Presqu’île de Plougastel and Daoulas Abbey
A handful of very well-protected peninsulas stretch out into the back of the Bay of Brest. Religious men founded abbeys in these privileged locations, such as that at Daoulas. Plougastel-Daoulas meanwhile is reputed in France both for its calvary and its delicious strawberries.
A rich religious legacy
The abbey of Daoulas, like that of nearby Landévennec, has origins going back to the Dark Ages, but the enchanting ensemble of religious buildings you see today date from medieval times. They include a rare Romanesque cloister, alongside which a medieval medicinal herb garden has been recreated. Nearer Brest, Plougastel-Daoulas suffered from bombing raids in the Second World War. Its famously elaborate 17th-century calvary was badly damaged, but thanks to an American officer, John D. Skilton, who became passionate about the place’s history, the work was wonderfully restored. The figures, some 180 of them, sport fine costumes; they were carved out of distinctive Kersanton stone, quarried in the area.
Brittany’s strawberry fields
The sloping terrain around Plougastel-Daoulas proved particularly well adapted for producing excellent strawberries, as is brought to the fore in the town’s museum. Now, local farmers have had to diversify, but the Plougastel fraises and their liqueur are still very popular. There’s almost as much fun to be had uncovering the country chapels hidden down the lanes leading from Plougastel-Daoulas to the Bay of Brest as there is unearthing strawberries under their leaves.
World cultures to the fore
Back at Daoulas, the abbey was largely abandoned following the Revolution. Finistère county council bought the place in 1985 and turned it into an exciting cultural centre, each year featuring an exhibition on a different ethnic group, from past or present. The first display, on the Celts, helped breath new life into Daoulas abbey, spreading its renown. Other exhibitions have featured the Aztecs, the Berbers of North Africa, or the Vikings.
Did you know?
It wasn’t just the local calvaries that were made from Kersanton stone. Because it was relatively easy to carve, it was exported across Brittany for such work.