Prettiest Villages In Brittany
There is no better village to start off a list of the prettiest places in Brittany than the picture perfect village of Rochefort-en-Terre. Winner of the title of ‘France’s favourite village’ in 2016 and a ‘Petite Cité de Caractère’ village, Rochefort-en-Terre is one of the most beautiful villages in Brittany and a must-visit.
This tiny village of just over 700 inhabitants is like an open air museum of a village that looks like it just jumped out of the pages of Beauty and The Beast. With its timber framed houses, stone renaissance buildings, narrow cobbled lanes and flowers and ivy galore! The village has a rich collection of old houses dating back centuries. The oldest building is the Chateau de Rochefort-en-Terre which was built in the 12th century although most of it was destroyed in 1793 and what we see today was rebuilt in the 19th century. The chateau went on to be purchased in 1907 by the wealthy French-born American painter, Alfred Klotz, who almost single handedly put Rochefort-en-Terre on the map and can be thanked for the sheer volume of flowers in the village. The story goes that he encouraged local residents to dress their houses with flower boxes and it is quite clear that this went down well as the village is absolutely covered in them to this day. It’s glorious!
Spend a lazy afternoon soaking up the atmosphere of this enchanting village whilst doing a spot of shopping. Rochefort-en-Terre has dozens of artisan shops ranging from bakers, jewellers, candle makers to toy makers. And of course, don’t miss the 12th century church, Notre-Dame-de-la-Tronchaye, where you can discover its fascinating story. Tradition has it that in the 10th century, a priest hid in a hollow tree trunk with a wooden statue of the Madonna and her child in order to escape the Norman invasions. Two centuries later, a shepherdess found this statue in the tree trunk and it is on the site of this tree that the church stands today. This story explains the churches name (Notre-Dame-de-la-Tronchaye) as tronchaye comes from the work trunk and also why it is set a little further away from the centre of the village on a steep slope when usually the village church is one of the focal points.
To find accommodation in Rochefort-en-Terre click here.
Perched atop a hill, the historic village of Moncontour looks out over two valleys, keeping an eye on the world below. Go back through the centuries and you find that its position was entirely strategic as it was the location for many battles. The village is still surrounded by parts of its original ramparts which date back to the 13th century. I think it is actually the smallest walled village in the whole of France! And most certainly one of the most beautiful villages in Brittany.
Today you can amble along the picturesque lanes, stopping for a glass of wine or coffee in one of the many cafes and bars that surround the market square. Take a walk down the side lanes and you will find many a timber framed house, many decorated with ornate wrought iron picture signs hanging from the buildings. Whilst in Hautvillers in the Champagne region they had the same thing and I discovered this was to give a visual aid to the occupation of the inhabitant or shop, useful for those who were unable to read at the time! I may be wrong but I believe these signs were used in the same way here in Moncontour.
After your wanders, treat yourself to some fabulous pastries from the artisan patisserie Patisserie Loïc Poireau. Walk in and say bonjour and you will be greeted with a warm smile and the most beautiful selection of sweet treats. We bought a good selection to take back to the house with us and I have to say, they were divine. Heidi particularly enjoyed the macaroon’s and to this day she has not stopped requesting more of the things!
Make sure to pop into the church on the market square before you leave, I almost didn’t and would have missed the gorgeous interiors with their spectacular 16th century stained glass windows.
Just a note! Don’t follow your satnav when entering the village, it takes you into town the back way through some incredibly narrow streets which won’t take you to the market square where you will be able to park. Instead, continue along the main road past the Moncontour village sign and then you will be able to take a sharp left up the hill straight into the centre of town.
To find accommodation in Moncontour click here.
Another one of Brittany’s ‘Petite cités de caractère’ and one of the very prettiest places in Brittany, Josselin is a beauty. Like Rochefort-en-Terre it is a real fairytale village that makes me feel like it popped out of the pages of Beauty and The Beast. Josselin is dominated by its chateau which looms over the town below, which is brimming with timber framed buildings clustering around the chateau. The chateau itself dates back to the early 11th century, however much of the original building was destroyed by King Henry II in a fierce battle. Over the centuries there have been many alterations and during much of the 17th and 18th centuries the chateau was derelict. It was only in 1835 that the Duke of Rohan undertook its restoration. Interestingly, the Chateau du Josselin is one of just a handful that is still owned by the old ruling families. If you want, you can visit during April through to October when the chateau is open to the public for tours of the ground floor. Unfortunately for the likes of us, the rest of it isn’t able to be views as the Rohan family live in the rest of it. Lucky for some!
The chateau is also home to the doll museum, which opened in 1984 in the old stables. The collection was started in the 19th century by the current owner’s great grandmother and now counts around 3,000 dolls in its collection. A fascinating visit for those with children. We also enjoyed a lovely walk along the canal with lies at the foot of the chateau and is really popular amongst those on their canal boats. I might have to look into doing that one year, I’ve always fancied a week on a canal boat!
To find accommodation in Josselin click here.
A picturesque little village we found whilst on the way to nearby Chateau De La Roche-Jagu, Pontrieux sits along the banks of the River Trieux and is known as the ‘Little Venice of Trégor’. Pontrieux was a wealthy village during the middle ages thanks to the linen trade. Huddled around its two squares, the little town of character as they call them in France, is perfect for a leisurely stroll around.
The river path was my favourite, where you could see all the old wash houses – there are around 50 and each of the rich families had their own so they could wash their laundry privately. In the summer months you can take a boat trip along the river to admire the old wash houses and take in the attractive flower displays. The whole village was a delight though, with its half-timbered houses, old stone houses, an 18th century fountain and a 16th century house nicknamed the ‘Tour Eiffel’.
To find accommodation in Pontrieux click here.
Château De La Roche-Jagu
Standing high on the side of the wooded Trieux River, the Château de la Roche-Jagu is the only survivor of about ten fortresses that once oversaw stretches of this valley in medieval times. Recently restored, it still guards the way to the picturesque town of Pontrieux.
Built in the 15th century on the site of an earlier medieval fort, the chateau was much larger originally. There is only one main wing left standing but what a beauty it is! There are few openings of any sort on the side dominating the river, reflecting its defensive role in days gone by. From the interior side though, you are treated to a decorative flourish of 19 chimneys and a pretty tower. Inside the chateau, there were a number of art installations during our visit. My favourite being one created by artist Rebecca Louise Law showcasing 15,000 dried flowers. It was incredible to see! I sat staring at it for ages.
To find accommodation near Chateau de la Roche-Jagu click
Château de Trévarez
Amongst the prettiest places in Brittany is this magnificent castle. The Château de Trévarez lies at the heart of over 200 acres of land in Finistère, overlooking the valley of the river Aulne. Although famous for its gardens which are renowned for their camellia collection, the chateau is the real star of the show for me! The dream of James de Kerjégu, he began building the chateau in 1893 to be his luxurious summertime hunting residence where he could retire during the summer months with his friends of high society.
The Château de Trévarez was one of the very last to be built in France and was ultra modern for its time with central heating, hot running water and even a lift to get upstairs. Unfortunately the chateau was bombed during WWII in 1944 and suffered a good deal of damage. For several decades the chateau stood deteriorating further until 1968 when the Finistère county council bought the estate and spent large sums of money bringing it back to life. The roof was replaced and the building was made structurally sound, or at least as much of it as possible. There are still parts of the chateau that you can’t go in. However, the rest of it is now open to the public. You can glimpse the damage to the west wing which took the brunt of the bomb damage. The interior of this wing is basically just a shell inside with a missing ceiling and exposed structural beams. The remainder of the house is free to wander around and you can get a glimmer of what this amazing house would once have been at its heyday.
To find accommodation near Chateau De Trevarez click here.
Prettiest Abbey’s & Chapels
Abbaye De Beauport
Founded in 1202 by Count Alain de Goëlo – Alain I of Avaugour, Beauport Abbey really is one of the prettiest places in Brittany. Located in the village of Kérity, facing out to sea in an unspoilt salt marsh in a sheltered little harbour, the abbey is a listed Historic Monument and its site protected.
For over 600 years the abbey was an economic hub, but with the French Revolution came the closing of its doors and the abbey was divided into lots of and sold off to three families from Paimpol. The abbey was finally listed as a historical monument in 1862 and in 1992 the French coastal protection agency bought the abbey and its ground to better protect them. The agency have worked hard to protect the history of this abbey and today we can all enjoy wandering its magnificent grounds. Along with the money brought in through tourists, they abbey also has its own apple orchards which they use to make their own cider. Which, naturally I bought a couple bottles of and can happily say that it was delicious!
To find accommodation near Beauport Abbey click here.
Chapelle Saint-Barbe Du Faouët
Hiding away in the town of Le Faouët is the beautiful Chapelle Saint-Barbe Du Faouët. Tucked away down the side of a narrow ledge, the chapel comes with a wonderful legend about how it was founded.
In the 15th century, Jean de Toulbodou, Lord of Locmalo, was out on a hunt when a storm hit. He sought refuge near some high rocks. When lightening struck the rocks he began to pray to Sainte Barbe, usually invoked for protection from fire and lightning. He promises her, that if she saves him he will build a chapel on that very spot for her. The storm suddenly ends and Jean de Toulbodou believes that his prayer has been heard. True to his promise, he undertook the construction of this chapel on July 6, 1489 and it was finally complete 23 years later in 1512.
Isn’t that such a lovely story? Either way, this is one picturesque chapel.
To find accommodation near Chapelle Saint-Barbe click here.
Jardins De Kerdalo
I found the most beautiful gardens on our last visit to Brittany. The Kerdalo Gardens. Most definitely one of the prettiest places in Brittany that I have found.
Peter Wolkonsky spent much of his youth painting with his mother in Italy and Provence, before he began to design and create gardens. He embarked on the creation of the gardens of Kerdalo in 1965, in the undulating terrain of an old farm overlooking the river Jaudy opposite the ancient town of Tréguier. Ponds, waterfalls, cascades, a grotto, and pavilions appeared within a few years. He planted more than 5000 plants in these 17 hectare gardens, giving a fantastic variety of colour throughout the seasons. On Peter’s death in 1997, Kerdalo was taken in hand by his daughter Isabelle who was kind enough to let me visit these gardens even though they were officially closed for the season when we visited in October. If you do want to visit (which I highly recommend!) and your trip also happens to be out of season, you can call ahead to see if there is a gardener there or Isabelle herself to let you in. It’s a magical place!
Telephone No. +33296923594
In 2005 Kerdalo Gardens were classed as a ‘Remarkable Garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and in 2007 they were registered as a Historical Monument. So very glad I stumbled across this place! And is it just me or would Kerdalo gardens fit perfectly into the Cotswolds??
To find accommodation near Kerdalo Gardens click here.
Best Time To Visit Brittany
The best time to visit Brittany in my opinion is in the late spring months or very early autumn. Of course it would be absolutely wonderful in the summer months too, just keep in mind that it will be slightly busier, particularly in August which is a national holiday in France. Also be aware that in the peak season of July and August, as with anywhere in Europe, the prices for accommodation will be higher – just something to keep in mind.
How To Get To Brittany
There are numerous airports which you can fly into Brittany from all across Europe, it’s a very well connected region. You can check out all the cheapest flight options here. Depending on where you’re travelling from, ferry is always a great option too. In fact, coming from the UK, hopping on a ferry is our preferred method of travel. It’s quick, it’s easy and it means that we have our car with us to get around the region once we’re there. It’s especially great if you are travelling with children as you can take an overnight ferry where you can have a cabin to get a good nights sleep and when you wake up in the morning you’re all fresh and ready to begin your adventures.
We use Brittany Ferries from either Portsmouth, Poole or Southampton arriving into Cherbourg or St Malo for this particular corner of Brittany.
How To Get Around Brittany
Once you’re in Brittany, if you have arrived by plane I’d highly recommend hiring a car as it will give you the most freedom. However, there are also public bus links between some of the more popular towns. I recommend taking a look at Sunny Cars so you can have a car rental ready to go when you land! They’re a great company who pride themselves on working with local rental companies and when you book through them all insurance is covered so you don’t have any of the usual hidden extras like with other companies! Plus, they offer free cancellation, always a bonus.
Where To Stay In Brittany
There are an abundance of wonderful properties to base yourself for a stay in Brittany. I’ve visited quite a few and here are two that I’ve enjoyed the most!
Les Petites Maisons Arin – a really beautiful property next to the sea with views out over the bay. Perfect for stunning sunsets.
Le Manoir de La Villeneuve – a goregous chateaux (see the image above) with stunning interiors and an exceptionally warm welcome from owner Nathalie.
There you have it! 9 of the prettiest places in Brittany. If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in the region, I’ve written a post with my suggestions which you can find here.
I hope you like my guide to Brittany. It is a fantastic region of France to discover and brimming with history!
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