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Camping in Finistère, Brittany, France: Huelgoat campsite; places to visit, suggested day out

Updated on July 27, 2017
annart profile image

Ann loves to travel and has a particular interest in France. She speaks fluent French and has visited many areas of that wonderful country.

France, showing Brittany in North West

Brittany (Bretagne) is the furthermost western point of North West France
Brittany (Bretagne) is the furthermost western point of North West France | Source

Finistère

Source

Finistère

Finistère is the most western part of Brittany in the north west region of France. It is known for its rugged, dramatic coastline, its winds and rain and its likeness to Cornwall.

The traditional language of Brittany is Breton, a Celtic language akin to Welsh and Gaelic. There are many traditions that link them, notably an annual folk festival.

There are superb beaches here, complete with rockpools and craggy cliffs. Finistère played an important part in the World Wars, having the town of Brest which is its naval port, a place where the Germans built huge submarine hangars still to be seen, a place which has many stories of bravery and the French Resistance.

Finistère has three peninsulars, all of which have tourist attractions a-plenty, both inland and coastal. Lighthouses abound, fishing is of utmost importance and tourism is buzzing from Easter to September.


Caravan or Tent

Caravan or tent or both?!
Caravan or tent or both?! | Source

Camping

A wonderful way to enjoy the countryside and feel a part of it is to camp. France is good for camping; their sites are mostly reasonably priced (far better than Britain at least!) and are well organised.

There are plenty of sites to choose from in Brittany, inland or by the sea. We have a caravan and chose to camp inland and explore the surrounding area.


Huelgoat

Towards the central square with church & market square
Towards the central square with church & market square | Source
The Lake to the West
The Lake to the West | Source
The east end of the lake leading to......
The east end of the lake leading to...... | Source
the Bridge over the Silver River
the Bridge over the Silver River | Source
the Weir leading the waters down to the River
the Weir leading the waters down to the River | Source

Huelgoat

So I'm taking you to Huelgoat, in the centre of Finistère. Huelgoat is a Breton name, derived from two Breton words; 'Huel' meaning high and 'Koat' meaning wood or forest. So Huelgoat is High Forest or Upwood. It is pronounced 'uwell-go-at', being Breton rather than French.

It is indeed an area a little higher than its surroundings, covered in woodland and part of the 'Parc Naturel Régional d'Armorique' which stretches from the Crozon Peninsular (the middle peninsular) up to a line west of Morlaix.

Huelgoat is about 45 to 60 minutes' easy drive from the port of Roscoff (by ferry from Plymouth in Devon). It's a small town with a market on Thursday mornings and it has a charming lake, man made by using La Rivière d'Argent (the Silver River). The Lake is central to the town and provides pleasure boats of varying sizes for budding sailors in the summer months.

There are shops - including the essential 'boulangeries' (oh, the lure of French bread and patisseries!) - and one supermarket. At the east end of the lake is a small three-arched bridge leading to the river valley. It is there that you find a wondrous sight if you look over the farther side of the bridge.

First, though, I'm going to introduce you to an excellent campsite to use as your base. There is one in town, a Municipal, but it has few facilities and best suits one-nighters en route elsewhere. We're going just a short distance from town.

Follow me!


Camping de La Rivière d'Argent

We're leaving the town and travelling east to pick up the Silver River as it meanders downstream. There are parking areas with signs inviting you on various walks through the forest. There is a small raised walk to the right, La Promenade du Canal, following a short, narrow stream (hardly a canal!) for 100 yards or so.

Keep following me for about a mile, sweeping left and right through the valley, until we reach a sign on a bend, heralding the campsite, 'Camping La Rivière d'Argent' and we turn off right.

You are entering a welcoming, restful place, by the river, beneath the trees, offering you all you could want, whether you stay for a night, a few days, a week or more.

Come down to reception and I'll tell you a little more.


Relax by the Silver River!

As you can see, with swimming pool!
As you can see, with swimming pool! | Source

A Warm, Relaxed Welcome

Reception is manned by the proprietor, his wife, a family member or a holiday-time receptionist. All are welcoming, competent and friendly. You'll have a choice of pitches and will be shown around the site and amenities.

Apart from pitches to the right and left of the reception area, there are holiday statics available, all equipped and with shower and toilet. You bring your own bed sheets and covers. There are also large permanent tents which have bedrooms and living area already laid out.

There is a meadow on the right as you approach reception; this is used for groups, perhaps children or horse-riders or cyclists, all of whom regularly visit the site. A resident donkey surveys the scene and gratefully accepts any fresh grass or other treats.

Most of the site has electricity plug-ins. The shower, wash and toilet facilities are good and cater for disabled customers.


Welcome!

Reception - L'Acceuil - with bikes for hire
Reception - L'Acceuil - with bikes for hire | Source
Pitches (Emplacements) & Tarifs
Pitches (Emplacements) & Tarifs | Source
Just relax!
Just relax! | Source

Swimming, Bouncy Castle & Games

On-site facilities include a reception area and bar, a terrace for meals and evening entertainment once a week in high season, a covered swimming pool and a games area. There are barbecues available, an option for ordering crusty white bread for the following morning and you can order chips for the evening to go with your succulent barbie.

The pool is not heated, though that is envisaged for 2015, but it's a good size and is covered so gets warmer the more the sun shines. The area around it offers inside relaxation and outdoor sunbathing.

For the youngsters, try the trampolines, table-tennis and table football in the bar.


Relaxation

Covered Pool
Covered Pool | Source
Bouncy Bunny!
Bouncy Bunny! | Source

Atmosphere

You are in the midst of trees and shrubs, you can explore the riverbank, you can enjoy the tranquility and easy walks around the site.

We went on a 'treasure hunt', taking a box for the three-year old to collect loose treasure on the way, such as fallen cones, pieces of moss, leaves and whatever took her fancy. Of course, we emphasised that we don't pick plants or flowers still attached to their roots.

The walk was entirely on site, took about fifteen minutes at a slow pace and was as safe as you could find. The river has floating plant-life, water boatmen and fish. The water dances over stones, swirls round dark pools and chatters as it flows. Birds sing all around and dragonflies dip and flick back and forth, creating deep, vibrant blue acrobatics.


Camping by the River

Well-divided pitches...
Well-divided pitches... | Source
...and more by the river...
...and more by the river... | Source
...for caravans, camper vans....
...for caravans, camper vans.... | Source
... and tents.
... and tents. | Source
Tranquil waters...
Tranquil waters... | Source
... oh, to sit and dream.
... oh, to sit and dream. | Source
Forest walks
Forest walks | Source

Where can we go?

You're settled on site and ready to explore. What is there to see and do in this charming area?

Remember I told you there's something wondrous on the other side of the bridge in town?

Let's go back to the lake and walk up the river valley, taking the path to the right, opposite the 'Moulin du Chaos' (Chaos Mill).

You have only to look over the bridge to see where that name comes from. With no warning, your view is surprised by boulders the size of a small house, tumbled together like a giant's garden rubble heap. They obscure the river bed, create deep dark holes where water bubbles beneath, caves above the earth's surface, gulleys through which to walk and a landscape like no other.

It's an environment of fern and moss, such is the humidity and many of the rocks are slippery so beware! It's wise to keep small children on a rein.

Explore every crevice, peer into dark depths, follow the light under and through the rocks!

Take a camera! Make sure, too, that you have plenty of spare batteries; if you're anything like me you'll be snapping like mad.


Chaos!

Tumbling Boulders
Tumbling Boulders | Source
Under & Over
Under & Over | Source
All over the Place
All over the Place | Source
Massive Motion
Massive Motion | Source
Feeling Small?
Feeling Small? | Source

La Grotte du Diable & La Roche Tremblante

Devil's Cave and the Trembling Rock; names which curiosity cannot ignore.

For the length of this walk, you need sturdy, non-slip shoes; there are stepped slopes and rails to help you but this is not for those unsteady on their feet. It's not difficult or very long but requires common sense.

Between the rocks, a near-vertical metal ladder leads down to a cave. It's created by the boulders leaving gaps where no light enters, where you are left groping the guiding rails until you re-emerge blinking into the sunlight. Take a photo with flash and you'll see the cave which enclosed you.

You then continue past a small amphitheatre, down and up the valley slopes, following the signs for 'La Roche Tremblante'. How can a rock tremble? Well, it does, and what's more it's you who can make it do so. Do you have the strength?

It's possible to move this massive boulder 5 or 6 inches at least on its axis; it is poised in such a position that it will tip but never roll. Astounding!


Devil's Cave - Descend to Hell & Rise Again!

This Way if you Dare!
This Way if you Dare! | Source
Hell Awaits
Hell Awaits | Source
A Flash of Terror!
A Flash of Terror! | Source
the Styx?
the Styx? | Source
Above, yet beneath the Earth
Above, yet beneath the Earth | Source
River of Darkness
River of Darkness | Source
I've seen the Light!
I've seen the Light! | Source
Clear, Cool Water
Clear, Cool Water | Source
Delightful Dappled Light
Delightful Dappled Light | Source

Trembling Rock

Source
Standing Alone
Standing Alone | Source
Push!
Push! | Source

Le Moulin du Chaos & La Roche Champignon

Walk up from here and you'll find the road. Turn left down the road and you are back at the bridge from where you can descend the steps to 'Le Moulin du Chaos'. It's an old water mill and the river jumps the rocks providing excellent insect-catching areas for the local wagtails.

After all that exercise you need an ice-cream. The shop on the corner, La Chouette Bleue (a blue owl!), has wonderful sorbets and ice-creams in a variety of flavours. Yummy! Stroll by the lake as you savour your favourite, then make your way back to the campsite for lunch. Bon appetit! Then time for a well-earned siesta.

If you're boosting supplies at the local supermarket (Intermarché) over the bridge and a few yards down from town, don't miss the Mushroom Rock directly opposite. A short walk takes you up to another massive boulder perched on the hillside. How did it get here? What made it balance like that?

No one really knows. One explanation is that slow erosion of the land after a glacier unearthed these rocks emerging from the earth. I'm more inclined to believe that the glacier just fragmented and tumbled around the river but then I'm no geologist.

For further exploration, choose any of the walkways signposted from the road as you go into town and you won't be disappointed. They lead to other outstanding features of this wooded landscape.


Chaos Mill

The Mushroom Rock

This would do for a few casseroles!
This would do for a few casseroles! | Source
How did it get there?  How does it balance?
How did it get there? How does it balance? | Source

A Day's Excursion

So you want to have a great day out a little farther afield? There are many focal points to choose from. You can go out to the Crozon Peninsular (the middle branch). There are beautiful sandy beaches about an hour away. There are ancient churches, 'Calvaires' and a strawberry museum - yes, there really is a strawberry museum!

A tour which won't fail to delight encompasses a pleasant drive down to the ancient enclosed town of Concarneau on the south Finistère coast, then west to Guilvinec to see the fishing boats arrive, before following the pretty coast road to Penmarc'h to see the Eckmühl lighthouse (one of three).

Come with me!


Concarneau

The 'Ville Close' of Concarneau is in the harbour of the mainland town. It's reached by walking across two bridges, through the fortified gate and into the main street. Above you are ramparts giving you vantage points over the town, around the harbour and out to sea; plenty of opportunity to spy and prepare for imminent invasion.

It's charming. Look up at the buildings, the overhangs, the roofs. Explore the narrow passageways, go down to 'La Porte aux Vins' where wine was brought in by boat and off-loaded at this specially designated spot, sample the Breton 'Kuing-Aman' (pronounced Kween-ya-man), a speciality made of pastry and oozing butter.

Mediaeval musicians (or should I say musicians playing Mediaeval music?!) play haunting airs for your enchantment. The bustle in the streets mirrors soldiers and workers going about their daily chores of those times. Rain and sewage would run down those gulleys along the middle of the street. Wine traders would bring their wares into the town via the gateway, sheltered from storm and raiders. Step back, take a breath, absorb the history.


La Ville Close

Guilvinec Fishing Port

When you're ready, go west of Concarneau to Guilvinec. Park in town, then walk to the harbour jetty and quay-side.

At 16.00 hours every day, 50 or more palette-splashed fishing boats begin their return to harbour, laden with the day's catches. Arrive early, pick your spot near the harbour entrance, lean on the rails above the quay-side and look out to sea. Who can spot the first boat? They're only small. There's one! Oh and look, there's another! And another! So it goes on, each about half a mile behind the other, the red, green, blue, pink, purple, orange, yellow dots transform into vessels, bobbing and nudging in, vying for room to offload the still-wriggling creatures which grace the plates of many a restaurant and home in Europe by the next day.

The activity is mesmerising. One boat offloads, moves to a berth further round, the next takes it place. Quick, before another needs that space! Prawns, langoustines, lobster, crab, rays, eels, plaice, cod, all have been sorted into trays on their way back to port, all coated in ice, then all stacked onto fork-lifts and conveyed to the vast market hangar behind the quay.

At 18.00 hours the buying and selling will begin, an auction of sorts, depending on the size of catch, the quality of fish, the luck of the weather and chosen fishing ground, upon which depend hundreds of fishermen's livelihoods. If they haven't brought home enough, they go out again, no matter what the weather. It's a hard life and a fickle game. They are strong and brave, these men who shout, banter, argue and stride along the quay as they land their catches.

The end of their day? Don't you believe it! They must mend broken nets, maintain engines and winches, do their accounts. If they're lucky they may have a few hours sleep before they start all over again.

Think of that when you next eat fish!


When the Boats Come In

First Boat Home
First Boat Home | Source
Source
Tray of Langoustines
Tray of Langoustines | Source
Entering the Harbour
Entering the Harbour | Source
View from the Rail above
View from the Rail above | Source
Source
Nudging into place
Nudging into place | Source
Emptying the Crates
Emptying the Crates | Source
Source
Source
...and still they arrive
...and still they arrive | Source

Ekmühl Lighthouse

We're about to begin the last stage of this excursion.

Instead of taking the main road, we're following the coast road to Penmarc'h (penmark) to see three lighthouses, the oldest and largest of which is the Eckmühl Lighthouse.

Follow me along a pretty route edging sandy beaches with rockpools to delight any child from 7 to 70, where the sea offers up craggy rocks, shining reflections and beautiful sunsets when the waves aren't being whipped up by howling gales and shrouded in mists (not frequent in summer). This coastline is associated with war-time invasions, shipwrecked mariners and smuggling. On a summer's day it's all innocence and fun, high times and holidays.

You pass hummocked meadows, sand dunes and marshy vistas towards the sea. Little houses dot the grass, looking homely and wind-washed. Trees bent by the prevailing wind stand steadfast, indicating where the wind tells them.

It takes a mere ten minutes to reach Penmarc'h. Ample car parking sits at the foot of the Eckmühl Lighthouse, a solid grey-brick structure supporting a surprisingly elegant lamp with metal decoration above a platform at the top of 300+ spiralled steps. Though not for the faint-hearted, your climb is amply rewarded; you are kings and queens of all you survey!

A newer lighthouse stands not far from this one, though much smaller. The third, so called, is not in fact a lighthouse but a radar tower. Just visible further out to sea, though, is a third lighthouse. These rocky waters require careful guidance and navigation if sailors wish to get home. This is the entrance to the Bay of Biscay where notorious winds and waters have played with shipping for centuries.

Recent renovations (Spring/Summer 2014) have provided a new walkway and facilities at the foot of the Eckmühl. A modest fee allows you access to the climb. Go on, have a go!


La Phare d'Eckmühl at Penmarc'h

Les Phares de Penmarc'h
Les Phares de Penmarc'h | Source
The Eckmühl Lighthouse
The Eckmühl Lighthouse | Source
Viewing platform....
Viewing platform.... | Source
..... below the decorated Lamp
..... below the decorated Lamp | Source
Source
Smaller Lighthouse & Radar Tower
Smaller Lighthouse & Radar Tower | Source
Third Lighthouse out to Sea
Third Lighthouse out to Sea | Source

There and Back Again

All that remains is your journey home, completing a round trip of about 4 hours road time, traffic permitting. The journey itself takes you through pretty countryside, both open and wooded, giving you a glimpse of this beautiful area.

If you have time, venture out on another day to see more of what Brittany offers. You'll find all the information you need in Reception at the campsite and I bet the end of your stay leaves you wanting to come back for more.

Bon voyage!


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© 2014 Ann Carr

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    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks dghbrg. Glad you enjoyed the journey. Thanks for stopping by.

      Ann

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 2 years ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Dear Ann,

      Very nice travel hub here and thank you for taking us along with you. Its indeed a very refreshing hub my friend.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      askformore 1m: Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, the whole area around Huelgoat and beyond is so pretty and full of wonderful things to see and do. Indeed, every part of Brittany and the rest of France is worth exploring. I love it!

      Ann

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 2 years ago

      I enjoyed your hub very much!

      I have been to Huelcoat many times. For 19 years I owned an old farmhouse in Plouvorn, which isn't that far from Huelcoat.

      Plouvorn has a very nice camping area too, next a a smaller lake.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Hello Audrey! You're in luck; not only does France have lots of good, reasonably priced camping sites but they're also really keen on cycling! There are always cyclists stopping by en route to all points of the compass, either just with tents or in camper vans with cycles on the back.

      I hope you give France a go. I'm sure you wouldn't be disappointed.

      Thanks so much for your visit and comment.

      Ann

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      France is on my list of places to explore in my next trip to the continent. I had not thought about camping though I have been thinking about biking through part of the Loire valley--This article makes camping in France seem so much better than camping in the U.S.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks again, Faith, for your great comments and votes. You are such a loyal friend.

      I hope you manage to get to France. It really is worth a visit. That country has just about everything; varied countryside, beaches, mountains, skiing and so much more. No wonder the French don't go abroad as much as others - they have it all!

      Good to see you on this sunny Saturday morning, Faith.

      Ann

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, my, dear Ann, thank you for taking us along to these lovely campsites. In my younger years, I was going to be an exchange student in France and had all of these plans, but God had different plans for me. I do hope to one day be able to visit and would thoroughly enjoy camping there in France.

      Your photos are gorgeous! This hub deserves HOTD!

      Voted up ++++ tweeting pinning, G+ and sharing

      Blessings always

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Hi teaches! It is great fun and I'm glad I've whetted your appetite. Thanks for the visit and kind comment; great to see you. Ann

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      You have me ready to pack for a camping trip today. I love your caravan and think it would make the whole experience fun. Thanks for sharing these tips with readers.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Alicia; I'm glad this has inspired you to visit France one day - you won't be disappointed. Thanks for your visit and your kind words; much appreicated.

      Ann

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Flourish. Glad you liked it and I'm pleased the personal approach I was aiming for worked. I greatly appreciate your visit and your kind words.

      Ann

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for a very enjoyable tour and for sharing the interesting photos, Ann. I've never been to France, but I would love to visit the country, especially after reading your hub!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Such a marvelous job. I especially enjoyed your photos, and the personal description made me feel like I was there. I would love to explore that cave.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Glad it makes you want to go there! Thanks for reading and for the kind comment; 'well-written' is a phrase I like! Enjoy your camp in the Sierras and have a good evening, Jamie. Ann

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      I want to camp there! Well I will have to take the kids into the Sierra's and pretend. Well written hub Ann I enjoyed the read. Jamie

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Nell. It's certainly worth the trip. An alternative for you would be to take a ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo (or Roscoff if they do it), then you've got less driving the other end.

      Glad I've tempted you to think about it!

      Ann

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I am ashamed to say that I have never been to France! I live in Bucks for goodness sake! lol! this is really tempting me to go, renew my passport and hop on the Eurostar, what a lovely place, and great hub!

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks carrie. Brittany has been a favourite spot for Brits for years. It's so close to the south of England.

      Glad you enjoyed it and found it useful. Thanks for your visit and kind comment.

      Ann

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 3 years ago from Northeast United States

      Voted useful and beautiful :). Never heard of Brittany France, thank you for introducing me to a new spot :). I have been to Corsica and heard camping there is great. Too bad we only had a few hours there.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      It is beautiful. Glad you enjoyed this. Ann

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I would love to visit this beautiful place. I like the lovely photos.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Hi Frank! Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the hub. I love writing about all these places. Ann

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      camping in the high forest.. it has got to be a lot of fun.. what a welcoming if not educational hub my friend thank you for the share Frank

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Thank you Sally. Good to see you again.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this and hope it's whetted your appetite enough to make the extra miles across to Brittany. You'll love it.

      Have a great day!

      Ann

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Bill, I know that comment took a lot of teeth pulling but a brilliant from you? Wow! This is a great way to start my week; 9.30 on a Monday morning and a kind visit from you.

      Thanks, bill. I apologise for ruining your Sunday and I'll try not to ruin our friendship any further!

      Hope you have a wonderful week.

      Ann

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      annart

      Such an enjoyable read, a real treat for me this morning. I have only had one short visit to Brittany and I would love to return. I loved the magic of the cobbled streets and the people. I have tended to spend a lot more time in the Pas de Callais as it is just over the water from me. This is an area yet to be explored. I hope that armed with this knowledge I can return.

      Voted up, useful and interesting, pinned and shared.

      Thank you

      Sally

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My first point of discussion is that there are few hubs I will read on a Sunday....yours is one of them.

      Secondly, you are just being cruel with this hub. Not only are you taunting me with the French countryside, but you are tossing in beautiful campsites to tease me with.

      Ann, I thought we were friends. Is this any way to treat a friend????

      Okay, I'll say it....simply brilliant!!!!!

      bill