Brittany is one part of France that has always fascinated me.
For starters, there’s that name – Brittany, which to the uninitiated would sound like it was linked in some way to Great Britain. And they wouldn’t be wrong either.
In addition to Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man; Brittany is one of the 6 Celtic nations and still has a language (called ‘Breton’) that’s closer to Welsh than it is to French (Yup – this part of France has two Language; Breton and French). In fact, Brittany wasn’t even part of France (it was an independent Duchy) until like 500 years ago. Believe it or not, the name long ago used to actually be Armorica (which translated back then to something like “On the sea” or “at the sea”…).
Then there are all those pretty little cottages, which to me kinda look like what it would look like if old British cottages had babies with old French cottages – as you can imagine, they’re absolutely adorable!
Also, Brittany always seemed so close to the UK (you can take a ferry from the UK here) so I’d always been intrigued by what it would be like! Well, we finally got to visit and although so much of what I’d hoped for and expected were true – there were many delightful surprised to be found along the way in our time in Brittany!
To that end, and to help you along your merry way if you’re planning on visiting Brittany, I’ve put together this long weekend guide to exploring and experiencing a slice of beautiful Brittany.
HOW TO GET THERE
You’ve got several options here. You could fly into one of several airports such as Nantes or Brest. You could also drive here from almost anywhere in Europe (*you’d probably need to catch a ferry from Portsmouth or Poole if you’re coming from the UK or Ireland) – almost everywhere else is connected by land.
3rd option and probably one of the best it to travel in via train from Paris!
Let’s face it – most people never need too many reasons to visit Paris and this is just over 2 hours away from Paris by train so tag teaming this with a pit stop in Paris (even if just for lunch) makes perfect sense!
WHERE TO STAY
Relais & Châteaux is one of the most French places you can think of staying. I’d known about them since dining at one of the old French Castles (it was this one here back when we were in the Dordogne valley) and promised myself to stay in one of their amazing hotels when we returned to France.
Relais & Châteaux isn’t a chain of hotels, by the way. Each place is individually owned and individually operated so apart from the high standards required from each of the members, every hotel on their list is entirely different from the next.
It feels kinda like more of a “badge of honour” or an “Excellence Award” of sorts from the sounds of it – and I quote Wikipedia here “The group is known for its strict admission standards. In addition to luxurious facilities, members must have special features distinguishing them from chain hotels. Most of them are historic landmarks such as castles, manor houses, or townhouses in idyllic settings and offering exquisite cuisine.”).
They’re actually now in more countries than just France but they’re very French so it seemed very appropriate to get the full French experience. 😁 Anyhoo, long story short – we went for a Relais Chateaux by the sea (I swear, I always thought Relais was French for “Relax” and I publicly bragged about this amazing French translation to my friends… it does not, by the way. 😄 )
The Relais Chateaux we stayed in was called Manoir de Lan Kerellec – a property run by a father and daughter team whose family have owned the place for several generations. (Always nice to see places like this that have held on to parts of their history).
WHAT TO DO HERE – BRITTANY WEEKEND ITINERARY
We took the train from London to Paris and after a very quick tour of the city (by “tour”, I mean lazy wandering through the main parts of the city, eating as many crepes as I could find – which was not as many as I’d like given our limited time here) before hopping aboard the train to Guingamp, where we had a car rental pre-booked.
Having a car here is handy, by the way. Not sure what the public transport situation is like here (didn’t get the chance to find out) but having a car means you can make the most of your limited time here.
Anyway, enough rambling from my end – here’s your weekend itinerary once you arrive in Brittany.
Mid-afternoon or early evening: Arrival at Guingamp and pick up your car (like we did). Drive to Manoir de Lan Kerellec in Trébeurden (it’s a 30 to 40-minute ride but took us longer as we kept stopping).
If you have time, pop into Lannion, it’s really pretty here.
If you don’t have time to pop into Lannion on your way in, don’t worry, you can do this later on this weekend (or perhaps even on your way back to Guingamp).
Evening: Take it easy. You’re here on holiday after all. Pop into the restaurant at Manoir de Lan Kerellec (it’s one of the best around here and also means you can drink all the wine and just pop upstairs to bed without worrying about driving).
Dinner here is course after course of deliciousness (they even have their own homemade butter and bread here).
For me, the cream of the crop (how do you say that in French?) was the lobster. It was absolutely perfect – there’s just something about having lobster in places by the sea (shoutout to Boston and Scotland). I don’t know if it’s just because they get it fresher but they certainly seem to know how to cook it better. 🙂
Early Morning: Go for a drive in the morning! Even in the rain, it’s beautiful around here. But have breakfast first at your hotel. Always start with breakfast… but you already knew that. 🙂
Morning – Around 10 am: Head over to Plage de Trestraou (which in English is Trestraou beach), to try your hands at Longe côte – an old French sport of sea-hiking. The sport originated not too far from here (I think it was in Dunkirk actually) and is exactly what you think it is.
You put on a wetsuit and go hiking in the sea. There’s a whole technique to it which you’ll have explained to you prior but it’s all in fun and is actually something the locals get involved in too (on the day we visited, everyone else booked in with us were from the local area).
To do this, the Manoir can sort it out for you (probably easiest this way) or you can make a booking in person at the aquatic centre/boat club area on the left side of the peer (if you’re looking at the beach).
Late morning/Early Afternoon: Explore nearby Perros-Guirec – home to some rather charming houses and an even more charming chapel.
This is the perfect place for lazy ambling. The locals are very friendly here and will happily invite you in or stop to help if you look lost – the perfect excuse for snooping around.
Try to drive around the local area to see more of it and perhaps even go down one of the many beaches here. Plage Saint-Guirec is one worth checking out when you’re here though really, anyone here will do.
Afternoon: Head over to Les Triagoz for lunch. It’s not gourmet or anything but hits the spot for lunch.
Later afternoon: Forage for your own seaweed by the beach. Sounds random, I know, but you’re by the beach and seaweed has crept into many-a-culinary delight so you might as well throw yourself into the whole seaside experiences properly here.
It’s run by a seaweed expert called Regine Queva (though don’t be surprised if they refer to seaweed as algae – which sounds considerably less delicious, it’s just a French thing apparently and is actually referring to seaweed).
You get to taste the seaweed too (remember how when we did this in Scotland I said how there’s no poisonous seaweed? Well Regine reconfirms this – with one rule though, the seaweed still need to be planted/alive when you get it – you can’t just go picking random floating pieces of seaweed).
All of this is not done without purpose mind you. You actually get to go back to the kitchen and made your own seaweed meal that afternoon before embarking on a speciality seaweed menu made specially by the chef here.
Early evening: Run yourself a nice bath and just chill. Get out a good book or just had a nice long nap – you’ve had an early start to the day and deserve a chill. I chose the bath option (which was kinda silly considering I’d just had a shower to warm me up prior – I didn’t bring the right clothes or shoes for the beach).
I just saw the bath again as I left the shower and decided to grab a glass of wine and hop in! Best decision ever. I’ve been a long-standing fan of great baths – as you probably already know so this was just what I needed!
Mid-Evening: Seaweed gourmet dinner at the Manoir restaurant. Seaweed doesn’t sound like the most interesting ingredient but in the hands of amazing French chefs, it’s absolutely something else!
As with the night before, it’s course after course of deliciousness – some of which leave you wondering where the seaweed is (e.g. thrown into in a mini salad or made into what I can only describe as a “parmesan-biscuit”-esque side served with fish – except of course it’s seaweed, not parmesan cheese).
Each item was delicious but the one that really surprised was the freshly made soufflé for dessert (with – you guessed it, seaweed). Absolutely fantastic!
*Also, random sidebar – when the cheese cart came round, you know how most people would probably ask for a couple of cheeses? Well, Lloyd couldn’t decide and went for ALL the cheeses. ALL! Every single one. Who does that? 😆 😆 😆
Morning: Breakfast time. Have it slow and leisurely. If you’re in the mood for a bit of sand yachting on the beach, ask the Manoir de Lan Kerellec to help organise this for you. We decided to go check out something else instead.
Late Morning: Head over to Ploumanac’h Lighthouse where you can see, one of the most iconic sights in the area, and I’m not even talking about the impressive lighthouse here.
I’m referring to the distinct red rocks that define this part of France.
You can see rocks like this all along the coast, some of which aren’t red at all – but down here, you get to see some of the largest (and indeed, largest concentrations) of red rocks dotted along this amazing coastline.
Seriously, some of them are the sizes of several houses put together!
^ That’s Lloyd in front of the lighthouse above – just to give you a sense of how huge those rocks and the light are.
Those fiery red rocks against the blue of the sea create such a brilliant contrast and are worth popping by the see when you’re in the area.
We’d heard about them from several people here, ergo the decision to visit but if you’ve got time, you should pop into Lannion (especially so if you missed it on your way in on Day 1). Alternatively, perhaps stay an extra night and spend the extra 24 hours here in Lannion and some other smaller but equally charming towns?
In retrospect, I would absolutely have loved to have done this and wish I’d booked an extra day just to pop into other charming little French villages and towns. All the more reason to return back soon I guess! 😀
Anyway, after this, you’re free to head back to Guingamp (or indeed an airport or hop into your car) to head back home thoroughly invigorated by a taste of a totally different and unique part of France. We certainly were. 😃