Cotes d'Armor Geography and Natural Beauty

The stunning scenery of the Ile de Brehat, Cotes d Armor, Brittany, France

Bréhat Island

Also known as the Island of Flowers, it is in fact, 2 islands almost equal in size which are connected by a bridge built by Vauban.

The northern island is mainly gorse and heather and the southern island of a more Mediterranean landscape due to its warm micro-climate. On the southern island, there is a tidal mill and Chapel Saint-Michel.

Artists such as Gauguin and Matisse have been attracted to its beauty. Cars are forbidden, so it’s an ideal venue for good cycling and walking. Access from the mainland is by ferry from Pointe de l’Arcouest.

The Pink Granite Coast and its Towns and Villages

Perros-Guirec is the highlight of Brittany’s Pink Granite Coast which stretches along the coast from Brehat past pretty sheltered bays like Plougrescant to Tregastel.

Perros-Guirec itself is a haven of tree lined avenues, smart villas and beautiful beaches. But it is its location at one end of the long Sentier des Douaniers, customs officers walking route, which takes you along stunning cliff tops to the tiny resort of Ploumanac’h past the incredible water sculpted rocks for which the Pink Granite Coast is famous that makes it so popular. Seabirds glide overhead to the Sept-Iles bird sanctuary as you walk. Some huge rocks are balanced precariously on each other and eroded into strange shapes with names like ‘Napoleon’s hat’, ‘turtle’ and ‘witch’.

Further west are the small villages of Tregastel and Trebeurden. Tregastel is a typical resort with rocks and sandy beaches, harbour, restaurants and creperies. Its newly renovated aquarium is located in pink granite caves with displays of English Channel flora and fauna. Nearby is the dome of the Pleumier-Bodou Telecommunications Centre. Opened in 1962, it was the first receiving station to pick up signals from the American Telstar satellite. The site is now Cosmopolis telecommunications museum with small planetarium and son et lumiere shows.

The Pink Granite Coast is seen at its best in mid May when yellow gorse and lilac lavender contrast with the rose coloured boulders. Ploumanac’h’s pink granite lighthouse looks magical at sunset.

Les Sept Iles

Out in the open sea, the archipelago of the Sept-Iles (Seven Islands) is France’s oldest and biggest bird sanctuary. Home to many bird species, including puffins, razorbills and guillemots, it is also visited by grey seals which you can see sunning themselves. The colony of gannets on Ile Rouzic is unique in France.

Although the rest of the archipelago is strictly out of bounds to visitors, you can still spend a day on the Ile aux Moines (Monks Island) and picnic at the foot of the fort built by Vauban during the reign of Louis XV.

Reservations Centre tel: (00 33) 2 96 91 10 00 – Family reservations should be made the day before or the morning of afternoon trips. Open 1 July to 30 Sept.

Emerald Coast and Cap Frehel

The Emerald coast around Dinard takes its name from the colour of the sea contrasting so wonderfully with the purple heather and yellow gorse flowers in summer. Old fishing villages and popular seaside resports such as St Cast-le-Guildo and Sables-d’Or-les-Pins - a family resort with pony rides and bouncy castles on its sandy beaches - alternate with dramatic cliffs and promentories.

Visit the lighthouse on the tip of Cap Frehel’s dramatic headland and eighteenth century fortification of Tour Vauban. The off-shore rocks are now a nature reserve and France’s most important nesting site for guillemots. Dramatic fourteenth century Fort La Latte on 70m high cliffs nearby is so striking it is often used as a film set, such as rooftop sword fight scene in The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis.

Cote de Goelo, Binic and St-Quay-Portrieux

West from St Brieuc Bay along the Cote de Goelo, the scenery is wilder and many bays give way to restricted rocky inlets. The beach at the narrow little port of Binic increases greatly in size at low tide. In the mid nineteenth century, fishermen from Binic were amongst the first to go to Newfoundland.

Today, it is a popular seaside resort and most fishing, including scallops, has relocated to nearby St Quay-Portrieux which has a new port and auction rooms. The fishing tradition in St Quay-Portrieux which began in the seventeenth century is still strong and its fleet increases to 100 boats in the scallop season.

The port now has a modern marina, 2 yacht clubs, sailing school, diving and fishing clubs. Holidaymakers can enjoy many shops, creperies and restaurants along with fine sandy beaches. Interestingly, the coast road at nearby Plouha is the traditional divide between French-speaking and Breton-speaking Brittany, a divide linked to an influx of immigrants from Devon, England in the fifth century.

Nantes-Brest Canal

The Nantes-Brest Canal, weaves from Nantes south of Finistere to Brest at the mouth of the Loire. The Canal was built in the nineteenth century after an English blockade of Brest persuaded Napoleon that a link between his 2 largest Atlantic military ports, other than by sea, was necessary. Part of the canal passes through rural Cotes d’Armor and is navigable in some parts.

Look for little towns and villages such as medieval Loudeac and Gouarec - a good place to access the canal by road as a starting point for great walks or peaceful cycle rides along its banks enjoying the wildlife from butterflies to kingfishers and herons. The watersports centre at Rostrenen can organise canoe hire and trips by appointment on the Canal.

Visit the twelfth - eighteenth century Cistercian Abbaye de Bon Repos at Laniscat along the way which is undergoing restoration but has a son et lumiere display during the second weekend in August. The Guerledan dam interrupts the course of the Nantes-Brest Canal on the border with Morbihan forming one of Brittany’s largest lakes (400 hectares). The lake is a fantastic venue for every sort of watersport, bird-watching, walking, cycling and horse riding.

Blavet River

The River Blavet, rises around the Etang Blavet between Guingamp and Rostrenen. It is considered to be one of the best coarse fishing venues in France aided by easy river access and few boats. Enjoy walking and cycling through the unspoilt countryside around its course and discover where it links to become part of the Nantes-Brest Canal in southern Cotes d’Armor before the Guerledan dam, where there is the possibility of canoeing.

Find out more from the Federation Francaise de Canoe-Kayak on (00 33) 2 48 89 39 89. Lake Guerledan offers boat trips and all manner of watersports including water skiing and sailing.

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