Veritable jewels, the Breton islands and peninsulas promise a complete change of scenery. Hidden coves, stretches of fine sand, pebbled beaches and many other landscapes, sometimes offering tropical appearances... make no mistake: you are in Brittany!
Off the coast of Paimpol is Ile Bréhat, one of Brittany’s loveliest islands. In actual fact, Bréhat consists of several islets around two small, car-free islands, which are joined by a bridge at low tide. It is easily accessible by a regular 10-minute boat journey from Pointe de l’Arcouest.
The island of Ushant (Ouessant in French), 18 miles (30km) off the coast of Le Conquet, is where you’ll find France’s most westerly point, Pointe de Pern. The island is well known for its lighthouses and treacherous seafaring heritage but especially for its indigenous sheep.
These seven elusive, rarely inhabited islands lie about as many kilometres north of the exceptionally popular Côte de Granit Rose, but few humans set foot on them. Monks tried to establish a foothold, but gave up. The main occupants are the seabirds that congregate here to nest in vast numbers.
A 15-minute boat ride from Roscoff, the Île de Batz (pronounced ‘ba’) is a hidden gem that is worth seeking out. The main attraction is its exotic garden but there are also some lovely beaches, leisurely walks and great views from the top of the lighthouse.
Belle-Île, 9 miles (15km) off the coast of Morbihan, is Brittany’s largest island. After a turbulent past, which included occupation by the British, the ‘beautiful isle’ is now a magnet for tourists thanks to its temperate climate, magnificent coastline, 60 gorgeous beaches and renowned opera festival.
At 4.3 miles (7 km) long by 1.8 miles (3 km) wide, Île de Groix is Brittany’s second largest island after Belle-Île and lies 8.7 miles (14km) off the coast of Lorient. Once a major centre for tuna fishing, Groix is now noted for its lovely (and unusual) beaches and its important concentration of minerals.
Five miles (8km) off the Pointe du Raz, the Île de Sein is arguably Brittany’s most unusual island, not least because it’s entirely flat. When you’re done exploring the only village’s museums, take a walk around the coast to see the lighthouse and the historic Free French Monument.
Northeast of Belle-Île, the islands of Houat and Hoëdic are the perfect places to get away from it all. Houat, the larger island, has sweeping sandy beaches and a network of footpaths while its smaller sister, Hoëdic, boasts a network of coves, a fort and some Neolithic sites.
In the temperate south of Brittany, the Gulf of Morbihan has been described as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. From Locmariaquer and its ancient stones in the west, taking in the walled town of Vannes, on to the Rhuys Peninsula in the east, the gulf has something for all tastes.
The Îles de Glénan are an archipelago of islands about 10 miles (16km) off the south coast of Finistère. Only accessible in summer, they are best known for their sailing and diving schools and for having a unique indigenous flower.