Brittany’s islands offer a complete change of scene and pace. Hidden coves, stretches of fine sand and almost tropical-looking shallows… you’d be forgiven for thinking you were the other side of the world!
The largest of Brittany’s islands, 14km from the Quiberon peninsula. It’s dominated by its main port, Le Palais, with a 16th-century citadel fortified by Vauban – and it’s ideal for hiring bicycles and enjoying the relaxed pace of life. Its archipelago includes two smaller islets, Houat and Hoëdic, with sandy beaches and white fishermen’s houses. This so-named ‘beautiful isle’ is now a magnet for tourists thanks to its temperate climate, magnificent coastline, 60 gorgeous beaches and renowned opera festival.
One of Brittany’s loveliest islands, off the coast of Paimpol. It actually consists of several islets around two small, car-free islands, joined by a bridge at low tide. Easily accessible by a regular 10-minute boat journey from Pointe de l’Arcouest. The Gulf Stream’s microclimate allows palm trees, eucalyptus, agapanthus, hydrangeas and geraniums to flourish – and Bréhat also attracts its fair share of birds including gulls, cormorants and 270 pairs of puffins, which nest among the pink rocks.
Regarded as the gateway to the English Channel, situated 30km off the coast of Le Conquet and France’s most westerly point (Pointe de Pern). Ouessant island is well known for its lighthouses – the best known is Créac’h, boasting one of the most powerful beams in the world with a reach of 80 miles – and indigenous black sheep. Lampaul, the island’s main village, has around 900 inhabitants and its cemetery is well worth a visit.
Once a key tuna-fishing island and accessible from Lorient in 45 minutes, Groix is now noted for its lovely (and unusual) beaches Groix’s most famous stretch of sand is the Plages des Grandes Sables in the east of the island. According to islanders, it’s the only convex beach in Europe and its tip moves each year due to opposing currents. This is also a popular destination for birdwatchers and geologists, with a wealth of migratory bird species taking up home here, plus an important concentration of minerals. The best way to see Groix is on two feet or two wheels – bicycles can be hired in the village.
The Morbihan gulf
There are over 40 islands in the Gulf of Morbihan: many are owned by celebrities but the two largest, Île aux Moines and Île d’Arz, are favourite tourist destinations in summer. The cross-shaped Île aux Moines offers scenic walks around its four-mile coast while Arz has lovely creeks and coves to enjoy a dip. Take a boat trip around the gulf from Vannes, or from Larmor-Baden to see the island of Gavrinis, probably Brittany’s most impressive megalithic site whose long stone passageway is adorned with carvings.
For a true Breton experience, go oyster-tasting in the Gulf of Morbihan with oyster farmer Ivan.
The Glénan archipelago
This string of islands lies around 10 miles (16km) off the south coast of Finistère. Only accessible in summer, they are best known for their sailing and diving schools and for having a unique indigenous flower, the Glénan Narcissus, which carpets the island in April. At the centre of the archipelago is a lagoon renowned for the clarity of its water and the whiteness of its sands; in fact, the whole area has been described as ‘the Breton Tahiti’. Daily ferries sail in season from Loctudy, Bénodet, Concarneau and Beg-Meil.
For a true Breton experience, set off for a nature-focused trip to the Glénan islands with guide Lulu.