The image of Sein from the sea is an unforgettable one as its highest point is just 20ft (6m) above sea level. The saying goes ‘qui voit Sein, voit sa fin’ (he who sees Sein, sees his end) primarily because of the dangerous reefs in the area which caused many a shipwreck in past centuries – in fact, the first inhabitants were castaways. Boats leave from Audierne – the journey takes about an hour – and arrive in one of the village’s two harbours.
Among the brightly coloured houses is the Men Brial lighthouse, where you’ll find an exhibition of sea rescues carried out by the islanders; opening times coincide with the arrival of boats. The island’s only museum, the Écomusée, traces Sein’s history and daily life through the ages. The village only has a handful of restaurants so you’d best book in advance or bring a picnic however there is even a couple of hotels should you want to be a castaway for the night.
The great escape
The only way to get around Sein, which is 1 mile (1.8km) long and 0.3 miles (500m) at its widest, is by foot. On the way you’ll come across the Croix de Lorraine or Free French Monument, which was inaugurated by General de Gaulle in 1960 to thank the 140 male islanders who followed him into exile in England during World War II.
The lighthouse family
In the far west is the Grand Phare, which is not open to visitors; as well as warning off ships, the lighthouse plays an integral role in the island’s life, as it’s here that seawater is purified and electricity is generated for the island’s homes. Southeast of the lighthouse are some sandy coves.
The nine virgins
As you’d expect, Sein is steeped in legend. The most famous is that of the nine virgins, a group of women who lived apart from the village and who were known for their healing powers and their ability to control the weather.