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!
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...
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
La 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.
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.
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.
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.