Monts d’Arrée and the Montagne St-Michel
Along the spine of Finistère
The Monts d’Arrée hills are like Finistère’s spine, a little contorted to be sure, like most things in Brittany. Climb their back and the views from up top are tremendous, as only bracken and heather grow on the spiky vertebrae. As to the Montagne St-Michel, a fully Breton St Michael’s mount, it stands apart.
Curving across central Finistère, separating the north of the county from the south, or Léon from Cornouaille, the Monts d’Arrée form a land apart. The craggy tops look at once forbidding and compelling – they should appeal to those of a romantic disposition. The best way to appreciate the natural grandeur is to hike across them. A cluster of peaks compete for title of highest height in Brittany; the battle is fierce with Roc Trévelez and Tuchenn Gador, coming in at 384 metres but the Roc'h Ruz has it at 385 metres.
380 metres with 360-degree views
The Montagne St-Michel nearby may be a little shorter, at 380 metres, but it has the most character of all; an extraordinary rounded hill topped by a teat of a chapel battered almost ceaselessly by the winds on this exposed height since it went up in the 17th century. There’s nothing inside the chapel, but the 360-degree views are incredible. The landscapes around the skirts of the hill can look eerie, as they’re so barren, but the trails crisscrossing the terrain are tempting for walkers and riders. Out east lies the St-Michel reservoir, with a disused nuclear power station beside it. Here too is the more ancient, scary marsh of Yeun-Elez, said by legend to be a boggy entrance to hell; such Breton stories recalled at the quirky Expo du Youdig.
Protected by the Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique
The Monts d’Arrée stand in the Parc d’Armorique, so the landscapes and communities here are now well protected. Charming museums highlight local themes and unspoilt villages with beautiful churches and calvaries are scattered across the slopes to north and south. To learn about Brittany’s traditional animal life, visit the Domaine de Ménez Meur, with those Breton icons, the carthorse and the wild boar, among the creatures to be seen.
Did you know?
La Maison des Artisans on the Montagne St-Michel’s southern slope features many Breton craftspeople’s works.
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