5 Top 'FREE' sights to visit in Northern Brittany
Top 'FREE' sight No. 1 - Huelgoat
A popular destination located approx 20 km south of Morlaix, is surrounded by well marked forests, and the astonishing giant boulders. My pictures shown and in guide books do this amazing, magical place no justice at all. Said to be created underground by cooling molten rock, you can wander through the forest listening to the running stream and gaze at the bizarre rock formations imagining that great giant have placed these rocks by hand.
Within the forest walks there are clear signs pointing you in the right direction for the Grotte d'Artus (Arthurs Cave), Camp d'Artus (Arthurs Camp, legendary site of King Arthur and the knights of the round table), Grotte du Diable (The Devils Cave), The Fairy Lake, The Boars Lake and The Trembling Rock (said to weight 100 tons). This huge rock is said to move if you lean on just the right spot.
This is true as with my own eyes I have seen it done by a very slim looking french man, whilst drinking coffee from my flask, I tried, as you can see from my photograph, but with no luck.
Legend has it that King Arthur passed through these forests before being tempted to explore a dark cave, and to meet his death.
I would advise you to take your rucksack packed with lunchtime goodies, a flask of tea or coffee a find a nice big boulder to stop and eat your lunch within the shade of the trees. On a good day, and if the children are still at school, all you will hear are the birds singing and the leaves rustling.
Pictures of Huelgoats giant boulders
Top 'FREE' sight No. 2 - Le Mont St Michel
Le Mont St Michel, technically in Normandy (but only just), was inhabited as early as the 6th century by hermits, but it was not until AD 708 that the first chapel was built by Bishop Aubert of Avranches. It was in a dream that he was commanded by the Archangel Michael to build the structure.The Abbey was founded by Benedictine monks in the 10th century under protection of the Dukes of Normandy. Additional building were erected over the years to become the breathtaking ensemble you see today. The abbey is crowned by a gilded statue of St Michel in armour 500 ft above the sea.
Both the town and abbey have been under attack but never succumbed, not even during the Hundres Years War.
As you drive toward the island it looms larger and larger until you are dwarfed by the scale of it. You can choose to park in the town and walk along the road, although this can be a bit of a hike (not great for youngsters or older people), or you can drive to the carpark close to the island and pay 4 euros for the day.
The Grande Rue that winds around the base of the mount is littered with gift shops, cheap tutty shops, creperies and fast food outlets.
View from all around the island are stunning and when the tide is out the sight is magnificent. Take a walk up the main street and then find your way to the walled walk to come back down.
During the summer holiday season taking dogs and buggies are not advised as there are a number of steps and the Grande Rue can become very busy, to the point of shuffling along with the crowd.
To access the island it's all free, you can spend all day visiting the shops and taking in the views from all angles.
But..... If you want to visit the abbey there is an additional charge although very reasonable, adults - 8 euros, - Under 25yrs 5 euros - Under 18yrs FREE.
It is a magnificent building to visit and I would highly recommend the additional cost, the abbey is built into the granite rocks and soars upwards until you reach the roof top cloister and garden. From up there the views are stunning across the bay.
I would advise you to take your food packed rucksack again and your flask of coffee and either find a space on the island to eat you lunch whilst enjoying the views or make your way down to the sandy beach and enjoy your food looking out over the bay.
Pictures of Le Mont St Michel
Top 'FREE' sight No. 3 - Ile callot (Carantec)
Carantec is a popular holiday destination due to its fantastic coast line, coastal walks, clean beaches and the attraction of the causeway connecting the main land to Ils Callot, which is cut off at high tide.
Although Carantec is a lovely town to visit I would advise you to spend some time on the Ils Callot by walking the 2km length to visit the table of orientation and the very beautiful chapelle de Notre-Dame. Take the path up hill to the chapelle and take in the stunning views across the bay to St. Pol-de-leon with its three church spires and further round to Roscoff where you will easily see if a Brittany Ferry is ready to set sail.
The island is occupied by a number of houses that are 'to die for' plus an old school house and public toilets.
You can drive across to the island as parking facilities are provided at no charge. I would advise you to park on the mainland and walk across the causeway as there is an abundance of rock pools to see that give life to all manner of sea life.
All around the island there are fabulous beaches where you can swim, sunbath and relax taking in the scenery around you.
From the east side of the island you can see the Chateau Du Taureau a fort built in 1544 to protect the bay of Morlaix and the river access into the town. It became a prison in 1721, a sailing school in the 1960s, now restored for its historic value the doors opened to the public in 2006.
Before accessing the island by the causeway, check out the tide times on the board near the car park. When the tide begins to come in you only have a matter of minutes before your access is completely covered by water.
Back in March this year my family and I plus two friends had this experience, we underestimated the speed of the tide and spent what seemed like an age wading across very cold sea water being watched by a large group of french people pointing and laughing at us. Not only very embarrassing but with a 10 year old child in tow was also a little frightening.
Pack a picnic and flask and spend some time to find a scenic spot to sit for lunch with a good book, heavenly.
Pictures of Ile Callot
Top 'FREE' sight No. 4 - Morlaix
In the centre of Morlaix town amongst the 'pondalez' houses unique to Morlaix is the magnificent granite railway viaduct, 292 metres long and 58 metre (180ft) high. It looms over the town square and cannot be missed when visiting. During the summer the pedestrian walkway is opened and you can walk across the length of the viaduct and take in the beautiful views of the marina and the timber framed houses in the town.
The town has steep lanes, and paved streets with old residences, the oldest type being the Maison a Lanterne (lantern house) with three and four storeys were built in the 15th and 16th centuries, there are roughly a dozen of these houses left. Most of the back streets are relatively car free.
Wear comfortable shoes and I would not advise you take a buggy as the streets are very steep and there are also a number of steps, you will end up carrying the buggy most of the time.
The port in Morlaix is very pretty walk along either side of the port you will see fish and birds alike, even cormorants seeming to take in the scenery. In the summer there are festivals and street dancing that takes place all over the town.
Ask the tourist information office for dates - www.morlaix.fr
Don't forget to pack your picnic and flask, there are benches by the marina and the bandstand in the square to sit and eat your lunch.
Views of the viaduct and Morlaix
Top 'FREE' sight No. 5 - Lac du Drennec
This freshwater reservoir near Commana was built in 1981, it is 110 ha, 20 m deep and contains 8.5 million cubic metres of still water.
This lake is said to be one of the best trout waters in Britanny and France.
Following the signposts from Commana you will access a large carpark where you can start your 10km walk around the lake. There are two man made beaches that are safe for children and have shallow water to swim in during the summer.
Dogs are allowed but push bikes are not, which is great as everyone is going at the same speed as you. I have visited a number of lakes where you are forever having to move out of the way for speeding bikes, or they creep up behind you then ring their bell! So annoying.
The terrain is quite flat so no difficulties for most walkers whatever level of fitness. You could forget the walk around the lake and just spend the day lounging on the beach and having a swim to cool down if that takes your fancy.
Some areas are under cover of tall trees and other areas are in the open and the lake will look totally different depending on the type of weather you have on the day you visit.
Part way round you have to cross a floating bridge to continue your journey, this can be a little bouncy if a few people are crossing together and the wind is blowing, although it is quite safe with hand rails on either side.
There are benches and picnic tables at various vantage points around the lake where you can sit and eat your lunch and drink your home made coffee. It's a large lake so it takes a lot of people to make it feel crowded. When ever we have visited it has always been very quiet and everyone is very friendly.
Pictures of Lac du Drennec
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