Once the children have grown and flown, Brittany makes for a tempting getaway with its focus on a simple, quality way of life. Fall in love with its quaint fishing ports lined with colourful houses, drive or cycle through the pretty countryside and along the canals, or don your hiking boots and tackle a section of the GR34 coastal footpath. And of course, an abundance of local specialities, from the morning’s fresh seafood to sumptuous pastries, makes whatever activity you choose taste that extra bit better. Brittany is also incredibly easy to reach: Brittany Ferries runs regular services to St-Malo and Roscoff, and your holiday can start as soon as you’re on board.
Once you land on French soil, the region’s your oyster. With a long history of fishing and 2,800km of coastline, it’s no surprise that Brittany cuisine often features the catch of the day – and if oysters are your thing, head to the small fishing village of Cancale on the Emerald Coast. Seafood restaurants line the town’s port, but the best way to enjoy the king of shellfish is to order a plate from a beachside vendor and enjoy an oyster picnic overlooking the sea. Other seafood specialities in Brittany include scallops from the charming port of Erquy. Some restaurants serve a plateau de fruits de mer, a platter piled high with all manner of seafood including shrimp and clams.
Whether for food or scenery, Brittany’s little ports are irresistible, with quaysides lined by terraces, narrow streets full of colour and pontoons stretching gently out to sea. Medieval Saint-Goustan in the Gulf of Morbihan is stuffed with cafés, creperies and artist hideaways. Buy seafood direct from the fishermen in Doelan, nestled photogenically on the southern coast. And it’s hard to find a town more picturesque than Sauzon on the island of Belle-Ile, with its marina of gleaming pleasure boats and star-shaped citadel.
Looking for more activity? Measuring a staggering 2,000km from end to end, the GR34 is the most famous of the ‘Grande Randonnée’ long-distance hiking paths and recent voted France’s favourite. Steeped in history, salt and sea spray, it makes a spectacular challenge to tackle with your partner. With rocky points, dunes, wild beaches and coves on one side and marshes saturated with wildlife on the other, every bend of the trail is photo-worthy, with the ever-present blue sea in the background. From the Cap de la Chèvre you can enjoy a 180-degree view over the sea and the Bay of Douarnenez as far as the Pointe du Raz. Another unmissable viewpoint is the Pointe de Pen-Hir, whose dramatic series of rocks below is nicknamed the ‘Heap of Peas’!
Inland in Morbihan, the focus shifts to a different body of water: the Nantes-Brest canal . Walking, cycling or cruising from lock to lock takes you through numerous Petites Cités de Caractere (picturesque small towns) including Malestroit, Josselin, Rohan and Pontivy – and is a real dive into the heart of Brittany. The canal undulates like an eel through contrasting landscapes and is a real haven for cyclists. Permit-free leisure boats, electric boats and small barges can also be hired from early April to late October, with all hire companies offering comprehensive training before you cast off. You can take canoes, kayaks and paddleboards out on the water too.
With all that fresh air and exercise, you can’t help but work up an appetite – and of course, the Brittany countryside is perfect for picnics. Many Breton farmer-producers provide picnic hampers packed full of locally produced treats, but it’s also fun to head to one of the weekly markets that spring up in small towns around Brittany, and create your own picnic with some of the region’s prized produce.
The dish that Brittany is most famous for is pancakes . Sweet crêpes and savoury galettes are widely available, the latter made from buckwheat , which is also used in a number of other Brittany products including Breton shortbread, Breton butter cookies and full-bodied buckwheat whisky. For dessert you’re spoilt for choice, as the region’s patisseries are full to bursting with Breton pastries and cakes known as lichouseries. Perhaps the most well-known is the Kouign-amann or ‘butter cake’, originating from Finistère and made with almost equal parts salted butter and sugar. It goes without saying that it’s utterly delicious.
When it’s time to head home, remember to take a piece of Brittany with you. Packing the car with salted butter, cakes and pastries – and even cheeses and charcuterie – will keep that holiday feeling alive that little bit longer!
From travel to the port to exploring when you get there, taking your own car to Brittany offers the freedom and reassurance you need. Sailing with Brittany Ferries is a hassle-free experience, with various ticket types allowing you to choose the level of flexibility you need. The company is constantly reviewing and updating its health-related procedures to ensure that everyone travels safely. Fresh sea air is supplied in all public spaces – including cabins – and there’s plenty of space to roam around, wherever you are on board. We can’t wait to welcome you back to France again.