The French East India Company, or ‘Compagnie des Indes’, was established in 1664 in the heart of the bay, at Port-Louis. Operations rapidly spread to the other side of the river Scorff. In the new shipyards a ship named ‘Soleil d’Orient’, but nicknamedL’Orient, was built – and the new town had a name! The view of the Port-Louis citadel and the harbour, with the Tour de la Découverte signal tower and the Gabriel sales rooms recall the prosperity of the colourful days of silks and spices.
Fishing for sounds and colours!
As Lorient’s business activities developed and diversified, ports were built to match: a military port, a commercial port at Kergroise, and a fishing port at Kéroman – now France’s second largest fishing port. The quayside and the fish auctions are a hive of activity every morning, involving men, boats and machines. Sparklingly fresh fish and seafood are taken straight to the indoor market at Merville
A close look at 20th century history
Kéroman, and all of Lorient, was dealt a bad deal by history. A submarine base was set up there by the German army between 1941 and 1943. Today, these concrete blocks pose no threat. They’ve become a museum of submersible craft and the submarineFlore, which is now a visitor attraction. In the centre of town, a bomb shelter has been re-opened to show what life was really like at that time. In the town’s streets, Art Deco houses from the 1930s that survived the bombings stand side by side with post-war buildings constructed in a more contemporary style.
Find your sea legs at the Eric Tabarly Sailing World
The submarine base has now been re-launched, setting sail for its new vocation as an ocean racing centre. Its flagship is the Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly (Sailing World). On a vessel built of metal and glass, visitors can start learning about the world of yachting with fun, interactive workshops. Close by, beside the attractive terraces, Eric Tabarly’s famousPen Duickyachts make you hanker to set sail on the high seas.
The Interceltic Festival puts the Celt into the town
Lorient works hard and plays hard! The marina and ferry port are flooded every year by a human wave that’s here to celebrate the Celtic nations. With a glorious mix of kilts, Breton bagpipes, Irish fiddles and Galician pipes, the Festival Interceltique celebrates a thriving culture. After the grand parade opened by the local Lann-Bihoué pipe band, there follows a succession of concerts, ‘fest-noz’ and great feasts, full of warmth and friendliness.
Where the waves play gently on quiet beaches
To help you recover from all the excitement of the town, the coastline extends as far as the Laïta estuary. Facing the bay that’s like a little inland sea, Larmor-Plage has all the allure of a Brittany Riviera. A coastal walk takes you past the villas and carries on westwards, with the Ile de Groix on the horizon. Facing the ocean is a string of beaches and harbours. Lomener is a pleasant spot to stop for a rest before continuing to Le Fort-Bloqué, with its 18th century fort that’s accessible at low tide. Then you come to the beaches at Guidel-plages, where you’ll see surfers of all abilities. Between Finistère and Morbihan is Bas-Pouldu beach, and here the landscape changes as the wooded shores, sandbanks and river meet the Atlantic tides. Enjoy it to the full, toes in the water and wind in your hair!