Brittany from its walled cities and glorious castles to magnificent churches, its built heritage look pretty appealing.
Traditional farms and manors are liberally scattered across the beautiful countryside. The church commissioned both fine and modest buildings from major abbeys and cathedrals to the tiniest, quaintest chapels.
Brittany has numerous traditional fishing ports and once the tourists started to arrive, many doubled as resorts. After this a number of different resorts arose in prime beach locations. A spate of marinas offering berths in one of most famous sailing destinations in the world which also produced many of the world’s most famous sailors.
These days technology has eased the Breton fishermans workload while fleets have dwindled some-what, you can still find working ports all around the shores of Breton. Cancale, Bay of St-Brieue and in the Golfe du Morbihan specialise in shellfish. At Quiberon you can visit the traditional canneries.
After the end of the 19th Century warring, beautiful villas sprouted up in some of Brittany’s must gorgeous coastal spots. Resorts like Carantec, Locquirec and Perros-Guirec developed on gorgeous peninsulas on the north coast, while others like Sables d’Or-les-Pins and le Val-Andre exploited tremendous bays. Dinard offers perhaps on of the finest examples of Belle Epoque buildings.
Brittany’s big cities and major ports have put culture and tourism at the top of it’s agenda. It is quite surprising that a relatively small region like Brittany actually boasts nine cathedrals cities if you include Nantes. The major towns of St Malo and Rennes have wonderful cathedrals however the mid sized towns of Dol, St-Pol-de-Leon, St -Brieuu and Treguier near the north shore, Quimper out west and Vannes in the south have all got beautiful cathedrals, radiating in history and beauty.
In Brittany’s grittiest cities great walls and towers were built to keep invaders out, however these days the gates are left open for the many tourists which visit each year. These daunting fortifications of places like St Malo, Dinan, Fougeres, Port-Louis and many others are their glory today. Even well defended naval towns like Brest and Lorient have created cultural attractions as well as new marinas. Many of these towns along with the cathedral cities have been designated Villes d’Art et d’Historie because of their rich cultural heritage.
As a strongly rural region Brittany has managed to preserve a fair amount of its country heritage. There are also windmills, tidal mills, gorgeous rustic industrial buildings and then the ecomusees, intense, small scale local museums which recall specific traditions from textile working to algae harvesting via specialist fishing.
You can view the windmills which are particularly visible around the bay of Mont St Michel, tidal mills on the island of Brehat which recall wider traditions which have now vanished. In the centre of Brittany, Les Forges des Salles are a former iron-maker works which is a picture of peace, however the story is of hard labour.
Castles and Forts
Brittany’s shores bristle with defensive forts and castles, many of which were vulnerable to invaders, however, these places are now all a picture of beauty, some lovingly maintained and some being in ruins. You can visit a host of Breton castles and manors inland too. Some have been restored as hotels and B&B’s, which you can stay in.
In Brittany, the church has since its inception been a remarkable force, although just as a distinctive Celtic brand of Catholicism, developed in the region, so did a different religious architecture. You can’t mistake a Breton religious house, whether its little or large, the outdoor carved calvaries are one of the most unusual elements to many a parish church.
Cathedrals dominate the skyline and centre of many bug Breton towns, with major churches also making their presence felt in most towns. Medieval abbeys were found deep in the countryside, many of these fell into ruin, some have been restored as cultural centres such as Beauport and Landevennec and influential Celtic Abbey famed for its manuscripts.
It is fair to say Brittany’s heritage is rich and aesthetically beautiful and definitely a region to explore.