Brittany, Belle Ile and the Atlantic resorts
Easy to access, great for camping – and the Atlantic islands and capes are a surprising bonus. The beaches are less crowded than on the Med; Brittany’s countryside enchanting
Works equally well for a touring holiday or short break by plane. Huge variety of accommodation; especially self-catering. Brilliant for cycling at all levels. Enough to see if weather poor
Unreliable weather in Brittany, though warmer and sunnier on coast near Bordeaux. Roads can get very congested in summer holidays. Restaurant mealtimes can be rigid
For Brittany, fly into Brest, Dinard, Quimper, Rennes, or Nantes or use the ferry or Eurostar train. For Ile de Re it’s La Rochelle; for Archachon, touch down in Bordeaux.
Brittany and its islands
What to see
A good base to explore southern Brittany is the area around Carnac. Fine beaches, picturesque fishing ports, pretty rural villages and the famous stone circles. You also have easy access to the gorgeous island of Belle Ile, by ferry from Quiberon, with its 60 beaches, artists’ haunts, slow-paced village life and summer music festivals.
Eating and drinking
Famous for its seafood, you’ll find loads of informal restaurants all along its coastline and further south, too. Freshly shucked oysters, Moules Marinieres, Cotriade fish stew and those fabulous dessert cakes and buckwheat pancakes
Hotel du Phare, Belle Ile
In Sauzon, try Hotel du Phare, with a retro dining room and a terrace overlooking the tidal port. Seafood platters, great wine, family atmosphere…and theatrical seagulls.
La Desirade, Belle Ile
Part of the Relais du Silence hotel association, La Desirade is an enchanting place to stay. More sweet than swanky, it has super helpful owners, an oustanding restaurant and a flower-filled lounge packed with books and games.
Le Cardinal, Belle Ile
Great location in the east of the island, with a pool overlooking the bays. We stayed in the standard rooms which were feeling a little tired and consequently overpriced. An amazing evening seafood buffet, with wine and dessert included, made us more forgiving!
Brittany and Belle Ile
Belle Ile has little traffic away from the one main road and it’s easy to explore on lovely quiet country paths. Leave your car in Quiberon and put the bikes on the ferry or hire locally. Great cycling on the Quiberon peninsula and around Carnac, too.
Villa Mane Lann, near Carnac
Situated a few km from Carnac Plage, and not far from the stone circles, this small hotel (with rooms and appartments) is ideal for exploring the sights, especially if you love cycling. Small pool, airy modern rooms; can do breakfasts and you can also reserve a seafood platter.
Le Lodge Kerisper, Trinite sur Mer
This lodge is set on a hill overlooking the pretty port of Trinite sur Mer, a short drive or cycle from Carnac. They offer breakfasts but no dinners and can recommend loads of great local restaurants. Small pool, modern rooms.
The great dune
Europe’s largest sand dune, known as the Dune du Pilat or Pyla, lies just south of the resort of Arcachon. Climb up for amazing views over the Atlantic and then flop down for the softest siesta… If you’ve got the family in tow, move to Plan B: wear out the kids by letting them run down to the ocean – and then back up again.
Arcachon is an elegant resort full of parks and impressive mansions, some of them 19th-century properties built when doctors believed the sea air was a cure for many ills. Across the bay, today’s millionaires have opted for more discreet homes on chic Cap Ferret, a laidback but very exclusive hideout, loved by designers and actors and 30 minutes away by boat. Really worth a look.
Good stopover area if driving south towards Spanish border. Famed for its oysters; visit La Rochelle on way down.
Nantes makes another great stop off when you’re heading south. Don’t miss the city’s amazing animal ‘machine’ installations, created as part of a Jules Verne-inspired art project in the old shipyards.