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Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Brittany Part 1 - Southern Finistère


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This trip report covers a week we spent in Guengat in South West Brittany in September 2011. It was originally written for Slow Travel and Pauline has asked me to enter it on Slow Europe.

This was week one of the trip. Week 2 covering Morbiham (Plumelec) is here. Week 3 covering northern Finistere(St Thegonnec) is here.

There is general information about Brittany here.

Michael's web site of pictures from the holiday is here.

Guengat and the surrounding area

We had a week booked in a gite just outside Guengat. It is a typical small Breton village built around the church and Marie. It still has a bakers and chemist shop (identified by a bright green neon cross). There is a small market on Thursday afternoons behind the Marie. The evening we visited, there was a fish monger, a stall selling cider, an old lady selling honey, a vegetable stall, fruit stall, bread stall, cheese, butcher and charcuterie.

On the Quimper road, set in a carefully tended garden, is a small fountain with a niche containing a statue of St Fiacre, the patron saint of Guengat. The water flows into a lavoir.

Guengat church doesn’t feature in the guide books but is a typical example of a simple C16th parish close with wall, small triumphal arch and calvary. It is a big church with a tall and very thin Kreisker spire. The two side aisles have a series of dormer style windows which make the church look as if it has four aisles.

Inside it has a blue painted roof in the choir. Below is a carved and painted wooden frieze with animals, a woman pulling beer, soldier, farmer, a head being eaten by two crocodile like animals. All had great character and we kept saying ‘have you seen…’

There is a large tomb of a lord and lady in one corner. Some believe this is the tomb of St Alouarn and his wife. There is a small glass exhibition cupboard with communion plate, and C16th processional cross and a a large and elaborately carved wall cupboard. The side altar was splendid with gilt paintings.

On the road between Guengat and Plogonnec, there is a sign to CHAPELLE ST THÉGONNEC. This is down a narrow lane past a farm. There is a small parking area and the chapel is reached along a grassy through the trees. It is in a lovely setting in a grassy clearing among the trees. It is a plain, small granite building with two doorways.

This is one of the few churches that has a fountain inside it. A spring feeds into a small fountain in the nave which has a small pool for ablutions. It then ran across the floor and out of the opposite wall before running off down the bank.

The church looks unloved and unused. The walls are suffering from damp. It is plain and simple inside. There is no pulpit and two carvings of saints on either side of the altar, (one is St Thegonnec) and a statue of the Virgin. There were no pews. There were two tables with tourist information and stacked up chairs. It is a lovely setting and well worth the detour to find it.

PLOGONNEC is a larger settlement with a large SuperU on the Guengat turn. This had an excellent range of fresh food and was a nice place to shop. Plogonnec has a bakers in the main square but the butcher’s shop had a notice saying it was shutting from 10th September. We didn’t know whether this was for the winter or permanently.

Plogonnec church is C16th and has a triumphal arch. It has a massive stone tower with open belfry with two bells. On either side are smaller towers with stairs. This again is big with three large altars across the east end with gilt carvings and several side altars. The chancel roof is painted blue with a decorative painted border and ribs. The windows are C16th stained glass. There are carvings of saints on the walls and pillars as well as processional banners.

Between Plogonnec and Le Juch there is a turn off signed to CHAPELLE ST PIERRE. It was built in 1608 and is on the edge of Bois de Nevet, a large area of deciduous and coniferous woodland with a lot of footpaths.
There was an old house next to the chapel but no other settlement. It had been a large and important building with carved doorway and separate round tower giving access to the belfry. The windows are now blocked with wood and it looks very shut.

LE JUCH must once have been an important settlement but is now a shadow of its former self. It has kept a small bar but no other shops. There are many nice old houses including a very large building at the top of the street which used to be a bar and epicerie but is now long shut. It must have been important in its time as it had a splendid fireplace and assorted buildings and sheds behind.

An old gentleman came across with a key to let us into the church and found an English leaflet for me. He enjoyed pointing out all the highlights including St Michael and the devil and photographs of the Pardon. It is light and airy inside the church with slender pillars. There are nice stained glass windows and large altars with statues on either side. There is a carved pulpit and a statue of St Sebastian in the back corner with his body pierced with arrows.


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A day round the Pointe du Raz Peninsula

From Guengat we drove through pretty agricultural countryside with fields and woodland to CONFORT-MEILARS. This is a pleasant small town of stone houses. Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Confort was built in the C16th, although the chancel is later. It is a large building beside the road and has lost its wall, triumphal archway and ossuary. It still has a large triangular calvary with a single cross and standing figures beneath. There is an elegant open belfry was rebuilt in the C19th after the earlier one had been destroyed in a storm. It has a spire and adjacent round tower containing the stairs. The importance of the sea and fishing is reflected in the delightful small carving of a boat by the main door.

The inside of the church is fairly plain. The most important sight is the Carillon wheel with twelve bells, over the last arch in the nave. The bells were rung at baptisms.

After Confort-Meilors we cut across to the north coast, through gently rolling countryside with trees. There were fields of maize surrounded by earth banks covered with bracken. There were a lot of wild flowers in the verges, yarrow, purple loosestrife, red clover, knapweed…

We drove to POINTE DU MILLIER, which is signed off the D7 between Poullan-sur-Mer and Beuzec-Cap-Sizun. There is a large car park near the end of the road. No traffic is allowed beyond to the small house and lighthouse at the point. There is good walking along the coastal path in both directions from the lighthouse over low growing heather and gorse, with dramatic views of the rocky coastline and across to the Crozon peninsula.

MOULIN DE KERIOLET is signed off this road. It is a pleasant walk along a well made track through the trees to the mill, set in the bottom of the valley. A leat supplies water to the large waterwheel. It is a delightful setting with the river tumbling down through a steep valley with rocks. There are tracks for walking.

Entry is on the top floor where the miller lived in a small corner. This area has now been turned into a shop selling a range of different flours (Maize, chestnut, wheat, rye, buckwheat), selection of honeys and ciders. Below is the main milling area.

Back on the D7, our next stop was POINTE DE BRÉZELLEC. Again there is plenty of parking at the end of the road and although there were a lot of campervans and cars parked there few people around. There is more good walking along the cliffs here with views along the rocky coastline.

We then drove to Pointe du Van past an old windmill converted into a house and TROUGUER WINDMILL still with its sails and the remains of a smaller wooden windmill in the same field. This was shut for lunch.

The countryside at the end of the peninsula is flat with poor soils and little agriculture. Stone walls are beginning to replace earth banks. The houses are built of granite or else painted white with slate roofs. Most still have and use wooden shutters although modern houses have metal roll shutters. Everywhere looked clean and tidy.

The books say POINTE DU VAN is quieter and less touristy than Point du Raz. There is a huge car park which was busy when we arrived. There is a small crêperie set into a large grassy mound and stall selling post cards, ice creams etc. A large gravel track leads to the headland and is roped off to allow the vegetation time to recover from damage caused by pressure of feet. It is a loop path which brings you back past the small Chapelle St They. There was a steady stream of visitors. There was no where to sit down. The end of the headland is rough grassland and boring as it wasn’t possible to get close to the edge to see the cliffs and rocks. Scenically it wasn’t as good as Pointe du Millier or Pointe de Brezellec. If you take the right hand turn and walk away from Pointe du Van, the coastal path becomes more interesting, It isn’t roped off, the views are better and you can sit on the rocks to admire the scenery.

The scenic white road down to Baie des Trépassés is signed to a hotel. Not realising this we ended up on the main road which drops down with lovely views of the sandy beach with the large waves breaking on the shore. There are two hotels and parking.

After our experience at Pointe du Van we decided to give Pointe du Raz a miss as the car park looked very busy and we could see people swarming over the headland.

In Lescoff we saw a sign for the factory of BISCUITERIE DE LA POINTE DU RAZ. As well as the biscuit factory there is an extremely good shop as well as a large car park. It is possible to go into the factory and watch the biscuits or cakes being made and packed. There were samples of the biscuits (palets the day we visited) to try. We tried not to look too greedy. They were very good. Breton cooking involves the use of large quantities of butter which can be smelt in the air when baking. The shop sells a wide range of biscuits (in tins as well as boxes), preserves, sardines in decorative boxes (Douarnenez is an important sardine port) and a good range of gifts including faïence ware, place mats, table linen, calendars, CDs, books etc. We bought all our holiday gifts here.

The road along the south coast drops down to PRIMELIN, which has a lovely sandy beach and small breakwater with small boats beached at low tide.

Beyond it runs inland from the coast through undulating scenery to Pont-Croix.


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Pointe du Raz Peninsula - Pont Croix

PONT CROIX is a small heritage town which hardly merits a mention in the guide books although the tourist office provide a lot of information for visitors, including a walk around the town. It is built on a hill above the river Goyen and is dominated by the church.

We followed the heritage walk beginning at the Tourist Information Office. Behind are the large buildings of a C17th Ursuline convent which later housed a catholic secondary school. Beyond is the Collegial Church of NOTRE-DAME-DE-ROSCUDEN.

This was founded in the C12th and parts of the original building can still be seen. The large square tower with pinnacles and slender spire can be seen from all over the town. The south porch has an ornately carved dormer above the doorway with similarly carved pinnacles. Inside there are slender nave pillars and rounded arches. The massive transept pillars support the weight of the tower.

There is a small carved gallery at the west end and also a fire place.

The baptistry is at the back of teh church and has a carving of John the Baptist baptising Christ and an elaborate canopy.

There was a small side chapel with an altar to St Nicholas and a font with a carved wood canopy at the other. The side chapel of the Rosary has a decorative painted ceiling. The main altar was carved wood with gilded decoration and it is possible to walk round behind it. There are statues of the saints around the church.

We enjoyed the walk round the town. It still has a lot of the C16th granite houses and narrow cobbled streets.

Rue des Courtils is surrounded by high stone walls.

The narrow Petite rue Cherie drops steeply down to the river. (‘Cherie’ comes from the old French ‘cheyere to fall, not the modern translation of dear.) It is cobbled and has C16th stone houses at the top and bottom with high walls between them.

At the bridge there is a footpath which runs along side the river to the old port.

We crossed the bridge into KERIDREUFF, where there are good views up to Pont Croix. There had been a C16th water mill on the bridge but this is now a private house. Keridreuff was a small village with many houses belonging to C17th wealthy merchants. In its time it had been a prosperous centre with weaving, washing soda factory and a cannery.

Back over the bridge we climbed back up Grande rue Cherie to the town. This is also cobbled but wider than Petite rue Cherie and lined with some splendid old houses.

Plas de la Republic in the centre of the town is lined with newer and larger stone houses and had heavily pollarded plane trees. This is used as a car park except on Thursdays when the market is held in the square. The Hotel du Vile is a splendid white building with a small clock tower on one side of the square.

We enjoyed Pont-Croix, it is a delightful place. It gets few tourists and is still unspoilt.


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Baie d’Audierne and Penmarc’h

Baie d’Audierne lies between Pointe du Raz and Penmarc’h. The coastline is inhospitable and desolate. The shingle beach is very exposed to the currents. The land along the coast is poor and supports little agriculture. Most of the settlement is inland and inhabitants make their living from agriculture rather than fishing. It is a landscape of small fields surrounded by banks, hedges and trees.

We spent a half day pottering around the area concentrating on the old churches and chapels, which did involve a lot of careful navigation (plus a bit of intuition).

Our first stop was PLOVEN, a nice small village around the church (shut) with open belfry, next to the graveyard.

Just beyond the village is the ruined CHAPELLE DE LANGUIDO, in a rural setting with a few houses above the chapel. It is surrounded by a stone enclosure and has a small calvary. The original building was C12th but was rebuilt in the C16th when the rose window was added. It was partly dismantled in 1795 and left. The walls, empty rose window, nave pillars and round window in the chancel still survive. It is a delightful place and very peaceful.

CHAPELLE ST ETY is in a rural setting reached down a rough road and surrounded by fields with tall hedges and trees. It is a simple C16th chapel rebuilt in 2000 and looked immaculate. It was very firmly shut.

CHAPELLE ST VIO is reached by a long drive across the rough land behind the beach. The soil is poor and there is little agriculture. The chapel stands isolated with nothing round it. It is a simple lichen covered building with a small central belfry with stone steps up to it. It was locked although a notice said open 2-6. Close by was a small round menhir.

CHAPELLE NOTRE-DAME DE TRONOÊN is one of the landmarks of the Pennarc’h peninsula and its massive belfry spire can be seen for miles across the low flat lands.

There is a large and busy car park and restaurant across the road. It is a large granite church which is very plain inside with modern stained glass windows. There was a large shop selling books and postcards. The C15th calvary is the oldest in Brittany and certainly impressive. It has Jesus with the two robbers. Below there are two rows of carved figures with scenes from the life of Jesus.

The inside of the church has been restored and is very bare. There is a shop selling books and post cards. This is one to admire from the outside.

The C12th church of St Beuzec is signed from Chapelle Notre-Dame de Troneon. We wouldn’t have found it otherwise as it doesn’t get a mention in any of the guide books. CHAPELLE BEUZAC is in a small village of neat granite houses. It is surrounded by a large walled enclosure. Only the simple calvary and the C12th chancel is left as the rest fell down in the C19th. The building was shut and there was little to see, but there were two stone benches in the enclosure were we sat to eat our lunch.

The end of the peninsula around Penmarc’h is built up and busy.

POINTE DE LA TORCHE is a small promontory with sand dunes and a popular surfing beach. The huge car park was very busy, so we decided to drive on.

ST-GUÉNOLÉ has a huge sandy beach which was busy with holiday makers. There is a large car park. Across the road is the Musée Prehistorique Finistérien, which was shut. On the grass around the building are megaliths, including a reconstructed chambered tomb, cists and iron age steles.

Round the headland the coastline is very exposed with huge stone boulders. There were few buildings along the shore - perhaps it is too exposed.

A short distance beyond is ST-PIERRE at the end of the peninsula. There has been a lighthouse here since the C2nd. There now three lighthouses.

The first was on the C16th Chapelle St Pierre. Beyond is a small shipwreck cemetery. The tower had been used for defence as well as a semaphore station. The tower was reduced in size when it became a lighthouse in 1835. This was replaced by a later C19th round lighthouse on a square base and then the current PHARE d’ECKMÜHL, which is an elegant building with a decorative top. This is named after Adélaïde Louise of Eckmühl, (daughter of the Prince of Eckmühl who was a friend of Napoleon), who left money in her will for the building of a light house.

We drove through Plobannalec Lesconcil and Lesconcil which are no longer fishing villages and the harbour was full of pleasure boats. Houses were beautifully maintained and newly painted while or cream houses. There is a lot of money here.

We had intended to drive through LOCTUDY until we saw the sign to the C12th church. (I am a sucker for Romanesque architecture.) This was well worth finding. It is a massive church with a large rounded Romance apse at the east end with three smaller apses off it and a tall spire. It is surrounded by a graveyard which has several graves with metal crucifixes.

Inside it is a very plain and simple building, dominated by the massive pillars and rounded arches. There are few statues and the altars are simple. The main altar in the apse has round pillars and arches with carved capitals behind with a walkway round the back. This was a delightful church and we were glad we had stopped to visit.



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Manoir de Kérazan

MANOIR DE KÉRAZAN is between Pont l’Abbe and Loctudy. It has had a chequered history with many different owners. It passed to the Astor family in the C19th who turned it into a luxury home with a fine collection of paintings and pottery.

It is a lovely C16th building that was extended in the C18th with large dormer windows and a new roof. Later an C18th wing with outbuildings was added. The main staircase is in a circular turret with conical roof.

We were given an English summary to the rooms and left to wander at our own speed. Photographs were allowed, but no flash.

The kitchen is in the C16th part of the house and contains a large open fireplace and recessed wall cupboards used for storage. The walls were so thick the room always stayed cool. It is furnished with typical Breton furniture including a large cupboard with a decorative pattern of nails. The number of nails reflected the affluence of the family.

Up the beautiful wooden spiral stairway on the first floor, are the bedrooms belonging to M and Mme Astor. One bedroom has an ensuite bathroom with water heated by a boiler in the bedroom.

Back downstairs there is a large drawing room with grey paneling with gold details. There is an alabaster clock, decorative Chinoisserie box, crystal chandeliers and two mirrors which give multiple reflections of the chandelier.

This leads into the dining room.

Beyond is a large billiard room with blue green painted paneling from the time of Louis XV which had been installed in the C19thC. The mouldings at the top are intertwine to resemble ram’s horns which are a traditional motif from the area.

There is a small smoking room with card table with C19th voyeuse chair designed to sit and watch the card players.

Beyond is Madam Astor’s drawing room with C19thc pink paneling, Louis XVI writing desk and chairs with green tapestry upholstery. Beyond is the study/library from the second half of the C19th.

The Chapel is now used as a display room for works by Alfred Beau who worked in the Parquier Factory in Quimper. There is a selection of his plates and well as a Faiance cello. It took him six attempts to get it right. It has no strings and has never been played.

We walked round to the farm at the back of the house. The farmhouse is not open. There is a large barn with examples of farm machinery including potato planters and lifters, wagons and sleds.

The grounds are pleasant with trees and grass. There is a small stream with a rock garden. The small kitchen garden had a selection of herbs, leeks, carrots, marrows, french marigolds and many different varieties of mint.

There is an underground fountain and a large laundry with steps into two pools.

The douves seches (dry moat) across the roadway inside the main gate, were common in the C17th as they were cheaper than a moat with water. They are also called ‘Wolf’s Leap’ as the distance can only just be managed by a wolf in one leap.

This was another good visit and we enjoyed it.


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North coast of the Crozon Peninsula

We spent a day exploring the Crozon Peninsula. We decided to start with Landévennoc for the ruined abbey and work our way round anticlockwise.

LANDÉVENNEC is a long straggling settlement with very poor signing. We found the new Benedictine Abbey built in 1958, and we ended up down by the river. It took us three attempts to find the RUINS OF THE OLD ABBEY OF ST GUNOLE. There are a few brown signs but they are so small they are easily missed. The ruins are down a side road. There was no obvious parking so we parked beside a cafe that looked very shut up.

We got to the ticket office just ahead of a coach tour although the guide did say he would take them into the museum first so we could enjoy the abbey in peace. The curator wouldn’t let us use a credit card and he didn’t know how to use the till so it took several goes to sort it out. Each time the total owing was going up. We began to wonder whether it was worth it.

It wasn’t. The site is disappointing and in fact most of the remains of the church can be seen through the railings without paying. This is in fact the view in all the pictures. The church has the remains of the cloisters to one side with the chapter house beyond. The nave pillars stand about 2’ high. We didn’t bother with the museum or the rest of Landevennec.

Back on the main road, we picked up the white road round the coast to LANVEOC, which is a nice little settlement with some old houses and a fairly plain church.

We drove up to Fort Belvedere for the views. This still belongs to the military and is not open. There is a large car park and the road leads to the main entrance to the fort (1752). The fort is surrounded by large tapered walls and you can walk round the walls to the orientation table for views across to Brest and the submarine pens at Pointe des Espagnole.

We followed the coast through Fret, a nice little settlement on the coast with a lot of boats in the harbour and a seasonal ferry to Brest.

The road goes across a shingle bar separating a lagoon. There are nice views along the coast road to Ile des Morts and Ile Treberon.

ROSCANVEL is a long straggly settlement with no real centre. St Elois church is modern inside with new stained glass windows. On the green to the south is a fountain with lavoir below.

We drove to POINTE DES ESPAGNOLES anticlockwise round the coast. From Roscanvel, it was built up with new houses separated by large grounds and trees. There is a lot of money around. Near the point there is a large car park with refreshments and an ice cream van. There are the remains of C19thC fortifications along the road. The track to the headland went past the 1811 fortifications; large squat stone towers surrounded by a dry moat and gradually being over run by bracken. There was a sign about a small exhibition but it was very firmly shut.

There are reasonable views across to Brest. The west side of the headland is nicer with rough moorland and few settlements.

We drove along the sea front at CAMARET, a long sprawling settlement tucked away in the north eastern corner of the Crozon Peninsula. It is nearly all eateries spilling out over the pavement with a new pavement roped off along the side of the road. With parked cars on the other side, traffic was congested. We used the car park up behind Hotel Styvel which was virtually empty.

It was 2pm and everyone was finishing lunch and walking down to the Chapelle Notre Dame de Rocamadour, past the old fishing boats. It is a nice stone built building with model ships suspended from the ceiling. There is no east window; it has been filled with stone. Beneath is a simple altar painted in white and turquoise. There was a queue of people waiting to light candles in front of the side altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The Vauban Tower at the end of the peninsula is a massive square structure with a slate roof, red painted walls and granite blocks on the sides of the building and round the windows. It is reached by a drawbridge and surrounded by a moat. There was a steady stream of people heading across the drawbridge but most just looked through the gateway and turned round.

We decided to give Pointe de Toulinguet a miss and went to find the ALIGNMENTS DE LAGATJAR. There are about 140 standing stones up to 2m in height, in the middle of a large grassy area. They are arranged in two rows with another row at right angles. There is ample parking along the side of the road and you can wander freely among the stones. We watched a coach tour drive slowly past with people taking photos out of the windows.



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South coast of the Crozon Peninsula

POINTE DE PENHIR looked very busy with parked cars and people. We decided to give it a miss and headed back towards Crozon, past the splendid sandy beach of Anse de Dinan with views across to Pointe de Dinan and its natural arch.


We drove down to POINTE DE DINAN, which has good access to the coastal footpath. There is a large car park. Although there were a lot of cars, there were few people around. It is a lovely walk across the dwarf heather and gorse to the end of the point. There are good views of the cliffs, the sandy coves to the east and down to Cap de la Chèvre. It is a jagged rocky coastline with several natural arches. There is a network of footpaths to follow and it is excellent walking. Even though there were a lot of cars in the car park we saw few people while we walked.

We drove along a network of white roads past isolated small settlements made up of a few stone houses to LOSTMARC’H, a small settlement of single storey stone buildings along a dead end road with a track out onto the headland.

Below us the headland, with the remains of an iron age fort, stretched into the sea. We could see the two massive banks and a ditch across the neck. There are good views across the sand dunes behind Lostmarc’h beach. The vegetation in this part of the peninsula is low scrubland with little agriculture.

We drove through St Hernot and Rostrudel, a nice settlement with a few well kept stone houses, to CAP LE CHÈVRE. There was a steady stream of traffic leaving the Cap. There is a huge car park which was still busy at 5.30. Most people seem to head to the monument representing a wing of an aircraft stuck into the ground and dedicated to aircrew killed or missing on active service in the Atlantic. It is a short walk to the point with a large coastguard lookout station with a track down the side. This takes you through low scrubby vegetation and wasn’t particularly attractive so we gave up.

CROZON is a large busy settlement with a lot of shops. We parked in a large quiet car park behind the church.

Eglise St Pierre is a huge building rebuilt at the end of the C19th although the porch and parts of the east end are from the original C16th building. The stained glass windows date from 1950. The tower had to be rebuilt 1945/6 as it had been badly damaged when the German Battery at Cap de Chevre used it for target practice.

The organ dates from the C17th but has been restored several times. The lectern is modern but made from panels from the retable from the previous high altar. The Bishop’s chair is C17th. There is a fairly plain main altar with 2 side altars on either side.

In the north transept the retable of the rosary dates from 1664 and shows the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child as she gives the rosary to St Dominic and the scapular to St Catherine.

The most famous sight in the church and what everyone goes to see is the retable of the ten thousand martyrs in the south aisle which dates from 1602 and is made up of 29 panels. There are over 400 painted carved characters telling the story of the ten thousand soldiers of the Theban Legion who, as a punishment for their Christian religion, were put to death on Mount Ararat by the Emperor Hadrian. This was made up of three parts with door that could be closed. The church is worth a visit just to see this.



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Le Faou

Le Faou hardly gets a mention in the guide books although it is marketed as one of the ‘small towns of character’ in Brittany. It had once been an important port at the mouth of the river Faou, transporting oak and beech (ar faou in Breton) from Le Cranou forest. Now it is a sleepy backwater.

The best view of the town is dropping down the hill from the N165(E60) when the church spire and houses are reflected in the water. Le Faou does need to be seen at high tide. At low tide it is an unattractive muddy expanse.

There is plenty of parking along the quay just beyond the church.

It is a delightful small town with many old houses and narrow streets made even narrower by parked cars.

Houses were built of granite and have overhanging upper storeys with slate covered fronts - this is one of the few Breton towns to have preserved this style of house. Some have carved wood around the tiles

Le Faou is still unspoilt apart from 2 pizza places which spewed out over the pavement with scruffy awnings and seating.

There is a large main square with trees and Hotel de Ville on one side, excellent bakers with a steady stream of people coming out with baguettes under their arms.

This was our first experience of a small working French town and we were hooked.


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DAOULAS is a small medieval town which grew up round the abbey, getting its wealth from linen or kaolin industries.

This is a less attractive town than nearby Le Faou but does have more shops. The granite buildings are not as old and much plainer.

There are some nice C16thC granite houses on rue de l’eglise leading up to the Abbey Church which is now the parish church and is a fairly plain building surrounded by a graveyard. The original porch has been moved to the entrance of the churchyard. Opposite is the smaller Chapelle de Ste-Anne opposite which had a nice altar piece.

The ABBEY RUINS are tucked away behind the church. The abbey was founded in C12th by the Viscount of Leon who established an order of Augustinian canons. The canonical rights were suppressed in 1790 and the abbey church became the parish church and the rest of the buildings were sold. Some parts of the abbey were demolished, others fell into a ruinous state. After the second world war a school was established in the grounds.

The inside of the church is pure Norman with rounded arches and am apse.

The ticket office is in the main gateway and there is a short AV presentation in the old stable area. Beyond is a small courtyard. To the left is the school with the modern exhibition rooms and shop beyond. To the right is the Abbot’s House which is now the administration centre for the abbey The cloisters are beyond this. Three sides remain with pillars and round arches. The original cloisters were destroyed during the revolution but were reconstructed during the C19th. They now enclose a private garden.

Beyond the cloisters, steps lead up to the medicinal garden which is divided up into neat plots with a selection of herbs growing, all labelled. There is an extensive and pleasant garden with grass and mature trees. At the far end of the garden is the oratory and fountain. The oratory is a small rectangular C16th building with altar and statues inside.

The fountain is a splendid structure with the date 1550. It is supposed to treat the eyes. The water flows flows through as series of small basins.

The water from the fountain flows into the monks washroom which is made from large slate slabs. Near it is a C20th building that was used as a laundry room by the school.

A stream flows through the garden into a pond which has flowers around it. The area is supposed to be grazed by Quessant sheep but none were visible the day we visited.

I was pleased to have visited, but probably wouldn't bother a second time.


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Locronan - A small heritage town on the tourist beat.

Until the C17th, Locronan had been an important and wealthy linen town supplying sails for the French, English and Spanish navies. There had been a rapid decline in the C19th with little development or new buildings. The buildings have been restored and the town now markets itself as a tourist attraction and is popular with film makers.

It is thought there was originally a druid settlement here before the arrival of the Irish missionary, Ronan. An early church was built about C9th.

Loncronan features in all the guide books and is popular with film makers. It does get a lot of visitors. Cars are not allowed in the town after 11 am and there are large car parks at the entrance of the town. Not only does it keep the town free of traffic, it makes it much easier for pedestrians and photographers! There is a €4 charge for parking. We were given a sticker which gives free parking for the rest of the year. It is a short walk into the town.

The cobbled streets around the church and square are lined with large and splendid granite houses with slate roofs dating from the C17th & C18th. There is a small communal well in the middle of the square. There are a few restaurants, a couple of clothes shops, gift shop and several bakeries selling tins of biscuits. Firm control is kept over the size of signs and premisses are not allowed to spew their wares across the pavement. We found the post office which just sells stamps. A buzzer sounds as you enter and there is a small counter with no security grilles.

EGLISE ST-RONAN stands in the centre of the town. This is an impressive building built in the C15th with money from the Dukes of Brittany. The tower is massive but very squat after parts of it fell down early in the C19th.

Entry is into the Chapelle du Penity which adjoins the south side of the church and has a narrow spire. It was built a few years after the church, over the presumed site of the hermitage of St Ronan and contains the tomb of St Ronan. Some of his bones were returned here and are stored in a small reliquary on a stone altar. The coats of arms of the great families who donated money for building and upkeep are in the window.

Arches lead into the main church past a tableau Mary Magdalene and others with the body of the crucified Christ.

The church is fairly plain with massive pillars with carvings of saints on them. There is the usual selection of side altars and statues

The pulpit has carvings of the life of St Ronan.

Rue Maol drops steeply down the side of the hill. It is cobbled and lined with low buildings where the linen weavers would have lived. It leads to CHAPELLE NOTRE-DAME-DE-BONNE-NOUVELLE, a C15 to C17thC building. This is in a lovely setting at the base of the town surrounded by trees and fields. It has a small calvary and there is a small fountain with lavoir which was used for retting flax.

The chapel is very simple inside with a depiction of Jesus on the cross surrounded by the two Marys on a beam of wood across the choir. There are statues of the Virgin and Child and God the Father with the crucified Christ.

Venelle de Bonne Nouvelle, a tree lined green lane leads back up into Locronan.

It is worth planning a vist either first thing in the morning or late aftrnoon to avoid the worst of the tourists.


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St Jerome’s Church and Chapelle St-Gilda’s, Cast,

Cast is a long straggling settlement, a few miles south west of Châteaulin on the main road to Locronan. The main settlement is along the main road which has a few streets off lined with old stone houses. Apart from the Hunt of St Hubert there is little to encourage the tourists to stop.

We had driven through it on our first day on the way to Guengat and decided it would repay time spent walking round and looking at the church. It did.

The Parish Church of St Jerome is on the main street. It is typical of many small churches found around Brittany built between the C16 and C18thC. It is a low stone building with three aisles and open belfry tower.

The inside is fairly plain; this was not one of the wealthy linen churches.

The calvary is small and dwarfed by the glorious C16th monument of the HUNTING OF ST HUBERT next to it.

According to legend, Lord Hubert was a keen huntsman and committed the sin of going hunting with his dogs on Good Friday. He found a deer to chase when he had a vision and heard the voice of God thundering down on him. He promptly repented and was converted.

The carving shows a stag with a crucifix between his antlers. There is a carving of Hubert climbing off his horse and beside it a carving of Hubert on his knees in front of the stag with his helmet at his side. The dog looks to be praying too. Even though St Hubert was an C8th saint he is wearing C16th dress.

CHAPELLE ST GILDAS is down a side road from Cast. It is a lovely setting among the trees just off the road. It is a long low stone building with slate roof built in the shape of a cross with a small bell tower. It is a small, plain granite building but was very firmly shut. We went to find the fountain, dropping down the path beyond the chapel and following the signpost pointing to the right. There was a large stone alcove with a statue with a small plunge pool and larger pool, and one of my hidden gems.



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Pleyben, one of the ‘must see’ Parish Closes

This is a small market town which very much on the tourist map with visitors coming to see the parish close which is one of the best and features in all the guide books. On a Saturday afternoon the town was busy with tourists and a coach party although most of the shops were shut. There were few spaces left left in the parking areas around the square.

The wall surrounding the close has gone but the triumphal arch remains standing in splendid isolation.
There is a massive calvary which is unusual as it has an arch under it. It was built in 1555 with extra carvings added in 1650. On the top are the three crosses with Christ and the two robbers. Below are carved scenes showing the life of Christ. The ossuary contains a small museum.

The church has a massive tower crowned with pinnacles. There are carvings of the 12 apostles in the porch. It is a big church and gives the impression of being light and airy inside. The pillars have statues of saints on them.

It is a large church with carved frieze around the top of the walls. Painted beams come out of the mouths of mythical animals and span the nave.

There is a splendid Baroque organ above the west door.

There are saints on the nave pillars and splendid side altars. This a place where you need to allow plenty of time to stand and look.

I'm not sure this really merits all th hype in the books. It is a nice church, but then so many are in Brittany.


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CHÂTEAUNEUF-DE-FAOU is a small town built on the slopes of a hill overlooking the Aulne valley between the Monts d’Arrée and Montagne Noire. This was a fortified town and there are a few remains of the town wall near the tourist office. Chapelle de Notre-Dame-des-Portes was built on the site of the old castle and the remains of the motte can still be seen.

It is an attractive town with tubs of flowers everywhere. The bright red geraniums were colourful in the sunlight.

The Hotel du Ville is a splendid building with a tiled mural to the front, featuring ladies in Bretton costume.

There is a new water feature in the centre of a fountain with water tumbling down rock to the street below. Nearby is the underground fountain of St Jean Baptiste Baptist in an alleyway more or less opposite St John’s Church. There were walls round three sides and steps down to the fountain area with a statue.

St Julian’s Church in centre town was rebuilt 1878 and gets a mention in the guide books as it has early C20th murals painted by Paul Serusier, a close friend Gauguin. There were three small paintings on the back wall which we assume were the murals painted by Gaugins’s friend rather than the ‘amateurish’ murals in the side chapel with the font.

Chapelle de Notre-Dame-des-Portes is a five to ten minute walk from the centre of the town. Built on the old castle site it has excellent views down to the Aulne Valley and the C17th Pont du Roi. I had thought about dropping down to here and walking along the river, but changed my mind when I realised just how steep the climb back up would be.

The chapel had been built in the C15thC after a statue of the Virgin Mary had been found in a hollow tree. It performed many miracles and became place of pilgrimage. The present building is late C19th and was restored in the mid C20th. It was modern and unremarkable inside. The highly carved remains of the 1438 porch have been remounted on the front of the nearby sacristy building.

This is an attractive small town, like so many in Brittany. It is worth a quick stop if passing, but not really worth making a detour for.


1000+ Posts
Spézet and Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Crann

SPÉZET, is a small village about 10km east of Châteauneuf-du-Faou. We wanted to find the small CHAPELLE NOTRE-DAME-DU CRANN on the edge of the village which the Michelin Guide had given 2* for its “remarkable C16th stained glass windows”.

The chapel was built in 1532. It is a low stone building with slate roof and a small open belfry at one end. It looks almost insignificant set among the trees. Across the road is a small calvary. The church is open 2-6pm and the two women from the village were delighted to have visitors.

The eight stained glass windows are a magnificent blaze of colour and fully justify the 2* grading. They tell the story of the nativity, baptism, Passion of Christ, resurrection as well as the death of Mary and her coronation. Two other windows tell the story of St Laurent and St James.

On either side of the main altar are two large retables. These are highly carved and brightly painted. One has the Virgin Mary with Jesus with two prophets at her feet and the four evangelists. There are carved images of important events in Mary’s life. Above is God the Father. During the Pardon, the statue is removed from its niche, cloaked and carried round the town by the women of the parish.

The other retable shows God the Father on his throne wearing a crown and holding the resurrected Christ. The dove is now missing. There are angels playing instruments and carvings of the 12 apostles down the sides. Above is a carving of the resurrected Christ surrounded by sleeping soldiers. Below is a scene of the martyrdom of St John the Evangelist who was being boiled in a cauldron of water with figures carrying faggots for the fire.

There was a small round window above the door. A small display case on the wall has examples of a baby’s layette, Christening gowns and bonnets from the 1950s as well as the robes used to dress the statue of the Virgin Mary.

The fountain is a few minutes walk further along the road, past a pond with a small island with a house for the ducks. It is tucked away among trees. It had a large stone basin with steps down and an archway with a statue.

This is a delightful church and definitely worth the 2* ranking in Michelin. We were very glad we had found it.


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Château de Trévarez - One of the last châteaux to be built

CHÂTEAU DE TRÉVAREZ is about 5km south of Châteauneuf-de-Faou in the Forêt de Laz. There is a large car park off the road and the château is reached by a long walk through the trees past the splendid stable buildings.

It is a magnificent red brick building with decorative stonework, carvings and a slate roof, standing high on the hillside above the Aulne valley.

It was one of the last châteaux to be built in 1892 for James de Kerjegu who came from a noble, rural background. He read law and entered the diplomatic service in embassies in Buenos Aires, St Petersburg and Vienna. He married Laura de Haber who was the daughter of a wealthy banking family. He had social ambitions and built the chateau to impress. It took 11 years to build, costing 5 million gold francs (about 18 million euros). He died in 1908 and didn’t really have time to enjoy it. It was used by his daughter for hunting parties until WW1. It was used by the Germans in WW2 and bombed by the British. It was being restored when we visited in 2011.

The chateau is built on top of a cliff with views across to Chateauneuf-de-Faou. Entry is from the ‘back’ which had a large formal garden. This is now planted up with box and Santolina which are looking very unhealthy from an unspecified disease.

The doors have an open fretwork of cast iron and open into an impressive hall running the full width of the building. There are carved wooden openwork panels and large windows with views down to the lawns, chapel and across to Chateauneuf-de-Faou. There is now a small shop in the hall selling a selection of books. There are doorways leading into what was the library with wood lined walls with the remains of shelves and the large room beyond with a massive highly decorated fireplace.

There are a series of display panels (in French, English and German) about James de Keriegu and the house. It has a steam engine to generate electricity for the lights and to work the lift. There was a cool room in the basement which had wooden cabinets lined with cork and sprayed with cold water to keep food cool.

The formal gardens include a long water display with a grassy walk, trimmed hedges and carved fountains.

There are three feature fountains along the side of the hill and at the end is a cascade. Paths drop down the side of the hill and then loop back to walk below the ‘front’ of the Chateau with a bank of hydrangeas and rhododendron. There are no flower beds or herbaceous borders. There are several paths through the woodlands and on a nice day several hours could be spent walking through the grounds.


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Monts d’Arrée, Maison Cornec and Brassparts

MONTS D’ARRÉE is an ancient mountain range in the centre of Brittany. The use of the word ‘mountain’ is a bit misleading as the highest point is only 384m. They are made of of granite and are a sparsely populated area of heather and gorse moorland.

The main road from Commana runs along the crest of the Monts d’Arrée with good views north.

There is a small car park for ROC TREVEZEL, one of the highest peaks in the area.

There is good walking here. We walked up to the first lot of granite tors. There were good views across the gorse and heather moorland with a series of rocky outcrops. To the south we could see the Reservoir de St-Michel, the flat boggy land of Yuen Elez and Montagne St-Michel with its chapel. Seen from this height the land to the north appears ‘flat’ although it is gentle rolling countryside with fields and woodland.

MONTAGNE ST MICHEL is a landmark for miles around. There is a large car park and steep path up to the church. Several footpaths run off from here and it is a popular spot for walkers. On a clear day it has splendid views. Unfortunately it was too hazy for good views.

We were heading for ST RIVOAL, a small settlement with a square surrounded by houses and a small church at a major crossroads, and Maison Cornec as it shut for the season the following day.

MAISON CORNEC is reached by a short walk along a sunken lane between the trees. The house was away from the village and surrounded by orchards, trees and sunken lanes. It was a delightful spot.

Yvon Cornec and Anna Roustal came here in 1702. The house has been restored and is a typical example of an C18th farm with outbuildings. The house is built of stone and has a tiled roof and beaten earth floor. A covered external staircase leads to the upper floor which has a small fireplace and was used for storage and also sleeping. This now an exhibition area.

There is a central passageway with doors at each end. Animals lived in one end.

The family lived in the other end. There was a large fireplace. The fire was lit directly on the floor. There were 2 carved box beds with big storage chests by them. There was a slate bench running along the side of the wall for sitting and a large wooden table.

Outside the house was a horse gin and 2 bread ovens. The stone barns housed exhibitions on the restoration of the house and the surrounding area.

BRASPARTS is one of the main settlements in the area. We parked in the square to visit the church with its calvary. This is not one of the better known parish closes and gets few visitors.

The inside of the church was impressive with a splendid altar at the east end complete with a pergola top and a carved and painted pulpit.

There were saints on all the pillars, including St Herbot, the patron saint of cattle.

There were nice black and white windows. At the back was the remains of the old clock mechanism and an old coffin with an embroidered cover on what looked like a bier without wheels.

(Also in the Monts d’Arrée area are Moulin de Kerouat, Commana and St Herbot, which are covered in Trip Report for St Thegonnec.)


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Concarneau and Ville Close

There was low cloud and drizzle as we drove to Concarneau. It was fairly busy as we dropped down to the quay which has large parking areas. Charging for parking is complicated and there is information here. 

CONCARNEAU is big, the third most important fishing port in France. There are shops, eateries and large houses along the quay. There is a large Market Hall with bread, fish, butchers, fruit and vegetable stalls. We didn’t bother exploring further into the newer town. 

We spent the rest of the morning in VILLE CLOSE, the small and well fortified city on a small island in the bay. It has a history stretching back over 1500 years. In the C6th there was a small priory founded perhaps by monks from Landévennec. By the C10th the population had increased and a church was built. By the C13th or C14th a stone wall had been built round the settlement. The present walls and towers were built by Vauban in the C17th. Large artillery platforms replaced the earlier towers guarding the entrance.

Concarneau was a thriving fishing port, specialising in Sardines with canning factories outside the town. In the C19th Concarneau began to spread rapidly outside the Ville Close and by 1900 there were 30 canneries employing 2,000 workers out of a population of 7000. Today only 4 remain.

Originally there were two drawbridges guarding the entrance to the Ville Close.

Now entry is across a causeway and through an impressive gateway into a triangular barbican courtyard with grass and flowers.

A second gateway guards the entrance to the town. Above are the C18th Quarters of the Maison Du Gouverneur which would have given him good views across the town. This is now a shop and there is access to the rampart walk from here. In the north west corner between the gateway and walls is the old arsenal and barracks which is now a fishing museum.

Through the gateway is the main street, rue Vauban, lined with C17 to C19thC houses, now shops selling gifts, clothes and biscuits as well as assorted eateries. We walked past an ice cream shop selling a wide range of ice creams with a display of beautifully sculptured ice creams in the window and a sign saying no photographs unless you buy.

At the far end of the street is a large square, Place Saint-Guénolé. Most people don’t get beyond here.

Below is a grassy area with trees, small outdoor theatre and the remains of the facade of the church which later became a hospital.

A gateway leads down to the ferry across the harbour to the fishing quarter. (80c). This used to be the main road through the town and a ferry had to be provided.

A road running parallel to rue Vauban gives access to the back of the shops and houses. Steps give access to the ramparts and it is possible to walk round most of them. There are good views down into Ville Close, across to Concarneau and the pleasure boat harbour. The fishing harbour is further up.

Concarneau is very much on the tourist route and does get very busy so it is best to arrive early in the day.


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Manoir de Kernault

This doesn’t figure in the guide books. I had found it on the internet where it was described as “a lovely C15th building which had been modified to meet C18th requirements…….. a remarkable example of the evolution of a rural mansion”. We were intrigued and although it was a long drive, decided it would be worth it. We didn’t know about the exhibition then.

It was described as near Mellec. Fortunately Quimperle Tourist Information had sent me a map showing the route, otherwise we would never have found it. There was a sign off the main D765 Quimperle to Bannalec road but then you are on your own…

It had a large and impressive granary. There was a loud speaker outside the iron gateway connected to the exhibition “Colours of Sound” which ran all year (2011). ‘Humm’ we thought. There was a large flowing wooden sculpture looping round the end of the granary and bits of paper stuck on the walls. At first we assumed these were part of architectural surveys checking on the building. We later found out they were connected with the exhibition in the manoir.

There was a small ticket office with smaller shop selling a few books and postcards in what would have been the steward’s house.

The manoir is a delightful building with pale stone walls and a slate roof with dormer windows and tall chimneys. Our spirits rose as we walked towards it.

There was a large and impressive Seigneurial Hall with large carved fireplace and three large tapestries on the walls. These had been found in the attics and rehung. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to see any of these easily as there was a huge cube in the centre of the room with a picture of Yann Paranthoen, assorted modern chairs, loud speakers and ear phones hanging from wires. We found this throughout the rest of the building, even in the cellars, so it is impossible to enjoy the architecture.

The servants slept in a room above the cellars and it is possible to see the blocked off doorway to the privy. The kitchen had a large fireplace, with a small wall oven for cakes and pastries. There was a large stone dish warmer under the window.

A small chapel was built at the end of the house. There was a small window into the bedroom so the lord of the manor could attend mass and not mingle with the servants. There was also an inside doorway so he didn’t have to go outside to get to the chapel.

We understand Yann Pananthoen had been a famous broadcaster on French radio. Over his career he had taped country sounds and this was an exhibition based on his work. OK we are heathens and don’t appreciate this sort of thing which we find pretentious and self indulgent…. He had no connection with the area and we felt it detracted from the building. As we left the woman in the ticket office pointed out that there were more recordings we could listen too. We thanked her and declined with our reasons.

We had been expecting great things of this place and were terribly disappointed. The exhibition was intrusive and ruined the feel of the place. We went for a walk towards the pond and there were even outside speakers here.

The Manoir is only open Wednesday afternoons. Check on the exhibition before visiting. That for 2017 sounds even more esoteric. In fact it is possible to see the outside of the manoir through the large wrought iron gates and take pictures of the outside without having to pay to go in.


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Abbaye de St-Maurice

This had been on my ‘B list’ of things to do. All the information I had was that it was the ruins of a C12th abbey and the few pictures on the internet didn’t look too inspiring.

However Manoir de Kernaut was so disappointing that we had time on our hands and decided to visit here. It is south of Quimperle just off the D224 Clohars Carnoët to Guidel Road. It is on the edge of the Fôret de Carnöet by the tidal river Laita.

There is a large car park surrounded by woodland. It is a 10-15 minute walk along the side of the river and across the dam to the abbey buildings. The track continues further into the woodland.

Entry is into what had been the orangery.

We were given an audiotour in English which was excellent and we learnt a lot - especially as there isn’t a lot to see on the ground. The area outside the orangery had been the vegetable garden and the grass has been mown to show where the paths would have been, leaving longer grass where the flower beds were.

The C17th Abbey Farm has been restored and is typical of Breton Manor houses. It has an audiovisual about the abbey and exhibitions about the abbey restoration and buildings. There are two live webcams showing a colony of bats in the roof.

Beyond the farm is the main entrance to the Abbey with a tithe barn beside it. Peasant farmers had to give every 33rd sheaf of grain to the Abbey. The roof was thatched and irises were planted along the ridge to protect the thatch from rain.

Little is left of the abbey church apart from the west end and a few walls and bumps in the ground.

Steps lead down into what would have been the cloisters. There is nothing left of these except the well and the C13th Chapter house with the Charter room (Library) on the left. This was built of stone and had a fire resistant door.

There are the remains of a C19th building which had been workshops.

In the C19th stones from the abbey had been used to build a chateau which had included part of the chapter house. This had been used by the Germans and was pulled down after the war. All that is left is a low wall of stones. The C19th gateway to the chateau remains.

This was an interesting visit and well worth while. We were glad we visited. The Abbey is in a lovely setting and there look to be good walks in the surrounding woodlands.

And this completes the first of the three trip reports....
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