On the trail of Brittany’s legends
Brittany is famous for its legends; it’s a land that’s been peopled by dragons, mermaids, fairies and korrigans (little Breton elves) since the dawn of time. Wherever you go and whatever you do in Brittany, you’ll be able to discover – or rediscover – the secrets that weave their magic on our forests, islands and valleys.
The Korrigans of the Monteneuf moorlands
Those mischievous little elves called ‘korrigans’ are never far away when you’re out in the Brittany countryside. One of them, Ozégan, will guide you through the heart of the Monteneuf moors. As you and your family follow the trail named after him, you’ll see his amazing creations and have fun solving the riddles that he’s set for you. After that experience, perhaps you’ll be able to penetrate the mysteries of the nearby ‘ Pierres Droites’, a site that has more than 400 standing stones.
Find out more: Le Sentier d’Ozégan (Ozégan’s trail)
If you go down to the Monts d’Arrée today... beware the Ankou!
The expanse of peat-bog known as Yeun Elez, in t he Armorican Regional Natural Park, is more than just a nice place to have a stroll and enjoy the beauties of nature. This site is a nature reserve, a haven for birds, and it also has its very own legend: it’s said to be the exact location of the gateway to hell! When the mists close in across this strangely unreal landscape, beware of seeing a figure wearing one cape and carrying a scythe – the Ankou is on the prowl!
Find out more: The Monts d’Arrée mountains and the Brittany experience ‘Daybreak on the summits of the Monts d'Arrée’
Gargantua’s furious attack on Huelgoat
In Huelgoat, in the heart of the Monts d’Arrée mountains, you’ll find an impressive collection of monumental rocks. According to legend, Gargantua the giant once stopped in the forest and asked the inhabitants for something to eat, but all they gave them was a kind of porridge made of buckwheat. In a fury, he hurled all the stones that he found along his way, and they created a chaos of rocks in the heart of the forest. If you’re as strong as Gargantua, test your prowess and see if you can re-enact the legend by taking your turn to try and set the aptly-named ‘Roche Tremblante’ (Trembling Rock) in motion.
Find out more: Huelgoat
The City of Ys, buried under the sea off Douarnenez
In Douarnenez bay, listen very carefully and see if you can hear the mermaid’s song in the moonlight. In the 4th century, Gradlon, King of Cornouaille, built for his daughter Dahut the magnificent city of Ys, which was surrounded on all sides by the sea. King Gradlon alone kept the key to the lock that sealed off the city. His daughter turned it into a place of debauchery, and every night she took a new lover and then murdered him. One day, the Devil appeared in the shape of one of her suitors and persuaded her to steal the key to the city for him. And that is how Ys came to sink beneath the waves, and why Dahut was transformed into a mermaid.
Find out more: La légende de la ville d'Ys (The legend of the city of Ys)
Brocéliande, where the magic never fades
Land of fairies, elves and the famous Arthurian legend, Brocéliande is without a doubt the number one site of Brittany’s legends. In the shade of the ancient trees of the forest, the story of Merlin the Enchanter, the fairy Viviane and the knight Lancelot will unfold. To prepare yourself for your magical journey, step through ‘La Porte des Secrets’ (The Secret Door), where the atmospheric displays will give you a tantalising foretaste of the imaginary world of enchantment that awaits you outside.
Find out more: sites légendaires de Brocéliande (Brocéliande’s sites of legend)
The soldiers who were turned to stone at Carnac
Carnac’s 4,000 standing stones, arranged in rows that stretch over more than 4 kilometres, look almost like an army marching in ranks. The story goes that in the 3rd century, Pope St Cornelius, who was being pursued by the Romans, waited for the enemy at Carnac, hid in the ear of an ox and, making the sign of the cross, turned the Roman soldiers into standing stones so that he could make his escape.
Perros-Guirec: the legend of the oratory and the Traouïero valley
This seaside resort, resplendent with its pink granite, is also a place where legends live on. We’re told that girls who want to find a husband need only take a needle and prick the nose of the statue at the Saint-Guirec oratory, on the beach of the same name. The boldest girls can follow the paths through the Traouïero valley, following the tracks of Scorfel, a little dragon who has his den under the Rocher des Cendres (Cinder Rock), and drinks the milk of the cows grazing in the valley.
The Roche aux Fées (Fairies’ Rock) and the Legend of the Lovers
The megalithic site of La Roche-aux-Fées is one of the most beautiful places in Brittany. Lovers often come here to see how their marriage will turn out. Each partner counts the number of stones on their side of the burial chamber. It’s said that the fairy Carabosse changes their number at whim, and if each lover counts as many as the other, their happiness is assured!
Mont-Dol, the site of a battle between the Archangel and the Devil
Legend has it that the Devil built an enormous palace of stone, Mont-Saint-Michel, whose beauty astounded the Archangel. Rising to the challenge, St Michael in his turn built, in one night, on the very top of Mont Dol, a magnificent ice palace that looked like crystal. St Michael offered to swap his palace for the Devil’s, so that the Devil could have the best one. The Devil was quick to agree, but soon discovered that his chosen palace had started to melt in the sun, and when the sun had risen completely nothing remained of it except a pool of water, which is all that is left of the palace at the top of Mont Dol.
The dragon of the Isle of Batz
Set off from Roscoff and sail out to the northern tip of the Isle of Batz. On one of the rocks you can see the claw-marks of the dragon that used to terrorise the island. In the year 525, the monk Paul Aurelian, armed with a stole and staff (‘batz’ in Breton), drove the creature in front of him and tipped it into the sea. The spot where this happened is still called ‘Le Trou du Serpent’ (Dragon’s Hole).
Find out more: Le Trou du Serpent