Off the beaten track – Brittany
Last month, I visited a part of Brittany that I always wanted to discover. After exploring the northern part of Brittany, I wanted to see the south which I was told was savage and unspoiled. Visiting new places is what I love and Brittany offers the perfect off the beaten track getaway. I had the chance to spend New Year’s in the Golfe du Morbihan which is part of the Club des Plus Belles Baies du Monde (Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club).
I started my exploration in Nantes and you can read all about it here. Technically Nantes is not in Brittany however it was the base of the Breton culture and place of residence of the Dukes of Brittany centuries ago.
After meeting my friend in Nantes, we headed to her family home in Saint Gildas de Rhuys.
Saint Gildas is a little seaside town located in the south of the Rhuys peninsula in the southern edge of the Gulf of Morbihan. Due to its shape, the peninsula serves as a natural shelter against the strong Atlantic Ocean.
My first impression of St Gildas de Rhys was the smell of the sea. We arrived in the evening and took a stroll in the town’s main place. Like most towns in the French countryside, the main place is where you find the restaurants, cafes and religious buildings. Saint Gildas is no different and their 1000 year old roman styled Abbatiale church is worth a visit, especially for its stained glass.
The following morning, I was all smiles when I opened the windows and I was faced with the sea. Imagine living in a house with a sea view; for a city girl like me, it’s a… dream!
After a lovely breakfast, we went for a little discovery walk around the coast. The little town has lots of scenic views and people usually visit for the rawness of its coasts. We walked in the deserted sandy beach, pasted the hidden creeks and were faced with wonderful views of the islands on the other side. As per the locals, the beaches are the best of the peninsula. It was too cold and windy to enjoy the beach so I guess I need to come back in summer to check it out.
Another spot worth visiting while in St Gildas is the Musée des Arts, Metiers et Commerces (museum of arts, trades and business). If you are interested in history, you will enjoy seeing this museum as it shows how businesses and trades were up to the 19th century.
Another town I visited was Arzon which is popular in the summer. This little village has a quiet port which is ideal for a relaxing holiday and has great but cheap seafood. When in Arzon, the ideal place to explore is the Atlantic coast to appreciate the Port Navalo and its fishing boats. You will definitely be charmed with the many coves and beaches. In warmer weather, you will have the choice to either get your beach towel out or enjoy water sports activity (sailing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kite-surfing, sailing, diving etc…)
Out the three towns of the peninsula, Sarzeau is the most visited in the summer. Sarzeau should be in your itinerary if you like history and architecture. If so, the traditional stone houses and Chateau de Suscino (castle of Suscino) should be part of your trip. Built in the 13th century it was the place of residence of the Dukes of Brittany.
On its northern coast, the Rhuys peninsula offers a myriad of activities. You can take a trip out to the sea to discover the islands of the gulf like Belle-Ile. Or see oyster farms while kayaking. As the tides come and go, you can see the numerous oyster beds.
As well as offering tasty seafood, the Rhuys peninsula also offers range of culinary delights such as tomme of Rhuys cheese, cider, cookies or Gochtial bread (a sweet brioche type bread).
Although I enjoyed my trip, January is definitely not the best time to experience the full charm of the region. Golfe du Morbihan is best visited in spring or summer. To help organise your trip please check out Morbihan Tourism’s website (here)
Have you been to Brittany? What was your favorite non-touristy thing? Share them in the comments.