Morbihan Geography and Natural Beauty

Presqu’ile de Quiberon and Islands of Houat and Hoedic

Port Haliguen, Quiberon Peninsula, Morbihan, Brittany, France

A leading harbour for sardine fishing since the fourteenth century, Quiberon is now a very popular seaside resort with some attractive beaches on the sheltered eastern coast.

The peninsula is 14km long and connected to mainland France by only a bank of sand. At the entrance to the peninsula is the nineteenth century Fort de Penthievre.

The islands of Houat and Hoedic offering lovely beaches and a gentle pace of life are served by daily ferries (no cars allowed) from Quiberon’s Port Maria.

Contact SMN Navigation and other companies operating from the Golfe du Morbihan for details.

Golfe du Morbihan and its Islands of Ile d’Arz, Ile aux Moines and Ile de Groix

The beautiful island-studded Golfe du Morbihan – literally ‘Little Sea’ in Breton - is central to the department of Morbihan’s pretty seaside resorts, marinas and long beaches making this one of Brittany’s ideal holiday locations.

Traditionally the number of islands was said to equal the days of the year but rising water levels mean this is no longer the case. Some islands are privately owned by celebrities, but the most popular, Ile aux Moines and Ile d’Arz, have a resident population and are served by regular ferry services which are busy in high season.

The best way to see the dazzling array of uninhabited islands topped by their atmospheric megalithic ruins is to take a boat trip around the complex channels which separate them. Tours start each day from Vannes, Port Navalo, La Trinite, Locmariaquer, Auray, Le Bono and Lamor-Baden. Contact companies such as Navix, Compagnie des Iles, Izenah Croisieres and Vedettes Angelus for details.

Ile de Groix lies off the coast outside the gulf, a 45 minute ferry trip from Lorient. At 8km long and 3km wide, its little villages, secluded coves with rugged cliffs and sandy beaches can easily be explored by bicycle. Port Tudy was once a centre for the tuna fishing industry and the Ecomusee de Groix gives the story of life on the island.

Geologically, Ile de Groix is so special that its east and south coasts were declared a mineral nature reserve in 1982. More than 60 minerals can be found here - see if you can spot blue glaucophane sometimes found on the surface.

Lac de Guerledan

Brittany’s largest lake (12km long) bordering both Cotes d’Armor and Morbihan, beautiful Lac de Guerledan, has man-made beaches where you can swim safely and enjoy shoreline restaurants. Several places, such as Beau Rivage, offer canoes, pedalos and sailing dinghies for hire and the lake is a great place to fish.

Lac de Guerledan was artificially created to feed a huge hydro-electric system providing power for inland Brittany. Visit the lake’s impressive dam across the River Blavet .

There are excellent trails for walking, cycling and horse riding around the lake’s perimeter and in the surrounding Forest of Quenecan – 3,000 hectares of privately owned woodland managed in the traditional way.

Nantes-Brest Canal

This 360km chain of canalized rivers and waterways linking Finistere to the Loire is an ideal route for exploring the countryside of inland Brittany either by barge on the canal itself or along towpaths on foot or by bicycle.

Built in the nineteenth century, the Nantes-Brest Canal was originally begun by Napoleon I as a way of linking 2 of France’s most important military ports whilst avoiding blockades by the English fleet.

At one time, the Nantes-Brest Canal was used to transport coal, slate and fertilizer, but navigation between Mael-Carhaix and Pontivy was blocked in 1923 due to the building of a dam at Lac de Guerledan in for hydro-electric power and clean water.

Today, the canal is a peaceful haven for wildlife, a Mecca for bird-watchers, fishermen, ramblers and cyclists or for just ‘messing about on the river’ with heritage and picnic sites along the way.

Vauban’s Citadel in Belle-Ile-en-Mer

Originally the site of an eleventh century monastery, in 1549, King Henry II ordered the construction of a fort to protect the island from invading enemies. Some changes were made under the dukes of Gondi and Fouque and, in 1683, Vauban drew up plans for the extension and reconstruction of the Citadel.

Occupied by the German army from 1940 to 1945, the Citadel has become one of the most popular tourist sites in Brittany. Visit the ramparts, powder reserve, dungeons and museum. Open daily and all year round except 1 January and 25 December, 0930 to 1200 and 1400 to 1700. For more information tel: (00 33) 2 97 31 84 17

Belle-Ile-en-Mer - largest of the Breton islands - is indeed beautiful, and bicycles and scooters can be hired to explore its countryside, ports and lovely beaches if you want to leave your car behind. Swimming is safest on the east side, and sea and scenery more dramatic on the west. Look for the lighthouse and ‘rock needles’ at Port Coton painted by Monet. Daily ferries from Quiberon take 45 minutes.

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