Carolyn Reynier goes on a househunting circuit of the Crozon peninsula on Brittany’s Atlantic edge
A tip-to-tip tour of one of Brittany’s best-loved peninsulas
You need to get out your map of Brittany to fully appreciate this destination. Ready? We are off to western Finistère to tour the Crozon peninsula – wild, authentic Brittany at its best.
Across the water to the north lies the city of Brest and its rade, a deep, protected bay. Across the water to the south is the harbour town of Douarnenez, famous for those omega 3-rich sardines. And all this lies within the western Armorique regional park.
One of the most spectacular sights in all of Brittany is at the south-western tip of this peninsula. It’s the Pointe de Pen-hir where earth, wind and waves collide at a dramatic sea cliff offering breathtaking views of Brittany’s Atlantic edge. The sea here is punctured by three enormous rocks – the Tas de Pois – which stand like a line of stone haystacks, tempting even the most reluctant photographer. On a clear day you can gaze out over the Mer d’iroise to a cluster of little islands, including Ouessant and Molène, and beyond them the Atlantic Ocean. To the north is the Pointe St-mathieu on the same peninsula as Brest and to the south is the Pointe du Raz on the same peninsula as Douarnenez.
If you had been parachuted into the Presqu’île de Crozon, you would soon know you were in Celtic country as the peninsula is scattered with villages and hamlets beginning with Ker, the Breton prefix for an inhabited place. Walk along the maritime banks of the Aulne or the legendary long distance GR34 coastal path. Admire the views across to the domed summit of Ménez-hom, the Monts d’arrée to the north and the Montagnes Noires to the south.
This is a coastline of beautiful beaches, just waiting to be discovered by stand-up paddle board from the port of Morgat. Explore the verdant creeks of the Cap de la Chèvre. Admire Vauban’s Unesco-listed tower at Camaret-sur-mer, built to keep enemy vessels at bay.
Rock climbing is an option for the more rugged among you, and there are 200km of mountain bike circuits through heather, woodland, past standing stones and churches.
The nerve centre of the peninsula is the town of Crozon, which sits on a hill just above the south-west
coast. The old townhouses ( maisons de bourg) in the centre of Crozon are often terraced with little outside space, but in the immediate proximity, where most of the development has occurred, you find more spacious modern properties dating from the 1960s-1970s.
Heading down towards the coast you soon come to the little fishing port of Morgat, which is part of the same commune. Developed by the famous Peugeot family around 1900, it has gradually assumed its own identity as a seaside resort, explains Gwladys Sévellec at the Agence de la Presqu’île. “It is a more important historic attraction than Crozon,” she says.
The large early 20th-century seafront villas built by the Peugeot family and friends at Morgat are part of its architectural heritage and give this small seaside resort its particular identity. This is where you find the most expensive peninsula property and prices can easily top €600,000. “It’s really the villa par excellence with all the cachet you’d expect to find,” says Gwladys. A bit above your budget? Then what about a 41m2 apartment with sea view in a modern residence for €135,000?
Cap de la Chèvre
Beyond Morgat the coastline shoots south and you come to the Cap de la Chèvre, an alluring spot for hikers with its towering rocky cliffs, beautiful coves, heather and maritime pines.
Village houses here may be small – these low-built traditional cottages are known as penty – but they are sought-after for their authenticity, particularly by foreign buyers. After Morgat, they are the most expensive per square metre.
Yes, there has been urban development around the small fishing villages, yet this headland remains blessedly protected from large coastal residential blocks. The 1986 law, the Loi Littoral, protects the coastline, and the Conservatoire du Littoral also acquires parcels of land on the Cap de la Chèvre. “The objective is to protect the environment to a maximum,” says Gwladys. If you’re really angling for an apartment you are better off looking in Crozon-morgat or Camaret-sur-mer.
If you head back up this spur and continue to the westernmost edge of the peninsula, you come to the spectacular Pointe du Pen-hir and, just north of it, the small authentic fishing port of Camaretsur-mer. Famous for its lobsters, it was an important religious centre possibly as far back as 2,500BC. If you are a biker, you can get your Harley Davidson blessed at the medieval chapel of Notre-damede-rocamadour at the Pardon des Motards Penn ar Bed celebration in June.
As well as its Unesco-listed fortified Vauban tower, Camaret is also home to the Lagatjar alignments, a cluster of prehistoric standing stones.
You’ll find old fishermen’s cottages in the historic village centre, large and lovely 1970s properties on the outskirts (those lobster fishermen had pots of money), and further inland traditional farmsteads. Camaret has its aficionadas, says Gwladys, and prices here can be more affordable than Morgat.
Roscanvel and Landévennec
Heading east out of Cameret, a northern spur takes us up to the Pointe des Espagnols and Roscanvel, overlooking the Rade de Brest. The commune is stretched out along the coast and you can often find waterfront properties at interesting prices. Gwladys recently sold a 1970s villa – 127m2, grounds of 2,100m2, sea view – for about €300,000. There are also attractive areas further east at Lanvéoc where there is an aero naval base, she adds.
Continuing east we reach Landévennec and St-guénolé abbey, a Benedictine monastery dating back 15 centuries. Here, just to the north of the bridge onto the peninsula, you turn your back on the ocean. The village lies at the mouth of the Aulne, the landscape is wooded, more tranquil and different, says Gwladys. “It’s a really interesting historic area to discover,” she says. “It’s calm and peaceful and a very natural environment.”
In winter, she adds, you can really feel the sea breeze and smell the ocean when you’re close to the coast.
Argol and Telgruc
If you would prefer an old farmstead (renovated or not) head for the south entrance to the peninsula and have a look around Argol and Telgruc-sur-mer. You can also find more contemporary houses around here. Agriculture in days gone by was austere because the land, for example around the Cap de la Chèvre near CrozonMorgat, was not very rich. “There was often a complementary activity of fishing and also harvesting of kelp,” says Gwladys.
Earth, wind and waves collide at a dramatic sea cliff offering breathtaking views of Brittany’s Atlantic edge
The poor diet produced small people, so that may partly explain why the traditional houses are so compact. The main objective was to protect yourself from the wind so properties on the Cap de la Chèvre and those very close to the ocean tend to be hidden away. The land is better around Argol and Telgruc where buildings are larger, higher, more imposing.
If you are leaving the peninsula by the northern entrance you will cross the Aulne on the Térenez bridge, the first curved cablestayed bridge in France.
Just across the water, there is a little piece of land bordered by the River Aulne and the Corniche de Térénez to the west, and the main road to the east. I had a quick word with Geneviève Tanguy at the Immobilière du Faou agency to find out about property here.
The little village of Le Faou, 20 minutes from Brest, is classified as a Petite Cité de Caractère thanks to its medieval heritage. The houses here – half timbered, slate-roofed – and port are 16th century, she says, and there are lots of shops, with some 60 traders for just 1,700 inhabitants. There are no apartments here and nearly all the houses are main homes thanks to the free motorway and Le Faou’s
location equidistant between Brest, préfecture Quimper to the south, and the Crozon peninsula.
As well as village houses, you find more modern properties on the outskirts while the surrounding countryside at Hanvec, Rosnoën and Quimerch has many renovated former farmsteads. The average house price is around €200,000, or around half that for a renovation project. Geneviève explains that it is the property’s cachet rather than size which determines the price. “Really lovely properties with a sea view will be around €350,000; without a sea view around €300,000,” she says.
The sector is undulating without the large flat fields that you find in northern Finistère, and the land is not very fertile, so agriculture in the past was mixed. Leisure activities today include great walking, river fishing, the sea, and horse riding. “We’re lucky to live here,” says Geneviève.
The best ferry port for the Crozon peninsula is Roscoff, which has services to Plymouth. Don’t forget to pick up your string of Roscoff onions en route. Once at your peninsula property, stock up on the local oysters, biscuits, cider and honey at one of the markets. And when the call of the city is louder than that of the wild, Brest and Quimper are nearby.
So welcome to this little Breton peninsular paradise. “Respirez, vous êtes en Presqu’île de Crozon - Aulne Maritime!” advises the peninsula website slogan. So relax and breathe it all in. You have arrived on the Crozon peninsula where the Aulne meets the sea.
This is as busy as it gets on some of the peninsula beaches!
Walking at St-hernot Point on the Cap de la Chèvre
Boats in the Brest international maritime festival off the Tas de Pois at Pointe de Pen-hir