The Forest of Brocéliande
King Arthur’s forest
About 18 miles (30km) west of Rennes, the forest of Paimpont is all that remains of the vast forest that covered ancient inland Brittany aka Argoat. Legend has it that the 25 square miles (40km2) of woodland is also the location of mythical Brocéliande, the forest of King Arthur.
The best place to start is the turreted Château de Comper near Concoret, which houses the Centre de l’Imaginaire Arthurien where you’ll discover scenes from Arthurian legends; in summer there are associated exhibitions, events and themed walks. Next to the castle is a lake, underneath whose waters apparently lives the fairy Viviane in a crystal palace built by Merlin the magician.
Some say Merlin was imprisoned by Viviane in a stone about a mile west of Concoret. Next to it is the Fontaine de Barenton, the fountain from where it is said rain can be summoned if you throw some of its water onto the slab in front of it. This site is not easy to find but it’s part of the Arthurian trail map that you can get from one of the local tourist offices. Visitors with a pure heart may find the Fountain of Eternal Youth, which is hidden nearby.
Go if you dare
Southwest of here near Tréhorenteuc is the ominously named Val Sans Retour (valley of no return). It is here that the sorceress Morgan le Fay, half-sister of King Arthur, is said to have imprisoned unfaithful youths. High above the valley, the Rocher des Faux Amants (rock of false lovers) is the spot where she enticed her prisoners. As well as several megalithic sites, visitors should note the golden tree at the entrance to the valley; it was erected in 1991 to commemorate the great fire that ravaged the forest in 1990.
Paimpont is an attractive little place, with a main street of stone cottages, and a good base to explore the area. It is best known for its 13th-century lakeside abbey, which as well as ancient books and religious silverware, holds summer exhibitions and concerts. Also worth a look are the 17th to 20th-century forges showing Paimpont’s industrial heritage.
Did you know?
South of Paimpont is one of Brittany’s most important megalithic sites, Monteneuf, which dates back to 5000BC.
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