in fascinating
Finistère in 2013.
Baie des Trépassés, Finsitere, Brittany
River Ellez in summer, a 5 minute walk from Ty Hir
Already on to part three of our 2012 exploits in beautiful Brittany and not even halfway through! I will try to keep it brief from now on - promise!
In July I made a short trip to Ty Hir on my own to catch up on some gardening. It turned to be so hot that I had to restrict my weeding to the early hours and late afternoon. A good problem to have! The great thing was that it gave me an excuse to go for a refreshing splash around in the crystal clear river Ellez which lies at 5 minute walk away at the end of our lane.
The best news was that all the shrubs that we planted in March were still alive and the grass was actually starting to look a lawn!
Remains of the Roman aqueduct near Carhaix
When we returned to Brittany in September we finally managed to hunt down the remains of the Roman aqueduct. This carried water to our local town of Carhaix-Plouguer. Carhaix was known to the Romans as Vorgium.
There is a well signposted trail tracing the path of the aqueduct, near Le Moustoir, which includes some information in English. This peaceful wooded path allows you to see some of the exposed remains of the canal.
Further west towards Carhaix there is a 900m stretch of tunnel which still carries water. There is a wooden table with seating which makes a lovely place for a picnic at the site.
If you want to know more about Romans in Brittany there is an article
on the Central Brittany Journal website that is very interesting.
Chapelle St-Michel, Mont St Michel de Brasparts
Friends of ours joined us at the gites and, as well as enjoying lots of good food and wine with them, we were able to show them some of the local area.
On a moody day we took them to the top of Montagne Saint-Michel in the nearby Monts d'Arrée
. On a clear day we have heard that you can see the ferry when it is in the port of Roscoff - over 50kms away!
We visited the small isolated chapel that sits on the top of the hill, overlooking the heather clad moors and the reservoir of St Michel which lies at the foot of the mont.
Ty ar Boudiged or House of the Fairies, Brennilis, Brittany
Near Brennilis, which lies near the St Michel reservoir, we discovered the delightfully named 'House of the Fairies'.
It is actually a megalithic
covered alley grave and is quite unusual in that it is still partially covered by earth. Most of the alley tombs that we have seen have been completely exposed.
This one was nearly high enough to stand up in and is actually on the edge of town. Unlike some megaliths it was very easy to find. Normally we find ourselves tramping through woods and fields with a vague idea of where the monument should be before eventually stumbling upon it!
Roche-aux-Fées near Essé in Il-et-Vilaine
Before we returned to the UK we visited the biggest alley grave in Brittany, the Roche-aux-Fées
near Essé in Il-et-Vilaine. It is regarded as the best preserved dolmen in Europe and well worth a visit!
As you can see from the photo it is huge, dwarfing Andy. It is 20 metres long by almost 5 metres wide and 2 metres high. It was a lovely summer's day and we had the monument nearly all to ourselves, there were about four other people there during our visit. You can get up close and personal, a bit of a contrast to Stonehenge. I'm always amazed at how little attention these megalithic sites in France receive but also grateful at the same time!
The rolling countryside of Finistere surrounding Ty Hir
Our third trip to Ty Hir was in June. We arrived on a sunny day which was a welcome relief after a very wet spring in the UK.
We were keen to see how the garden was recovering from the pounding it had taken during our working trip in March.
As you can imagine, we were relieved and pleased to see that the grass was starting to grow and all of our hastily planted laurels had survived.
We went for a quick stroll down to the river Ellez, admiring the beautiful foxgloves that lined our route. Nothing lifts your spirit so much as blue skies and green vistas - we really are lucky having such a rural and peaceful place to escape to.
Andy painting our new shed at Ty Hir
Our main task this trip, other than exploring more of the area, was to paint our new shed and fence.
Fortunately our second day dawned bright and dry - perfect for a spot of painting. It was quite therapeutic methodically applying wood stain in the warm sunshine whilst mastering the art of avoiding drips - the trick was not to overload the brush!
By early afternoon, supplemented by lots of cups of coffee and bottles water, we had moved on to the fence which was quickly completed - job done - now time for the holiday!
The lush riverside trail that runs along the Aulne from Landeleau
Walking is one our favourite pastimes. It is one of the reasons we chose Ty Hir which is located in scenic hiking country. We have acquired a number of walking guide books on Brittany and the local area, both in French and English, some of which you can find in the gites.
I translated one of the walks that traces the river Aulne from Landeleau, about a 15 minute drive from Ty Hir, from French. We needed to try out the walk for ourselves to make sure that I hadn't made any mistakes - we didn't want any of our guests who might use the copies of the walk that we provide ending up going for a swim!
We had the lush green riverside trail to ourselves and enjoyed only the sound of running water and birdsong. Stopping at Le Stang
campsite, where there is a secluded swimming area, we had a peaceful coffee break. During summer it is very popular and a temporary bridge is put in place. There is also a flying fox that traverses the river.
At Moulin Neuf we discovered an ancient statue of St Roch. He was a medical student who devoted himself to caring for victims of the plague. He was himself stricken down in the desert by the plague, and was miraculously fed every day by a dog bringing him a loaf of bread. He is the patron saint of Dogs, Plague, Pestilence and AIDS.
Jardin Exotique & Botanique a Roscoff
On another sunny day we headed north to the charming port of Roscoff. It is a Petites Cités de Caractère
which means a small town of character. Roscoff
lies on a peninsula in Morlaix bay. It is a town of granite with a privateer past and a historic 16th-century heart.
Roscoff is famous for it's “Onion Johnnies”. Onion Johnny is the nickname given to the French farmers and agricultural labourers who used tosell distinctive pink onions door-to-door in the UK. They have their own museum, La Maison des Johnnies.
On the outskirts of the town lies the Jardin exotique & botanique à Roscoff
. The garden contains one of the largest collections of Southern Hemisphere plants in France and a large range of cacti. There is an incredible botanical range of plants originally from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia including different collections of Protea, Eucalyptus and Kniphofia.
Les arbes du monde au Huelgoat
we visited was Les arbes du monde au Huelgoat
which is in our local town. This garden, previously known as
Arboretum du Poërop, is dedicated to plant biodiversity with 3,600 species of trees and shrubs from 4 continents spread over 22 hectares. You can travel across the Himalayan valley, the garden of medicinal plants in this region, the Chilean flora, eucalyptus and shrubs of the Australian bush, magnolias, rhododendrons, oaks, maples, pines, roses and bamboo.
Landévennec Abbaye, Brittany
Towards the end of the trip we travelled a bit further afield, driving to the start of the Crozon Peninsular where we visited the ruins of Landévennec Abbaye.
The abbey was founded by one of Brittany's greatest saints, St Guénolé. It is located on the Aulne where it enters the Bay of Brest. Now only ruins remain of the abbey which was founded in the 5th century.
It has been attacked and destroyed many times, first by Vikings and finally ruined as a result of the French Revolution. There is an interesting museum which displays artefacts that have been found on the site.
Lostmarc'h alignement menhir, Crozon Peninsular
After lunch we headed to the other side of the peninsular to Pointe de Lostmarc'h which overlooks Douarnenez Bay.
Our destination was the megalithic Lostmarc'h alignments which sit overlooking the headland.
There are not many of the original standing stones left but there is one rather large one on its own which lent itself to a very picturesque photo.
On the headland itself you can see the traces of an Iron Age fort. We could see surfers dotted in the sea in the background.
Well that's enough about our June trip. We were lucky to be able to do so much exploring this time, though we did do some gardening at the gites, but it has to be said, that is pure pleasure except for the occasional sting from a nettle or scratch from a bramble.
Ty Hir in June
...and, finally, as it is the 31st December 2012, we would like to wish you all a very happy New Year and a healthy and prosperous 2013 full of joy.
We hope to tempt you to visit breathtaking Brittany one day!