What better place to brush off winter lethargy and enjoy the outdoors than in France’s beautiful Brittany? Just a short hop across the Channel, you’re spoilt for choice of springtime attractions in this coastal region, unfolding the minute you arrive in port and enticingly calm before the summer crowds arrive.
Spring is the perfect time to discover a lesser-known Brittany. The region’s gentle countryside is charming, filled with picturesque villages and small market towns, parks and gardens, and elegant château or manor house B&Bs to serve as your base. Why not book to stay at the Château des Tesnières near Vitré? This magnificent neo-Gothic château has five suites and refined guest rooms with four-poster beds, teardrop chandeliers, period furniture and modern comforts.
There are numerous other châteaux for visits if not stays: the 13-tower Château de Fougères is one of Europe’s largest medieval fortresses, built on a protected site surrounded by a loop of the Nançon river. Fougères itself is a designated ville d’art et d’histoire (town of art and history), full of other treasures including the oldest belfry in Brittany and numerous mansions, museums and gardens. The Château de Josselin overlooks the Oust Valley and boasts a library housing more than 3,000 volumes dating from the 17th century.
Brittany is home to numerous parks and gardens to be enjoyed with the arrival of milder weather and longer days. In the blink an eye, they transport you to a different time or place: there’s formal symmetry in French Baroque gardens, extraordinary trees and ancient varieties of vegetables, botanic gardens and mazes to get happily lost in. For more outdoor pleasures this spring, consider getting to know a section of the Nantes-Brest canal , snaking through the Breton countryside and delightful petites cités de caractère (small character towns) such as Malestroit and Rohan. Active visitors will get through the winding, 236-lock circuit in a week – but you may prefer a more leisurely pace with pauses at the many hotels, stopover gîtes and B&Bs scattered along the way.
Picturesque half-timbered houses, hidden gardens, craft workshops and art studios… Brittany’s character towns have surprises waiting around every corner. High above the River Arz, Rochefort-en-Terre has been voted one of France’s most beautiful villages. Make your way through the narrow streets, past ateliers and workshops, admiring the geranium-bedecked houses along the way. Northwest of Rennes, Bécherel is a must for French-speaking bookworms, officially becoming a Book Town in 1989 when the first ‘Fête du Livre’ was held, which is now an annual Eastertime event.
Weary from sightseeing? Traditional Breton cooking is simple and wholesome, with the humble pancake and several delicious pastries as specialities. Salted butter is everywhere and the caramels made with it are irrestistible; don’t forget to take some home! Seafood lovers are in their element in Brittany – in fact, its 2,800km of coastline accounts for almost 80% of France’s total seafood production, which you can buy straight from the fishing boats in some small harbours. As for the local cider … consider staying a night at the Cider House B&B in Jugon-les-Lacs, or visit the Cidrerie de la Baie in Planguenoual, where you can learn the step-by-step cider-making process and enjoy a tasting. And if you fancy a stroll as you taste produce, alongside doing some shopping and enjoying an aperitif or two, Brittany’s open-air markets are wonderful.
The best way of exploring? In the comfort of your own car, packed with everything you need. Brittany is easily accessible via Brittany Ferries’ ports of Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth. What’s more, their superb choice of spring breaks, make getting there great value too!
Book now with Brittany Ferries and enjoy a 2-night sail & stay hotel break from just £121 per person.