Brittany is a peninsula on the western edge of France. Its four districts of Côtes d’Armor, (district 22), le Finistère (29), l’Ile-et-Villaine (35) and le Morbihan (56) extend over 27,208 square kilometers and are home to 2,906,197 inhabitants.
Famous for being one of the main megalithic sites in Europe, Brittany is bursting with monoliths, dolmens (the three-stone formations best known from England’s Stonehenge) and other archaeological treasures that bear witness to the presence of civilization during the first Neolithic era. Home later to several Celtic tribes during the Gallic period, it wasn’t until communities from the British Isles moved in, bringing their culture, language and way of life, that Brittany got its current name.
Brittany’s location and its broad coastline made it the unwilling host to numerous hostile invasions over the centuries, resulting in the many granite military edifices, castles and fortified towns Brittany is known for today. In fact, Brittany boasts approximately 4000 castles, manors, mansions and estates built over the course of its history. Finally, the rich religious heritage of Brittany echoes through its multitude of abbeys and Roman churches which speak of the piety of Bretons during the religious revival of the 9th Century.
This land of history but also of legend – think Merlin the Magician and Tristan & Isolde – is marked by a contrast between its coastal regions, l’Armor, with its rugged beaches, and the Argoat, the inland area with its rural countryside.
Surrounded with water on three sides, Brittany boasts 2700 km of coastline, more than any other region in France, as well as the most islands (over 790), giving it natural riches to match its historic ones.
The shores of Brittany are dotted with alternating beaches and capes, boulder formations and cliffs. Each of its islands and islets offers something unique, with its own flora, fauna and character.
The beaches have different characters too, distinguished by their look and their nearby towns. In the north, the emerald coast is home to the beautiful medieval town of Dinan, the cobblestone alleyways of St-Malo, the embankments of Dinard and the fishing port of Erquy. This is also where you’ll find cape Fréhel and its cliffs 70m cliffs that offer an unmatched view of La Manche, and further away the town of saint-Brieuc, the capital of the Côtes d’Armor. Near Trebeurden, the coastline is known for being the most wild and unspoiled in all Brittany, home to sand dunes, marshes and rugged terrain. In the Finistère area, the cliffs of the island of Ouessan face Brest. Totally devastated by the Great War, the town has been rebuilt and is known now for its young and dynamic character, as well as for being the European center for oceanography and all science and technology associated with the sea.
All of Brittany’s varied terrains and beaches harbor a rich diversity of flora and fauna that thrills nature enthusiasts and bird lovers the world over. Besides the aforementioned 2700 m of coastline, there are also 600 km of canals and rivers crisscrossing Brittany, making the region the ideal destination for all sorts of water-based activities.
The inland area of Brittany is marked by its deeply rural nature. Between its fields and pastures, forests and hamlets, its back-country is a vast green countryside, where the economy relies largely on agriculture and food production. Once a network of hedgerows, the area saw a reorganization of its land parcels in the 1960s that allowed for the modernization of its farming practices and made it the number one agricultural region in France.
The mountain range on Brittany’s only land border rises to a height of 388 meters and is made up of an alignment of mountains: the mountains of Arée, the Olandes de Méné and les Montagnes Noires or Black Mountains. A large area of Brittany is protected and preserved in the Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique, with 4000 km of hiking trains and bike paths that give visitors a chance to experience all the natural diversity of Brittany at close range.
Dotted with towns steeped in art and history such as Rennes, Fougères and Guingamp, Brittany is especially rich in its busy calendar of cultural events. Visitors and residents alike can revel in traditional festivals and holidays of all kinds, such as the le Festival de Cornouailles (the French word for “Cornwall”, the British equivalent), Celtic Nights, les Nocturiales and the Eastern Inter-Celtic Festival.