Welcome to beautiful Brittany. The Celtic province in the north of France boasts a wild coastline, dramatic forested interior and unique culture all of its own, and the area the French call Bretagne and the locals know as Breizh is perfect for adventure – surfing, hiking, and kayaking are all on the menu (not to mention refuelling afterwards with local favourites crepes and cider). From special places to stay to the best pancakes you’ll ever eat, Brittany has plenty of surprises up its sleeve.
Five outdoorsy adventures in Brittany
HIKE THE GR34
Brittany’s white sand beaches, 800 islands and busy fishing ports are all linked by a 1,056-mile-long walking trail, the GR34. It may not have a very wanderlust-inspiring name (GR stands for Grand Randonee, or long-distance trekking), but the route is also known as the Sentier des Douaniers, or Customs Trail, so named because French officials would tramp along its length in search of smugglers. It follows Brittany’s Emerald Coast from top to tail, beginning in style at the fairy-tale tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel and passing sand dunes, secret coves and windswept Finistère (literally, the end of the land) before finally ending a thousand miles later at Pont Saint-Nazaire.
ISLAND HOP TO ILE DE GROIX
Brittany is home to hundreds of islands as well as its famously rugged coastline, and perhaps the most adventurous is Ile de Groix, which you can reach by kayak from the mainland. Brittany’s second-largest island was once a hub for tuna fishing, and although it still has an active fishing fleet, most people now flock here for the peace of its sleepy coastal villages or to hike the dramatic sweep of its coastline. There’s a local proverb – “Whoever sees Groix sees joy” – you’ll definitely understand it if you visit Grands Sables beach, the jewel in Groix’s crown. You’d be forgiven for thinking this slice of pure white sand lapped by clear waters was in the Caribbean, not Northern France. This is the only beach in Europe that is convex, carved into the shape of a waning crescent moon by ocean currents.
CAMP OUT IN NATURE
Brittany is a haven for lovers of camping who want to sleep under the stars, but if you want to stay somewhere that’s a little more luxurious than your average campsite, plan your camping Brittany adventure at one of Yelloh Village’s beautiful properties across the region. Experts in luxury campsites, Yelloh Village run a collection of gorgeous sites across Brittany. Some include pools, such as Camping L’Ocean Breton on the shores of southern Finistere, while others offer beach camping a stone’s throw from the ocean. A camping holiday with Yelloh Village is a little bit special – expect landscaped gardens, aqua parks, outdoor sports, yoga, and even foraging walks and bee keeping experiences. You can also choose smart chalets and other accommodation on-site if tents aren’t your thing. Camping is a lovely way to catch another phenomenon Brittany is famous for – astonishingly lovely sunsets in ice-cream hues of orange and pink.
WANDER AROUND LA GACILLY
A picturesque stone village in the heart of the Morbihan department of Brittany and loved by makers – painters, engravers, glassmakers, weavers, wood turners, sculptors and potters all flock to La Gacilly. All summer, La Gacilly’s walls turn into photo galleries dedicated to street art. Between June and September, France’s biggest outdoor festival of photography present the work of international photographers in the open air. The streets are bright with colour, and the air smells sweet from the perfumeries and botanical gardens the village is also famous for.
TRY TRADITIONAL BRETON FARE
Do as the Bretons do and fill up on a classic of local cuisine – the crêpe. Pancakes are part of Brittany’s identity. But woe betide anyone who confuses a crêpe with a galette. In Lower Brittany crêpes are made with either wheat flour or buckwheat (sometimes still called sarrasin), but in Upper Brittany the buckwheat pancake is savoury and called a galette. There are myriad different toppings, but my favourite is potatoes, cream and cured ham. Crepes are traditionally washed down with another Breton staple – cider. There are 600 varieties of apple in the region, and the intoxicatingly sharp local cider is made to ancient recipes.