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Guide to Morbihan
Morbihan lies on the south coast of Brittany with over 800km of fine sandy beaches, rugged coastline, rivers, islands and estuaries. The clear waters and natural beauty of this coast draws surfers, climbers, divers and fishermen which is also renowned for its oyster production.
The climate is warmer than the rest of Brittany, it has a sub-tropical feel especially near the 300 miles of coastline and estuaries such as the Vilaine. Vannes (the capital of Morbihan) has a well-preserved medieval centre which holds great appeal to the visitor with its half-timbered houses, shops and bars and creperies.
Not far from Vannes are monumental hugh stones (reminiscent of Stonehenge) dating back to prehistoric times that rise from the sea and fields in Carnac. To conclude a day trip it is suggested you could take a boat from here to Belle-Ile-en-Mer for walks along the Cote Sauvage with its panoramic views. Belle-Ile-en-Mer is where Claude Monet spent 10 weeks in 1886 capturing the rugged scenery, followed by artists including Matisse, Cottet, Maufra and Gromaire.
Why you should visit the Morbihan for your next holiday in France
Morbihan means 'little sea' in Breton. It is the only department in Brittany to have a southern coastline and legend says that in the 12,000 hectares opening into the Atlantic, one can count 365 islands. A pearl amongst these is the Ile des Moines.
With such a mild climate and hundreds of creeks, harbours and ports, Morbihan is the perfect destination for sailing enthusiast as well as migrating birds, of which a huge population of barnacle geese like to make their winter residence here. Visitors can watch gulls, oystercatchers, cormorants as well as many other species at reserves in the Gulf, and on the islands of Belle-Ile and Groix,
There are many less water based pursuits such as:
- The 13th century ramparts which you can stroll around in Vannes from which you get a fine view of the old town and gardens.
- The Parc Aquanature near Priziac, west of Pontivy. Were there are 15 kilometres of footpaths, a deer park, freshwater aquarium, accompanied horse rides and guided tours.
- There is an indoor racetrack near Lorient, also an ice-skating rink.
- There are many equestrian centres in the Morbihan. It is an ideal place for horse riding and trekking. The equivalent of the National Stud is based at Hennebont.
What to see and do in Morbihan
Vannes is the capital of Morbihan, and it is a beautifully restored walled city with its port area that is full of yachts and al fresco cafes and restaurants it has a truly cosmopolitan feel to it. The Cathedral is one of many historic buildings. With impressive ramparts, fortified gates and the old market Vannes also has a splendid Aquarium, an exotic Butterfly garden and a museum of mechanical toys.
Auray is a small, very pretty town on the river, with narrow lanes. Its main attraction is its old quarters, particularly St Goustan, with its alleys and streets, lined with superbly preserved 15th century houses. Other places to visit are the renaissance-gothic church of Saint Gildas with its surrounding wood-faced houses, the St Esprit college, the Goélette Museum on the Quai Martin exhibits the history of St Goustan in a converted tunny fishing boat. Not to be missed during July and August, are evening performances of sea shanties and Breton songs. Also there is a weekly market on Mondays.
Lorient has an immense fishing port (second largest in France) and worth a visit for the auction of the morning catch. The Victor Pleven, a trawler once used for cod fishing off Newfoundland can be visited. Boats frequently leave the port for the Ile de Groix and Belle Ile. Lorient plays host to important yacht races each year and the Festival Interceltique this takes place the first fortnight of August. The festival is very popular and draws more than 4,500 artists and musicians every year for traditional music and dancing in the streets. Cider, crêpes and cotriade (fish stew) are on sale around the fishing harbour, complete with Astérix-style village.
Pontivy is in two halves - the medieval town with its fortified 15th century château overlooking the river and the regimented streets laid out to Napoléon's plan. The old town, around Place du Martray, has narrow streets and overhanging wooden houses. There is an impressive 15th Château des Rohan overlooking the river.
Belle Ile to the south, is exactly that - the Beautiful Island. It is the largest of the Breton islands. Under local bye-laws the shutters on the houses have to be painted in pastel colours this add to the picturesque effect. It is an ideal place to visit on a day trip with its green, undulating countryside and vast beaches. If you prefer to leave the car on the mainland bicycles and scooters can be hired.
Places to visit
- Island of Belle-Ile - hire a bike from the port of Le Palais to appreciate the wild Atlantic coast and the more fertile landward side of this beautiful island.
- Prehistoric Monuments in Carnac - discover the mysterious ancient granite rocks of Carnac which date back to 4000 BC. Carnac is at the foot of the Quiberon peninsula and is famous for more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones. The stones were hewn from local rock, and were erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany.
- Medieval Chateau Josselin - take a tour of the 19th century medieval chateau which overlooks the river Oust or head to Kerguehennec, west of Josselin for the modern sculpture park.
- Excellent beaches at Isle de Houat - head to the island of Houat - popular for its authentic charm and sheltered beaches
How to get to Morbihan
Flights vary according to departure and destination airports, here are few route suggestions from London:
- London Heathrow/Paris/Rennes
- London Heathrow/Paris/Lorient
- London Stanstead/Dinard
Eurostar has made the journey easy from London, St Pancras International to Paris, Gare du Nord is just 2 hours 15 minutes.
From Paris (Gare Montparnasse) there are TGV trains to Vannes.
Arrive at Calais (Eurotunnel) then take the A28, A13 and A84 via Cannes and Rennes. It will take approximately 7 hours to arrive at Vannes.
There nearest ferry ports are Le Harve, Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo, and Roscoff.