Near the steep cliffs battered by the sea and winds, a striking lighthouse watches over the ruins of a former abbey. It’s a compelling scene. Pointe Saint-Mathieu feels like the very essence of Brittany. A short walk away is the port of Le Conquet, the departure point for trips to the Isles of Ouessant and Molène. Nearby, the little village of Plougonvelin gives an authentic Breton feel to this family-friendly resort.
According to legend, the merchants of Léon were miraculously saved from drowning off this headland as they brought back the body of the Apostle Matthew. The first monastery was founded here by Tanguy in the 6th century to house Saint Matthew’s relics. The Roman façade of the abbey remains today, along with the stone vaults of the choir stalls and the arches of the nave. Take a walk at dusk and you’ll see the abbey at its most hauntingly beautiful, lit up by the lighthouse beam. Just behind, a little museum in the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce houses a few relics from the former abbey.
163 steps later…
The headland’s coastal footpath leads to the Christianised menhirs. These two stones topped with a cross are known as the ‘Gibet des moines’ (Monks’ gallows). Before you leave, make sure you see the view from the top of the lighthouse. Take a deep breath! It’s only 163 steps to the top, but the view of rock formations like the ‘écueils des Vieux Moines’ (old monks’ reef) and the ‘chaussée des Pierres noires’ (pavement of the black stones) make it well worth the effort!
Head for the islands!
Not far away is Le Conquet, the departure point for a trip to Ouessant and Molène. The port has been famous since the 19th century for its lobster and crab fishing. The best views of Le Conquet and the Molène archipelago are from the Pointe de Kermorvan. In the evening the gleam of the distant lighthouses is just magical.
A family resort by the Iroise sea
With its turquoise seas and five beaches, the seaside resort of Plougonvelin is perfect for a dip in the sea. Thrill-seekers might want to try the zip-wire at Bertheaume Fort, located on a strategic site at the entrance to Brest harbour. Promenade shows, where the audience follows around the actors and performance, are organised there in summer.
Did you know ?
Explore the lighthouses!
A journey from Brest to Brignogan is a great way to explore all the region’s lighthouses: 17 on the coast, 13 out at sea, 85 turrets and 204 floating beacons. The numbers are staggering. At Ouessant there’s a museum of lighthouses and beacons where you can find out about the history of these structures and the lives of their keepers.