Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Ouessant, Sein... so many names with accents of the open sea, the colours of iodine and the ocean and resolutely evocative of authentic Brittany. The Breton islands offer themselves unabashedly to lovers of wild scenery as well as to those who prefer the calm of sheltered beaches and charming ports. Brehat, its miniature gardens; Batz, its jagged rocks, dunes and fine sandy beaches; Ouessant, its reefs, reefs, mists and strong sea currents; Molène, its fauna of migratory birds and grey seals; Belle-Ile, its contrasting landscapes and cliffs pierced by sea caves; or Houat and its gentle atmosphere of a fishermen's island... Would spending a few hours or a few days walking around these jewels be enough to discover all their hidden treasures?
The wild islands of the north coast
With such a poetic name, "the island of flowers", officially the island of Bréhat, only suggests an excellent start. Off the coast of Paimpol, it is a paradise for lovers of walking or cycling. Clemency of the temperatures, abundant vegetation, charming villages... From the landing stage in the south of the island, you will quickly reach the village. Take a detour to the Saint-Michel chapel, from where you can overlook the whole island, then set off to discover the northern part, beyond the Vauban bridge, which is much wilder. The walk to the Peacock lighthouse, at the northern end of the island, is one of the most beautiful on this part of the Breton coast. To discover the island, prefer to ride a bike: the maximum altitude of the island does not exceed 25 m! This is where the lighthouse is located, from the top of which you can enjoy a panoramic view of Roscoff, the north coast and the English Channel
The confidential islands of the west coast
Swept all year round by violent winds, Ushant is the westernmost of the Breton islands, the wildest and the longest to reach. With its five lighthouses, it controls access to one of the largest roadsteads in the world
The crossing from Brest or Le Conquet to reach the bay of Stiff is almost an adventure in itself. Lampaul is the capital of the island and there you will find the tourist office and bicycle rental shops. To the north, the Côte sauvage offers the most exciting route. Start by reaching Pern Point, the most westerly point on the island, before following the cliffs of the north coast via the Créac'h lighthouse where you will enjoy the most beautiful view of Ushant as far as the Cadoran peninsula. On the way, take a break on the pleasant little beach of Yuzin. To the south, discover the point of Porz Doun and its majestic cliffs, then follow the coast to Porz Arlan, its panorama and its beach
During a stopover between the mainland and Ushant, you will discover the Molènes archipelago, a paradise deserted by men but populated by all sorts of protected species. Here, more than on any other island, you will be able to see dolphins during the crossing, approach the colonies of seals on the beaches or observe the famous puffins
About fifty kilometres south of Ushant, off the Pointe du Raz, Sein barely emerges from the waves, 6 m above sea level. Exposed to the wind, its colourful facades with wooden shutters painted in blue or pink, the traditional colours of the island, are home to a small population of fishermen. Largely reconverted into tourism, the island has nevertheless managed to preserve all its authenticity
Just off the south coast of Finistère, easily accessible from Bénodet or Concarneau, the Glénan archipelago comprises a dozen islands and several islets. The clarity of the waters has earned the Glénan the nickname of "Breton Polynesia". The largest of these islands, Saint-Nicolas, where all the ships dock, has become a great meeting place for sailing and diving enthusiasts
The authentic islands of the south coast
Off Lorient, ships dock on the north side of the authentic island of Groix. To discover it, take the 30 km of footpaths or the 50 km reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. They criss-cross the two parts of the island: Primiture and the beautiful beaches to the east; Piwisy, the cliffs and the scattered creeks (difficult to access) to the west
Perhaps most charmingly, your first sight of Belle-Ile when disembarking from the shuttle will be Le Palais, a pleasant fishing port. The island can easily be divided into two distinct landscapes: the north with the "tamed" coast and the south with the wild coast. For the most beautiful views, head first to Sauzon, a small port whose houses have colourful facades and shutters. Following the GR34 along the coast, you will reach the Pointe des Poulains, with its superb view of Quiberon. Then follow the western side of the island and go down to the needles of Port-Coton: you will enjoy a view on a tormented bay. The south-eastern part of the island offers great opportunities for swimming in coves sheltered from the wind.
Halfway between the coast and Belle-Ile, Houat raises its proud cliffs softened by pleasant beaches of fine sand. The quietness and charm invite you to rest and idleness
On the port of Saint-Gildas, you will nevertheless find an amazing fishing activity in season. Houat is indeed one of the rare Breton islands where tourism is not the main activity. Start by discovering the tip of En Tal surrounded by a tongue of fine sand before heading back to the south coast of the island to enjoy a beautiful view of Belle-Ile. The wild coast is lined with cliffs and reefs.
End your journey with a detour into the Gulf of Morbihan to discover two final treasures: Ile aux Moines and Ile d'Arz. The first, the largest of the Gulf, is renowned for its calm and seaside charm. From the small winding streets and flowers of the village crossed by stairs, it takes only a day to visit the island. The island of Arz is much less frequented, but has nothing to envy it
When to visit? From the arrival of fine weather in May until the end of the Indian summer.
Getting there. Ushant is the only island served by plane. You can approach the islands by landing at Brest, Lorient and Quimper. By train, direction Brest, Morlaix, Lorient or Quimper. To reach the islands, boat reservations are often mandatory or highly recommended.
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