Falaises de Plouha
High cliffs and historic beaches
North of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, you’ll find the tallest cliffs in Brittany. At 341ft (104m), the Pointe de Plouha is the highest point on an 8-mile (14km) stretch of rocky coast that takes in hidden coves, bird nesting grounds, an ancient harbour, wartime heroics and a chapel with chilling murals.
Start at Palus beach, a pretty crescent of sand that was the location of a massacre of anti-Revolutionists in 1794, now backed by parking for cars and camper vans, and follow the GR34 old customs officers' path north to the Pointe de Plouha where you can enjoy stunning views over St Brieuc Bay – at twilight you’ll see the lighthouses in action.
Next you’ll arrive at Beg Hastel (Breton for ‘head of the castle’) at whose tip you’ll find the remains of a gun bunker, which housed two guns and was built to protect a small anchorage. Opposite, the tiny Ile de la Mauve has become a breeding ground for seabirds including gulls, cormorants and the occasional oystercatcher.
Continuing north along the coast, whose inlets and creeks were well acquainted with smuggling in times gone by, is the picturesque beach of Gwin Zegal where you’ll see tree trunks jutting out of the water. This ancient form of anchorage, which is a listed site as it dates back to the 5th century, is one of the last of its kind still in use – boats are tethered to the trunks by ropes and chains.
Further along, Anse Cochat aka Bonaparte beach played an important role in World War II and has been listed as one of France’s most important sites for Resistance activities. During eight separate operations from January to August 1944, 135 British, Canadian and American airmen and agents were secretly evacuated from this beach by boat to the UK.
Chapel of death
Inland, west of the village of Plouha, which has a lively Wednesday-morning market, is Kermaria-an-Iskuit. Dating from the 13th century, this chapel is renowned for its rare 15th-century mural depicting a danse macabre – 47 images, ranging from bishops to death himself, remind us that no one can escape our eventual fate.
Did you know?
The father of Paris-based British actress Jane Birkin, Lieutenant-Commander David Birkin, led the escape boats from Bonaparte beach.
Falaises d'Armor (FR/EN)