Reviving a traditional legacy
Despite being heavily bombed in August 1944, as German troops stuck doggedly to the area around their Lorient naval base, Hennebont underwent a remarkable revival after the war and has been declared a Cité d’Art et d’Histoire. Now it celebrates both its historic, industrial and horsey sides, while you can embark from here on boat trips as far as the Isle of Groix.
Begin appreciating the medieval legacy by admiring the main gateway, the 14th-century Porte Broërec’h, flanked by two massive towers. These defences reflect what a fought-over site Hennebont occupied. Learn more of the town’s turbulent history at the museum contained within the gateway. As for the huge mouth of the central church, it tries to swallow you up as you pass by. Hennebont’s Thursday markets are joyously traditional, and in July the place hosts a major medieval fair, with tournaments recalling daring-do of past ages.
The industrial past well remembered
Upriver, the banks of the Blavet River became heavily industrial from the mid-19th century, with the construction of substantial ironworks stretching along the valley, mainly producing metal for the significant Breton canning industry. The works stopped in the 1960s and the area was largely abandoned. Things have brightened up in recent times, but the industrial past hasn’t been denied. A well-presented ecomusée presents the working history of the area with accuracy and verve.
Pampered Breton steeds
On the edge of the centre, an impressive national stud farm has long taken over the site of one of the town’s former convents, La Joye. You can see both traditional Breton carthorses and other equine species here, as well as learning about the different trades involved in looking after horses. Discover the banks of the Blavet nearby.