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In the temperate south of Brittany, the Gulf of Morbihan is a real gem and is one of the most beautiful bays in Europe, writes Paul Wojnicki.

There are around 42 islands, depending on the tides. Many of these stunning islands are privately owned, but two of the largest are easily accessible by a regular ferry service. Île aux Moines and Île d’Arz both boast scenic coastal walks that take in tiny beaches, secluded coves and Neolithic standing stones. Because the bay is sheltered from the open Atlantic the waters are calm and relatively warm. There’s a Mediterranean feel but without the crowds (except in August). The atmosphere on both the main islands is remarkably laid back and traffic is almost non-existent, aside from passing cyclists.

 

What’s special about the area?
Because the waters are so the calm and sheltered it's a premier water-sports destination, with scuba diving, sailing, kayaking and windsurfing being particularly well catered for. A number of companies offer half day and full day excursions, as well as equipment hire. If you fancy complete seclusion then wild camping at Îles Logoden is Robinson Crusoe like (you'll have to get there by kayak). Just remember to bring enough supplies as there are no facilities whatsoever, not even drinking water, though you might just find your kayak has a complimentary bottle of local Cidre tucked in to quench your thirst at lunchtime.
As well as the beaches and sailing the area is renowned for its standing stones. While these may not be as well known as Stone Henge the surroundings are a million times more picturesque and you’ll often have some of the sites all to yourself.

Sounds great, but what else is in the area?
The Glenan Islands- if the islands in the gulf aren't attractive enough for you then why not head to the Glenan Islands? Think of the Whitsundays’ Whitehaven Beach but with colder (okay, much colder) water. No exaggeration, it’s possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and there’’ll only be a few yachties and day trippers sharing it with you. www.vedettes-odet.com  run day trips in the warmer months from Bénodet, an hour north of the gulf, and take around an hour to reach the islands.
The standing stones of Carnac- Arguably Brittany’s greatest attraction. Three fields containing around 3,000 megaliths, dating from 4000 BC. The standing stones were erected on the spot where they were dug, hence the differing sizes. Nobody knows why they were erected but it is speculated that they had some sort of religious significance. There’s also a number of sheltered sandy beaches, which are backed by attractive 19th-century villas and pine trees close to the stones.

Vannes is the gateway to the gulf and a delightful enough town in itself. Strolling around the walled old town with its  narrow, cobbled streets and half timbered houses is a delight. There are medieval gates and an attractive marina.

Locmariaquer- would be an unremarkable village were it not for its three Neolithic monuments. All three are impressive but Le Grand Menhir, now on the ground in four pieces, is the largest stone ever erected by Neolithic man.


What about the night-life?
The islands are very quiet and night-life is almost non existent but Vannes has more than enough bars to see you through a long weekend. If you're after something even livelier then why not combine your trip with a couple of days in Nantes, where you'll find pretty much any type of club, bar or scene you're looking for- hardly surprising given the size of the city's student population.

Getting there
Brittany Ferries run overnight cruise ferries from Portsmouth to St Malo and from Plymouth to Roscoff. Both of these towns are great destinations in themselves. From Roscoff it’s 2.5 hours to Vannes and from St Malo it’s closer to 2 hours.Easyjet also fly from Gatwick Airport to Nantes, which has frequent rail services to Vannes. There are also trains from Paris to Vannes that take around 3 hrs 40 and cost from €25.

Where to Stay?
Vannes is the easiest town in which to find chain hotels such as ibis or Best Western. There are also thousands of holiday rentals in the area ranging from 1 bedroom apartments to villas and mansions that can accommodate over a dozen guests www.homeaway.co.uk list over a thousand in the Vannes area alone.

Words and pictures: Paul Wojnicki


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The Gulf of Morbihan? I’ve never heard of it.
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