Closing date: 05 Sep 2018
Despite its proximity to Paris, Brittany feels a world away from the French capital – its name translates as ‘little Britain’ after all. Simply put, it’s like a country within a country, and though now part of France, the Celtic roots that existed before its 16th-century amalgamation still run strong. From the wild, rugged coastline that gives a wonderfully undiscovered feel, to the distinct Breton tongue and the centuries of human history, Brittany is unlike anywhere else in the country. Now Brittany Tourism and Brittany Ferries are offering you and a friend the chance to win a short break to this wild land packed with weathered views, antiquity and a splash of Celtic mysticism.
Brittany may just be a small leap across the English Channel, but with a roll call of epic coastlines, medieval towns and emerald forests, it’s firmly a land for explorers. Many of those who visit make a beeline for its rugged fringes. Brittany boasts nearly 3,000km of coastline, and the chic resort of Dinard is one of the star attractions. Its sandy strips and cliff-hugging Belle Epóque mansions (more than 400 of them) paint an idyllic scene, one first adopted by the visiting British aristocracy in the late 1800s.
Today, it is the getaway of choice for both casual travellers and Parisian urbanites seeking calmer climes, with its tree-flanked boulevards and airy squares pocked with elegant restaurants and crepêries. The pleasant Promenade du Clair de Lune offers snaking access to the town’s shores, while a glimpse back reveals the fi ne Edwardian influence Dinard’s facades still retain.
Some of Brittany’s most charming sites lie in the walled citadels that once protected the state’s borders from any attacks, long before they joined forces with the French in 1532. Jutting out on a spectacular natural harbour, Saint-Malo is one of the fi nest fortified towns here, its twisting medieval streets slick with tales of dastardly pirates and chock-full with quaint boutiques.
A wander along its 12th-century ramparts is a pure joy for its views of the islands and forts that speckle the harbour. They also connect two of the town’s fi nest buildings, its castle and cathedral. A museum adjoining the castle charts Saint-Malo’s past, ranging from Neolithic monuments to the lives of some of its most famous residents, including former explorer Jacques Cartier and romantic novelist Francois- René de Chateaubriand.
Inland, Dinan is another medieval marvel. Its Old Town is a warren of cobbled lanes, with the cream being Rue du Petit-Fort, a steep postcard-worthy curve of half-timbered buildings that links the River Rance below with the Old Town proper. Descend past trinket-laden galleries to the quaint quayside at the bottom of the cobbles, where old stone houses have been transformed into bustling restaurants and sailing clothes and accessories shops. Its sturdy ramparts and towers are another thrill, especially the views you can spy from the 40m-high Tour de l’Horloge.
On a good day, you can see as far as Mont Saint-Michel. Finish among the bars that line Rue de la Cordonnerie, aptly nicknamed the ‘thirsty street’, as you reflect upon a destination that almost appears as if time has stood still since the 15th century.
Head east along the coast to Brittany’s oyster capital, the fishing village of Cancale. Shellfish have been cultivated for centuries here, and Cancale is great place to indulge your palate. Restaurateurs feature them front row and centre on their menus, but if you’re after a quick bite, street stalls sell them by the tray.
For a deeper understanding of this local delicacy, a smattering of family-run operations open up their farms for visitors to delve into the history and production of oysters across generations. Cancale’s charming Old Town overlooks the busy port (a unique gourmet experience aboard a historic sailing ship gives visitors a further – and tasty – insight into the area’s culinary quality) while a wealth of trails snake along the rugged coast around the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel. And to the north, the gorse-studded Pointe du Grouin offers fine views of isle-speckled seas and the whitewashed Herpin lighthouse.
Go east, however, and you’ll witness a true European icon. The UNESCO-listed spires of Mont Saint-Michel rise out of the mudflats like scene from a Harry Potter book. This 11th-century abbey inspires today’s visitors just as it did the many pilgrims that visited over the centuries. It’s a stupendous, mystical image, and wandering this tight-knit Gothic masterpiece proves a delight; the abbey’s cloister, refectory and ramparts all gorgeously cling to the hilltop. A gaze out from the fortifications back across the mudflats to Brittany’s wild coastline is a reminder why this unique slice of France has become one of the planet’s inimitable destinations. Brittany has it all, a microcosm of ancient history, rough-and-ready vistas and a culture that really is unlike any other. Vive la Bretagne!
Brittany Tourism and Brittany Ferries are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a three-night break to Dinard for two, staying at the Castelbrac Hotel*****. The prize includes return crossings with Brittany Ferries, a tour of Saint-Malo, a stand-up paddleboard yoga session and a gastronomic sailing trip. To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the following question:
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