It’s not hard to see why Brit­tany is a peren­nial Bri­tish favourite

Rich in leg­end and mys­tery, Brit­tany’s se­duc­tive pow­ers never fail to charm those who find them­selves in search for the per­fect home on her shores, as Joanna Leggett ex­plains

French Property News - - Contents -

Proud of its Celtic ori­gins, Brit­tany’s very name is de­rived from the Bri­tons who came across the Chan­nel seek­ing refuge from ma­raud­ing in­vaders. Oth­ers fled to Wales and Corn­wall, all car­ry­ing their Celtic lan­guage and cus­toms with them which re­main shared even to­day. The coun­try­side here, where myths and leg­ends abound, is marked with Celtic crosses, an­cient stones and men­hirs.

Jut­ting out into the ocean, Brit­tany is a prov­ince of var­ied land­scapes with ragged coast­lines com­ple­mented by rich rolling pas­tures – this is a land of farm­ers, fish­er­men and, more lat­terly, pain­ters and those seek­ing a peace­ful haven in which to live.

To the north and west where it’s more open to the North At­lantic, the coast­line is rugged and rocky with beau­ti­ful sandy beaches and coves. The south, fac­ing onto the Bay of Bis­cay, is flat­ter and milder with large sandy beaches; and the warmer sea tem­per­a­tures at­tract hol­i­day­mak­ers. Most of in­land Brit­tany is gen­er­ous farm­ing coun­try fa­mous for milk, but­ter and early crop pro­duc­tion.

At 25km from the coast­line, Ile d’oues­sant is the most re­mote of all of Brit­tany’s is­lands – it marks the south­ern limit of the Celtic sea and south­ern en­trance to the English Chan­nel (the north­ern point be­ing the Isles of Scilly). Once con­sid­ered on the edge of the world, its in­hab­i­tants in­sist their beloved is­land is the be­gin­ning and not the end. Known in English as Ushant, it is the only place in Brit­tany to have an English name.

Back on the main­land, Bre­ton vil­lages tend to be small with gran­ite and white-washed stone houses. Thatched roofs are rare here: they say it takes a good gran­ite roof to re­sist At­lantic wind. Pretty fish­ing ports are pic­turesque to say the least with houses clus­tered around small har­bours where brightly coloured boats dance on waves. South of Brest, stretch­ing in­land from the coast al­most to Mor­laix, is the Parc Re­gional d’ar­morique (the an­cient name for Brit­tany).

His­tory les­son Made up of four de­part­ments – Côtes d’ar­mor to the north, Ille-et-vi­laine in the east, Mor­bi­han to the south with Fin­istère in the far west – this re­gion was rel­a­tively un­scathed by the rav­ages of WWII so much of its his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture re­mains.

Brit­tany was one of France’s an­cient duchies, the most fa­mous duchess be­ing Anne of Brit­tany who mar­ried no less than two French kings. Much loved by the Bre­tons, she is said to have gov­erned her duchy wisely and fairly be­fore it be­came part of France in the early 16th cen­tury. To­day Bre­tons re­main in­de­pen­dent in char­ac­ter, though the Bre­ton lan­guage is spo­ken less and less.

With its strate­gic po­si­tion Brit­tany is home to im­por­tant ports such as Brest, on the At­lantic coast­line. To the north, St-malo was once no­to­ri­ous as the home of cor­sairs, French pri­va­teers, and some­times pi­rates forc­ing English ships pass­ing up the Chan­nel to pay

The tran­quil in­land re­gions, never far from the sea, prove highly at­trac­tive to sec­ond­home own­ers or those seek­ing to re­lo­cate to France

trib­ute. Jac­ques Cartier, cred­ited as hav­ing dis­cov­ered Canada, lived in and sailed from St-malo. Although re­built af­ter the war, it re­mains an im­pos­ing walled city stand­ing above the sea with great overnight ferry con­nec­tions to Portsmouth.

Hol­i­day time All along Brit­tany’s south­ern coast­line are hol­i­day re­sorts and towns such as Quim­per famed for its epony­mous faience pot­tery. This pretty town is re­garded as the cul­tural heart of Brit­tany not least for its cathe­dral, en­chant­ing old quar­ter and mu­se­ums but most of all for the an­nual fes­ti­val held here each sum­mer cel­e­brat­ing Bre­ton cul­ture.

Ship­ping and large-scale ship build­ing may have de­clined but ports along the south coast are to­day bet­ter known for yacht­ing and yacht build­ing. Fish­er­men and artists are at­tracted to this area of coast in­dented by so many es­tu­ar­ies and in­lets – with its great light it makes the ideal spot to paint or cast a line.

And then there’s the food – if you love seafood this is the place to be. Some 80% of France’s shell­fish pro­duc­tion comes from Brit­tany – the oys­ters are de­li­cious (two-thirds of France’s flat oys­ters are farmed near St-malo) and to my mind you haven’t lived un­til you’ve shared a plat­ter of fruits de mer with crabs, lan­goustines, small prawns, win­kles, clams and oys­ters served on a bed of sea­weed, all washed down with either lo­cal cider or a de­li­cious glass or two of some­thing cold. Then there are the pan­cakes – sweet crêpes or savoury buck­wheat galettes – the cakes, pork dishes, cheese and the list goes on.

As a great hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, Brit­tany’s coast nat­u­rally at­tracts the most vis­i­tors, although the tran­quil in­land re­gions, never far from the sea, prove highly at­trac­tive to sec­ond-home own­ers or those seek­ing to re­lo­cate to France – not least be­cause of their af­ford­able prices.

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