On this trip you’ll get to know a diversified and fascinating French region where the weather changes as quickly as the landscape. As one of France’s most rugged coastlines, Brittany is renowned the world over for its spectacular rock formations and secluded bays, alternating with beautiful sandy beaches, medieval walled towns, castles and historic cathedrals, alongside unique stone houses in quiet, romantic villages. Due to a well-developed infrastructure with countless campgrounds and shopping facilities, short distances between the sights, and so much to discover and explore, Brittany is an exiting, picture-perfect family destination.
|Geography:||France, Brittany||Best travel time:||April – September|
|Starting Point:||Le Mont St. Michel||Ending Point:||Île de Crozon|
|Required Fitness:||★||Adrenalin & Survival:||—|
|Outdoor & Nature:||★★||Fun & Relaxing:||★★★★|
|People & Culture:||★★||Family & Kids:||★★★★★|
When it comes to travel costs and pricing levels, Brittany is typical for a western European country. There are plenty of ATMs available, and credit cards are widely accepted.
Wi-Fi is available in hostels and hotels, almost all campsites, and it’s usually included in the price. If your accommodation doesn’t provide wi-fi, they’ll probably have some pcs you can access for a small fee. Also, local coffee shops and restaurants generally offer wi-fi, so everyone can easily stay connected.
There are three main international airports in Brittany: Brest, Rennes and Nantes. From there you can hire a car at the usual rent-a-car companies located in the major airports.
Coming from the north – follow the E401 from Caen; coming from the east – the E50; and coming from the south – the E3, will be the main routes to take. Naturally, the exact route depends on your starting point, and if you are willing to take toll routes or not.
Of course you can get around Brittany by using different means of travel. However, here is why travelling by car is really the best solution:
- You can load up all the equipment needed for you and your kid(s), including whatever gear is necessary to sleep at campsites.
- You can stop wherever and whenever you wish, and follow the friendly advice and recommendations of the locals.
- There is absolutely no need to take the main roads. By car you are always flexible, and you should definitely take small country side roads and coastal by-ways at every opportunity. This allows you to explore all the beautiful and traditional laid-back villages probably not mentioned in any guidebook, along with meeting lots of interesting people along the way.
Nice to know: In contrast to the rest of France, highways in Brittany are toll free.
There are hundreds of campgrounds on the Bretagne peninsula, so you won’t have any problems in finding one at a moment’s notice. The prices are often displayed at the entrance to the facility, but it is always best to check with the staff. Prices for campsites can be anywhere between 25 and 50 € per night.
The website http://en.camping.info provides a comprehensive list of campgrounds with all facilities, ratings, local attractions, things to do, etc.
Here are some ideas for camping and no camping:
- Le Ranolien (very child-friendly: big shower and changing room, Swimming pool, big playground, Library…)
- West Camping
Le Mont Saint Michel:
- “Vent des grèves” (Chambres d’Hôtes)
- Le Camping Saint Michel (A bit further away, but very recommendable)
- Camping du Mont Saint-michel (directly in the village:)
- La Bidonniere (Campcars)
- Hôtel de La Presqu’île (family-operated, just in front of a small market)
There are plenty of restaurants, crêperies and bistros everywhere.
If you arrive by car, bring the necessary equipment for camp cooking. Once again, you are flexible and you can save a lot of money because a family of three or more will easily spend 10-20 € on a meal. You’ll have no problems finding supermarkets, and you’ll discover that shopping for food can be a whole new experience. It’s always a fantastic time when trying out new products and specialties that you don’t know from your home country.
You should definitely try the typical breton specialty – “Galettes(salted crêpe) in a crêperie. The Bretons seem to usually take one Galette, one sweet Crêpe and a choice of small cakes (Macarons or Madeleines) or ice-cream as a desert. The price for a Galette or crêpe varies between 3,50 € for a really simple one, and 10 € or more for the extravagant versions.
Also try Kouign Amann (Breton Butter Cake), the butter-cookies (also called Galettes) and for the adults: Cidre (cider) and Chouchen, a honey wine of Celtic origin.
And if you’ve never been to France before also try typical French foods like croissants, pains au chocolate, baguettes etc.
What to See
Each coastal landscape and village has its own charm, of course, but you don’t need to travel along the entire peninsula – from Le Mont Saint Michel at the Brittany border to Nantes – especially if you don’t have much time due to limited holidays available to you and your family. With the suggestions we make, you’ll get a good impression of what that beautiful peace this remarkable land has to offer. The following places give you an overview, while the virtual map provides detailed information to special spots, walks etc. If you need more information, take a look at the website of Brittany Tourism.
- Saint-Malo: During that time of the year, there are not many tourists, so take a walk through the narrow streets of this old, medieval walled city, and along the ramparts – a walkway on the castle wall that leads you around the fortress, and offers views over the coastline which is dotted with even more castles on small islands.
- Roscoff: This is another granite-built little port with a touristy, but lovely laid-back city centre.
- Fort La Latte: Situated on the top of a cliff, and equipped with crenellations, a drawbridge and turrets, this fortified castle might be a perfect destination for children. The nearby Cap Fréhel presents a lighthouse and high cliffs, which may be spectacular at sunset. Driving all the way up just for the Cap alone is not necessary, but in combination with the Fort it’s definitely worthwhile.
- Paimpol: It’s worth a stroll along this little harbour and its narrow streets while enjoying the artisanal shops
- Tréguier: This medieval village will be a very attractive destination. Here, you’ll find many colourful wooden frame houses, artisans, typical French shops with delicious products and traditional bakeries. Make sure to walk through the side streets as well
- Cancale: This lovely fishing village is known for its oysters. Walk the side streets and the quarters where the locals live to get a great impression of breton architecture. Even though consisting only of a handful of stalls, visit the oyster market at the end of the road next to the small lighthouse, watch the market women open the oysters with their special knife and gloves, and try these absolutely fresh Oysters for a very good price.
- Carantec: It’s a beautiful village built on a hill, along with several sandy beaches arrayed below. One island will catch your eye since it houses the impressive fort Château du Taureau. A themed tour is available for the whole family to participate in.
- Pointe du Grouin: Here, you can walk some short coastal paths (wear solid shoes for the uneven stony parts) and take in a panoramic view to the east (on a clear day you can see Le Mont Saint Michel) and west, as well as a lighthouse and some rocky islands.
- Pointe de Bihit (near Tréburden): Unfortunately, you cannot walk to the Pointe itself, as half of this peninsula is private property. On the other hand, from the parking lot there is a small trail down which you will be rewarded with a nice view. When you stand in front of the gate, turn right and follow the path either back to the car or to Tréburden along its wide sandy beach.
The peninsula Crozon on Brittany’s southern coast receives a lot of attention in many guidebooks, but is not very special unless you drive to the westernmost points.
- Pointe de Dinan: Offers you amazing views of fantastic rock formations, caves and stone bridges. Even though it’s fun to explore, take special care when it’s windy as it can really let you tumble
- Pointe de Penhir: This is the most famous point on the peninsula, and its spectacular cliffs are a sight to see.
Make sure to drive through the tiny village Dinan on your way from Pointe de Dinan to Pointe de Penhir. It’s laid-back with beautiful stone houses along a winding narrow street. Here you will feel like you have stepped back in time.
If you have even more time to spend, here are some ideas on which places you could spend it on:
- Combourg & Fougères
- Dinard & Dinan
- Camaret sur mer (peninsula Crozon)
- Forêt de Paimpont
POINTS OF INTEREST
Le Mont Saint Michel
Built on a granite outcrop, this famous mediaeval walled city of Le Mont Saint Michel stands all by itself on the flats of an estuary in the Normandy region, at the border to Brittany. Despite being a large tourist attraction, it represents a good start for the trip. Kids can explore the labyrinth of steps and narrow streets between old medieval houses, and parent(s) can take in the view -, especially at sunset.
To avoid crowds and save money, (1) choose a month like April when it’s already warm enough, but before the millions of tourists arrive (2) stay in a campground a few km away, and (3) visit the monument between 7pm and 11am. This way you have the best light, and you’ll pay less (or nothing if your stay is less than 4 hrs) at the parking lot. Either walk the 5-6 km along the causeway, or use the free shuttle operating every 10-30 minutes. The entrance to the monument is free.
If you have time for a walk here is our recommendation: cross the small Le Couesnon dam left of the street near the first bus stop. Take the footpath going off to the left (away from Mont Saint Michel). Follow it for about 50 meters, turn right, follow it for another 50 meters and turn right again. Now you are on a levy leading to the Sainte-Anne chapel, which is perfectly official and open to the public. Follow the levy for about 1 km, and you will be at the closest possible point to Mont St. Michel with a clear foreground.
You definitely should walk a part of the sentier de douaniers, a coastal path between Perros-Guirec (beach Trestraou) and the port of Ploumanac’h. Here you (and especially your kids) will enjoy unusual rock formations with enchantingly soft shapes in a lovely contrastful color. The area is one of the most beautiful stretches of Brittany’s coastline, and is part of the Pink Granite Coast (Côte du granite rose). There is also a picturesque lighthouse (le phare). The whole walk is 8 km long.
Nearby – in Trégastel – another coastal walk on the Renote peninsula (Presqu’île Renote) will guide you to the splendid and granitic landscape of this unique coastline. Don’t miss seeing the huge rock with the hole on the westernmost part of the little peninsula. It’s a great eye-catcher, and an even better photo opportunity 😉
We can also warmly recommend the sentier côtier in Carantec. It will lead you along the charming Bay of Morlaix with its little islands, while presenting a view to the imposing Château du Taureau.
But there are of course many other coastal paths on the Brittany peninsula offering splendid and spectacular views.
Tips and Tricks
- Never tried oysters before? Then take your chance in the Oyster capital Cancale or elsewehere, and buy them fresh with lemon from the market. The price of 5 or 6 € for 12 pieces plus an extra Euro for the opening service is quite reasonable compared to what you pay in French restaurants -, especially if you only would like to try them to find out if you like the taste at all.
- If you are not in a hurry, it is a good idea to take the sideroads parallel to the coast. Here are two suggestions for scenic routes:
- Coming from Le Mont Saint Michel, take the de la Baie from Vivier-sur-Mer to to Cancale: You’ll see beautiful houses and small turrets composed of large and small stones (like a jigsaw) with blue/red/yellow-painted shutters, and flowers and plants in front of them accompanied by a nice view to the ocean on the right.
- On your way from Morlaix to Carantec, instead of taking the direct way (va D53), take the exit Cancale /Loquénolé and follow the signs to Carantec. It’s a more pleasant route that leads you through some lovely green landscape. You’ll pass quaint little villages and see many small islands lying in the Bay.
- No matter if you arrive by car or by plane: take books and toys along for the kid(s)accompanying you. This is in order for them to occupy themselves on longer distances. And don’t forget to bring along some games that you can play together as a family in the evenings, or when the weather prevents you from going outdoors.
- Don’t buy everything you need in the big Supermarket chains like E.Leclerc, Auchan, Intermarchée, Carrefour, SuperU or Cora, for example. Keep some items on your shopping list to be bought at local markets and small traditional stores – like bread, veggies and fruit. It might be slightly more expensive, but the atmosphere is much more authentic, and you support the regional economy.
- Don’t go anywhere without taking wind- and waterproof clothing with you: jacket, pants and shoes! The weather changes quickly and you need to be prepared.
- Camping equipment (tent with an entrance area etc.) –> for more information on this topic read our Blogpost Don’t be afraid of camping
- Wind-and waterproof clothes
Some Personal Thoughts
- One thing that I learned on the tour:
Without lemon oysters taste like nothing and it only takes a couple of flowers to make an old house shine.
- I would come back to …
…see a bit more of the hinterland and the southern coastline.