Whether you’re looking to catch the waves by surfboard, ride across sand on horseback, or relax with a sunset in view, take to Brittany's shores for an unforgettable coastal experience…
Voted France’s best beach in 2018 in the TripAdvisor Traveller Choice Awards, the Plage du Sillon in Saint-Malo is the perfect place to inhale the fresh sea air and stride out for some gentle exercise along its three kilometres of golden sand. For a further tonic, seek out one of Brittany’s many spas where the many thalassotherapy treatments harness the health-giving benefits of the sea. Overlooking Sillon beach, the Thermes Marins spa was established more than 50 years ago and offers a host of different treatments and packages including bespoke massages, yoga on the beach and longe-coté (‘sea walking’) which aims to improve muscle tone by walking against the waves. For an even more invigorating activity, try SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), either in the sheltered bay at the Anse de de Rothéneuf or down the gentle River Rance, or take the waves on a surf board or kitesurfing.
For those who like sports with a dose of adrenalin, the ideal beach is Plage de la Torche on the south-western tip of Finistère. Backed by fragile dunes, this wild stretch of soft white sand is beaten by the Atlantic waves. Expert surfers will love riding the mighty rollers, while those with less surfing experience can take a lesson at Pors Carn Beach with Thomas Joncour, European surfing Vice-Champion. His 2.5-hour sessions start with an introduction to the setting; this wild environment is home to ancient dolmen and a historic port. Then it’s time to take to the ocean in search of the best waves; Thomas shows you just how to spot them, first taking them lying down before attempting to stand up on your board. The hard work is rewarded with a hearty picnic, complete with some of Brittany’s best products – apple juice, traditional pancakes with local honey.
The tides in Brittany are some of the most impressive in France, and nowhere more so than the Bay of Mont Saint Michel. At low tide, you can walk across the sand to the famous monastery, a romantic stroll for couples or a journey of discovery for families as children can admire the sea life and treasures left behind on the rippling sand. At high tide, however, the scene is spectacular, especially once every 14 days when the magnetic effect of the moon is amplified by the sun’s position behind it. On those days, great volumes of water rush into the Channel when the Atlantic Ocean rises, when it is said that the sea – moving at 6km per hour - arrives as fast as galloping horse. For an even greater contrast, visit during the Equinox high tides, when the sea goes out to distance of 10 kilometres and comes back in far enough to surround Mont-Saint-Michel. Elsewhere, the tides reach their highest level in Europe at Saint-Malo when they dramatically surround the city’s ramparts – a fearsome sight as you tour those imposing granite walls on a special guided walk.
Embrace the freedom of exploring Brittany on horseback either on a day-long hack, or a longer pony-trekking trip. There are 2600km of Equibreizh bridleways across the moors, forests and coastlines of the region, including the spectacular beach at Saint-Brieuc Bay. Here, at low tide, the sea can go out up to 20km, making the bay the perfect ground for galloping across the sand. If you prefer to go at a gentler pace, the tailor-made hacks arranged by horse-riding company Evadequestre include rides past mussel farms and colonies of migrant birds. If you’re new to horse-riding, a two-hour trip can get your started, while keen riders can sign up for a weekend of riding, including meals in gourmet restaurants and a romantic night’s stay.
In the far west of Brittany, the landscape of the Crozon Peninsula features heather-covered moorland and spectacular cliffs looking out over stunning beaches and the deep blue Atlantic. This coastline has recently been named a ‘natural geological reserve’ and is also part of the Iroise Marine Park - the first of its kind in France. The pretty port of Camaret offers a bustling quay, lined with colourful houses, while the town of Morgat overlooks a gentle curve of soft white sand. The port is also the launch pad for a sunset cruise around this spectacular coastline on board a catamaran the Faltazi, captained by local expert Erwan. He will sail you around the Cap de la Chèvre headland, and then on to l’Ile Vierge and its awe-inspiring beach: steep cliffs edged with fragrant pines overlook the turquoise water. On deck, you’ll tuck into a gourmet picnic, complete with local oysters, slices of bread spread with demi-sel butter and smoked trout or rillettes, washed down with cider and apple juice from Argol’s cider museum. The feast’s finale is the organic gingerbread from La Miellerie d’Armorique, a honey farm which places many of its hives among the purple heather of the Crozon peninsula.
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