I usually start with a question – it might be from my own musings, or a conversation I’ve been having, or it might just be my nostalgia at work, but I often go to the Hotel Guru with a question along the lines of “If I’m travelling to Paris with two kids, a dog, an elderly relative who can’t manage too many stairs, a penchant for affordable luxury, and a desire to be at the front of the queue for the Louvre when it opens, where do you think I should stay?” But today I just casually enquired if they had any summer plans yet… and I got a fantastic wealth of information on Brittany.
Brittany was their answer – somewhere sunny, peaceful, with great food and the possibility of some beach days, some gallery days and some market days. Along with plenty of opportunities to stroll round idyllic port towns and rural villages. And, because other people’s travel plans are always like a gourmet feast for me to feed off, I thought I’d piggyback on their frankly-wonderful sounding summer plans and follow up their recommendations. But don’t say anything if we all end up turning up at the same hotel at the same time, OK?
For Seaside Peace, Yet Ocean Drama
Spacious Castel Clara is on a small hill above a small but idyllic sandy cove on Belle Île en Mer, the island muse of Matisse and Monet. You’re close to pretty Bangor, but surrounded by green, so we imagine that when you take your sundowners on the terrace it’s just you and the odd sailboat bobbing on the bay. The decor is chic, but not fussy, with a seaside colour scheme, and there’s a choice of a traditional French restaurant or seafood cafe. There’s also a good range of rooms and the majority have sea views. Rooms start from €166 per night this summer. And you’re on ‘beautiful island in the sea’: Belle Île en Mer, tres bon!
Where is it?
Belle Île en Mer’s nearside coastline is calm and sandy and dotted with little ports painted in pale, seaside colours, while the ocean side is more rocky and dramatic. So you get the best of both worlds here, from calm sunbathing to windswept walks. The island’s main sights are the Aiguilles de Port Coton, a collection of sharp rock stacks which have been an inspiration for countless artists and photographers, with Grotte de l’Apothicairerie on the southwestern coast providing visitors with the best views from the cliffs of the sea crashing against the historic geological formations…dramatic to say the least! And for more drama, if you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll be treated not just to the island’s day-to-day charms but also a summer opera festival and several music concerts.
Practical Details: You get to the island via ferry, with regular sailings from Quiberon to Le Palais. If you’re flying, the closest airport is Nantes.
For Exceptional Value Relaxation
Ty Mad is simple, yet chic, which is a great combination when you’re close to the beach. There are 15 rooms, with whitewashed walls, wooden floors and exposed bricks, and the hotel also has its own indoor pool, sauna and hammam, gardens, terrace, restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine and its own art galley. Which is a lot, considering the rooms start from €100 per night.
Where is it?
Douarnenez is known for its exceptional seafood and rich, gastronomic culture, for a relaxed, seaside atmosphere, and for an association with the classical love story of Tristan and Iseult/Isolde – just off the coast from Douarnenez is Tristan Island, which is perfectly picturesque. At low tide, you can walk out to Tristan Island. The island has a harbour, a lighthouse, a walled garden, an orchard and an art gallery.
Practical Details: If you want to travel to Douarnenez by train it’s almost possible, though the last leg, from Quimper, is a semi-convenient bus journey. The same can be said for flying, although you have a range of airport choices to fly into, there’s no escaping the final part of the journey via Quimper. It takes about nine hours to drive from London.
Find Peace in My Beautiful Brittany B&B
The Manoir de Kerledan is a beautifully renovated manor house, which is now run as a four room B&B with romance in spades. This is definitely the sort of place where you’re welcome to eat, drink and chat with other guests. From the sitting room with its stone flagged floors, arched doorways, sandstone walls, antique mirrors, chandeliers and sculptures, to the equally original bedrooms and welcoming hectare of gardens and pottage gardens, this renovation project is really exceptional. And great value, with rooms starting from as little as €90 per night.
Located in the heart of Brittany, this is a great place to stop off mid-trip, or to use as a base.
Where is it?
Carhaix-Plouguer is in the heart of Brittany – and a great spot for exploring the region. It’s also quaint and historic, with local archaeological digs uncovering the town’s links to ancient Rome. It boasts a lovely old centre, with winding streets and old buildings with impressive stonework and exposed timber. This is also a great place to come if you want to eat well. In summer there’s an impressive festival season here too.
Practical Details: It can take about nine hours to reach Carhaix-Plouguer from London by train, but you need to really plan your journey in advance, as some legs are pretty infrequent. The same goes for flying, because the final leg is always the same. So you probably need to commit to driving, which takes about eight hours from London, or catching a cab for the final 40 minutes.
Easy, Foodie, Beach-y Relaxation (that’s easy to get to)
So far our Hotel Guru muse has picked out properties in Brittany towns which are small and picturesque, but also quite tricky to get to? But this one, La Palmeraie in La Baule-Escoublac is different in that regard. It’s still a beautiful town with a lovely, golden-sandy beach, however La Baule is a lot easier to get to! La Palmeraie has a lot more to say for itself than that, though, starting with its fabulous seafood restaurant and finishing with its nine tastefully decorated rooms.
Where is it?
La Baule-Escoublac is one of those wonderful resort towns established around the railway line, and by the 1920s it was a very fashionable, glamorous destination for French high society – often referred to as the ‘St Tropez of the West’. Its 12kms of golden sand certainly helped, and these days you can expect to find horse riders, kite surfers, wind surfers, surfers and more, along with the buckets and spades and joggers. Sailors were drawn to the glamour too. And the local seafood probably helped as well.
Practical Details: You can reach La Baule-Escoublac via train or plane relatively easily, via the former in about eight hours, and the latter in about six.
For Romance and Sea Views
Le Fort De L’Ocean is a pretty, chateau-esque, eight room, seafront hotel on a quiet, rocky stretch of coast just outside Le Croisic. The decor is chintz-lite, with some lovely rattan furniture and vintage prints. There’s also a heated outdoor pool set amid pretty gardens. Plus there’s a golf course directly opposite the hotel, and you’re close to a number of excellent markets. Rooms start from €200 per night.
Where is it?
Le Croisic was one of the first tourist resorts in Brittany, but it’s still an active fishing port with a busy harbour – a harbour that’s been busy since the 16th century. Unfortunately the fish markets here are industry only, but the cockles, oysters and other local specialities do still end up on local restaurant menus. And several restaurants are housed in beautiful, half-timbered, 16th century buildings. You’ll also find beautiful sandy beaches and rocky coves…and an aquarium.
Practical Details: You can travel by train to Le Croisic with comparative ease in about seven and a half hours out of London, or you can fly to Nantes or Rennes and catch a train.
About Us The Hotel Guru has done your hotel research for you. We’ve commissioned a collection of leading travel writers and journalists to offer their recommendations on where to stay, found out all the important, and minute, details about each property, and then cross referenced that with guides we respect. So if having a hot tub is important to you you can search by that, likewise pet-friendly properties and hotels with a great wine list. More great travel ideas here