- Craggy cliffs and crêperies
- Coast life
- Naval gazing
Rugged, windswept Brittany in north-west France is the coastal twin of Cornwall, and its happy-holidays charm matches its UK sister’s in buckets and spades.
This is a place for good old-fashioned fresh air, food and fun, where life is raw-edged and laid-back, with little pretension or polish. Crêpes and cider are rustic specialities; and coastal Brittany is a major European oyster producer, with Cancale and Belon among top spots for magical molluscs. Clifftop villages look out over the Atlantic, whose shorelines are beloved of surfers and seafarers, and dotted with relics, such as the standing stones at Carnac. But it’s not all salty sea air: inland from the wonderful beaches, islets and fishing villages are mediaeval castles, mystical lakes and myth-filled forests.
More than a third of the oysters consumed in France are farmed on the Brittany coast. Head to the northern shores to see tractors at work on the muddy beds in Cancale; afterwards, you’ll be able to consume as many freshly picked oysters as you can manage, for a snip of what you’d pay anywhere else.
- You can’t flag down taxis, so make sure to book in advance.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Opening hours in seasonal destinations can be erratic; it’s best to check ahead so you’re not disappointed. Shops usually close for lunch between 12 noon and 2pm.
- Packing tips
- Leave glamorous garments at home. This windy land demands laid-back, lived-in chic. Deck shoes and stripy tops are suitably nautical.
- Recommended reads
- The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark; Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover’s World Tour by Robb Walsh.
- Brittany is the home of the crêpe, which comes filled with all things sweet and savoury. Galettes, the savoury version, are made with buckwheat flour. But seafood is what really brings gastronomes to Brittany: Cancale for oysters, Erquy for scallops, and everywhere in between for fabulous fruits de mer. The sea here even makes a special kind of salt, fleur de sel de Guérande, harvested by hand. The homely meat-and-veg dumpling dish called kig ha farz, also made with buckwheat flour, may be harder to come by, so be sure to order it if you find it. Cakes include le far Breton, often made with prunes, and sugary, buttery kouign amann. Like neighbouring Normandy, Brittany produces cider, served here in dainty ceramic teacups. Or try lambig, a fire-starting spirit that tastes of apples.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- France: 33. Brittany: 02.
- Do go/don't go
- Brittany is in full swing between April and October; in winter, many shops, restaurants and cafés will be closed. Give August a miss if you want to skip the hordes – it’s prime holidaymaker time.
Don't go home without...
…spotting a woman wearing a coiffe bigoudène – a tall hat made from lace, as worn in mediaeval times.