As we walked under the Great Gates of St-Malo, the nearby cathedral bells were chiming, breaking the silence in the air. It was early in the morning, and the old city within the walls was beginning to come to life. Just getting lost in the cobbled streets and trying to find our bearings was amusement enough, while the kids were mesmerised by all the shops selling interesting and enticing items through gleaming windows. Little did we all know that this would be the first of many ancient and spellbinding towns we would come across on our Brittany holiday.
Brittany Holidays – Why You Should Go
It has been said that Bretons have more in common with the English than the French. Brittany’s history saw Britons, mainly from Wales and Cornwall, flee across the English Channel to seek refuge from Anglo Saxon invaders. Which is why there is still such strong ties to Celtic heritage in Brittany. Truth be told, Brittany still felt extremely French to me regardless of its historic ties to Britain…
After a stress-free crossing from Portsmouth to St-Malo via an overnight ferry, and our morning in St-Malo, it gave us a small taster of the next five days, as we began our Brittany adventure. And it quickly became apparent why Brittany holidays are so popular.
Brittany is a region that has epic coastlines and seaside resorts, swathes of idyllic beaches, striking towns and villages soaked in history, as well as their signature dish, pancakes. The one thing the whole family agreed on was that we didn’t have enough time. Brittany is huge – and there’s much to see and discover. So much so, we will be back.
In the meantime, if you’re still deciding if Brittany is the next holiday destination for you – then here are the best things to do in Brittany, from Brittany attractions to Brittany beaches, there really is something for everyone.
Explore Brittany Beaches
Brittany boasts some of France’s best beaches. It is what the region is best known for – over 700 miles of glistening coastlines from the truly rugged and spectacular to white sandy coves and turquoise blue seas – which wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean.
One of my happiest memories of our trip was spending the whole day at several Brittany beaches. We jumped in the car and drove to the beaches of the Rhuys Peninsula – spending some time watching the children play in the shallows of Kerfontaine and Port Navalo in Arzon. It was blissful just enjoying near-empty sandy stretches, crabbing, swimming and finding delightful cafés for oysters and cider – which is what the area is known for.
Brittany also has several glorious islands – including the sweeping beaches and neolithic sites of Houat, to the coast of Paimpol and Bréhat, considered to be one of Brittany’s loveliest islands. There are so many Brittany beaches and seaside towns it would be impossible to list them all – however, this is an excellent guide to the some of the best.
Visit Castles in Brittany
With so much heritage and history, it goes without saying there are dozens of castles in Brittany to visit. Grand turrets as well as sprawling grounds – there are castles and chateaux to fire the imagination of both the young and old. Impressive and fascinating, we enjoyed spending time learning the historical significance of two castles in Brittany – the 14th-century Château de Suscinio and the 12th-century Château de Fougères.
Château de Suscinio
It was impossible not to be wowed by the fairytale setting of Suscinio – a former hunting lodge of the Duke of Brittany. From 1471 it was to also become the home of the exiled King Henry VII, after The War of the Roses broke out in England. We dressed up in costumes, the kids discovered secret tunnels as well as learning about all about hunting – including crossbow demonstrations.
Château de Fougères
We fell in love with the pretty medieval town of Fougères and its castle. Using audio guides, we were transported to the past and learned how Château Fougères was identified by the Duchy of Brittany as the perfect spot to defend its lands from the French. Because of its open expanse, the kids enjoyed roaming free and investigating the different towers. We then spent an enjoyable afternoon roaming the town and discovering Place du Marchix, which is lined with half-timbered houses.
Wander Brittany’s medieval towns
Wherever we went – be it St-Malo, Fougères, Vitré and Carnac, I was in awe of the picturesque medieval towns, complete with cobbled streets, quaint shopfronts and more often than not, a magnificent castle looming large. The best way to see them is on foot – getting lost and aimlessly walking may not be fun for kids, but with the promise of ice cream and sweet pastries, you’ll be surprised by how much you can cover on the ground even with little ones in tow. Historic half-timbered houses, intricate stonework, beautiful harbours, Brittany really does have a pick of must-see towns.
The national dish of Brittany is crêpes. And one of the things to do in Brittany is to devour at least five – savoury and sweet! You will not struggle to find a crêperie anywhere in Brittany – but be aware there are two types on offer. In Lower Brittany crêpes are made with either wheat flour or buckwheat and in Upper Brittany, they’re made from buckwheat and called galettes. We had them filled with cheese, ham, scallops, chocolate – you name it! They’re filling, delicious and reasonably priced, too!
*Disclaimer: I was hosted by Visit Brittany for four nights which included accommodation, two meals, and entry into two attractions. As always my opinions are my own.