Lost high in the Parc d’Armorique in central Finistère, the village of Huelgoat looks sleepy at first sight, and its lake peaceful. However, descend into the Argent Valley and you suddenly find yourself amidst a mass of magical mossy boulders that have stirred the Breton imagination in fabulous ways.
Slipping into a legendary world
A beautiful old watermill stands at one end of Huelgoat’s lake, the latter built in the 18th century to help in the task of extracting silver lead from the valley here. Take the slippery paths down beside the mill and you enter an amazingly secretive, green, rock-strewn world, which has inspired wild Arthurian and Christian myths. One rung of steps leads to the so-called 'devil’s grotto' via an unnervingly narrow descent. In another spot, the indentations in the rock are said to have served as the Virgin Mary’s cramped home – use your imagination to spot Jesus’s supposed cradle! One fanciful story claims that the boulders were chucked here by a Celtic giant. Another says it was a grumpy Gargantua who threw the rocks around as a way of complaining about the nasty porridge he was served at Huelgoat. Clearings with an outdoor theatre and a crêperie bring you back to some normality.
Deeper into Arthurian and Celtic camps
Press further into the forest of Huelgoat (the place name means ‘high wood’ in Breton) and you pass the Grotte d’Artus, where Arthur was meant to have had a bed in the woods, before arriving at the Camp d’Artus. Legend has it that Arthur hid a hoard of treasure in this spot. Archaeologists say that the ancient defences here long predate Arthurian times and were probably erected for the local Celtic tribe.
From Breton village to global village
Come back to earth with a calming walk around the lake, appreciated by fishermen, or by wandering around the village square, lined with bars and shops, as well as the church. Above the centre, at the Arborétum du Poërop, trails take you on a quick voyage around the world’s continents, via the thousands of trees and shrubs planted here, in a landscape with views over the typical central Finistère countryside.
Did you know?
La Roche Tremblante is the most celebrated of Huelgoat’s boulders.Weighing in at some 100 tonnes, even a child can get it to move alittle… by finding exactly the right spot against which to lean!
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