© Fanny Sabatier

Belle‑Ile‑en‑Mer

A queen of the seas

On Belle‑île’s pathways and trails

Off the coast near Quiberon, the largest of Brittany’s islands certainly deserves its name. With its cliffs and fine sandy beaches, Belle-Île-en-Mer (‘The Beautiful Island in the Sea’) is a lovely coastal collage of landscapes, ideal for a range of excursions

An island with two faces

The wildness of Belle-Île has always inspired artists. Claude Monet immortalised the Needles of Port Coton, battered by the tides. The actress Sarah Bernhardt lived in the small fortress at the Pointe des Poulains, on the windswept prow of this island. You will see, just as they did, that Belle-Île has every right to its name. The variety of landscapes is amazing. The stretches of coastline that face the continent have sheltered coves and beautiful sandy beaches. The side that faces the Atlantic is quite different. Its sheer cliffs sweep down into a never-ending turmoil of foam. As you stand in front of the Apothecary’s Cave, you can smell the breath of the ocean. Inland, Belle-Île is a mixture of gorse heaths, green valleys and well-preserved dunes. You can explore the island by skipping across meadows, passing quaint cottages built into the rocks, with colourful shutters and doors of natural wood. Vauban’s citadel, overlooking Le Palais harbour, is a monument to the island’s military past. From the top of the Great Lighthouse of Kervilhaouen there’s an equally impressive view. And, on all sides, is the sea.

Tours and detours

If you’re talking about islands, you’re talking about shorelines. The coastal path is the best way to get the measure of Belle-Île. The signposted path, reserved for walkers, makes a complete circuit of the island (82.5 km) covering a total height difference of 2,000 metres. Take your time: you can cover Le Palais, Sauzon, Bangor and Locmaria easily in four days. The southern coast is wild and steep and the path runs along the clifftops. Experienced walkers will feel at home here. More protected and inhabited, the north coast is more accessible for families. To make things more convenient, there’s a bus service linking the key stages of the route. By bike, you can get around the island on a pleasant two-day cycle ride. There are some hill climbs … but some descents too. And if you only have a day to spare, then head to the Pointe des Poulains. This is a listed conservation area, one that makes you feel as if you’re standing on the edge of the world.

Official website of tourism in Brittany