Brittany

The word ‘Brittany’ comes from the Dark Ages when ancient Britons fled across the Channel from the South West and Wales. This is one of the reasons why Brittany shares an historic link with other Celtic regions in Europe (especially Cornwall and Wales) with parts of Brittany still having bilingual signs in French and Breton. Brittany is divided up into four departments:

Cotes d'Armor (22)

The capital of this region is St Brieuc and has a number of old timber framed houses from the 15th and 16th centuries, and the St Etienne Cathedral dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The area is well known for both the Pink Granite Coast from Perros-Guirec in the East to Trebeurden in the West and also the Emerald Coast which extends from Le Val Andre just to the east of St Brieuc to the headland at Grouin to the east of the port of St Malo. The coastline around the Cotes d’Armor are stunning and are very popular area for tourists and buyers.

Finistere (29)

The most westerly of the departments in Brittany and France with the Pointe de Corsen being the most western tip of mainland France. The largest centre is Brest, with its port, airport and Oceanopolis (one of the best aquariums in France), and the department has almost a quarter of the coastline of Brittany which is extremely rugged and beautiful and has stunning beaches. The capital is Quimper and much of the centre of Finistere is in the 'Armorique National Park'. The port of Roscoff has a regular service to Plymouth by ferry (www.brittanyferries.com). Corncarneau is an old town and a major fishing port.

Culture: The Breton language is also taught in some local schools and there are many festivals highlighting the better on the culture during the summer, especially at the Festival de Cornouaille held in Quimper each year and a number of major music festivals, notably the ‘Festival des Vielles Charrues’ held in Carhaix-Plouger.

Morbihan (56)

This is the most southerly of the departments in Brittany and tends to have the best weather in the region, which is one of the reasons why this regions’ house prices are slightly higher than elsewhere in Brittany. It enjoys a warmer temperate climate due to the effects of the Gulf stream and temperatures can rise to about 35° in summer. The Gulf of Morbihan is very popular and has many islands off the coast. The capital of this region is Vannes with other large towns being Lorient, which is on the coast, and Pontivy. There is an international airport at Nantes , as well as a number of smaller airfields.

Culture: The Nantes-Brest canal is part of France’s inland waterways system, Carnac has the famous megalithic site of stones and there are a number of ports catering for yachts and fishing boats with La Baule and Quiberon being particularly popular. Again, there are a large number of festivals throughout the summer both cultural and musical, especially jazz and pop and also the international festival of Celtic music in Lorient in August.

Ile-et-Vilaine (35)

This Department has the smallest length of coastline, but includes the fortified port of the St Malo with ferries across to Portsmouth, Plymouth, Poole and Weymouth as well as the Channel Islands. The capital is Rennes, which also has an airport, as does Dinard. There is some industry but agriculture is very important in this region which is also well-known for its food, particularly fish and crêpes. Fougeres and Redon are two interesting towns in this region. Rennes is also the regional hub for the TGV with lines to Paris and to Brest and Quimper.

Culture: There are a number of cultural events and good museums in Rennes as well as music festivals and also in St Malo. In Vitre, the town has been preserved with many of the original timber framed houses and, of course, its chateau which dates from the 11th Century.