Brittany (Bretagne in French) is the large peninsula in north-western France, bounded by the English Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south. With a population of over four million, Brittany has a rich Celtic history to go with its rugged coastline. Overall, the climate in Brittany is moderate year-round. It is fairly rainy, however, but frequent rain keeps summer temperatures from becoming oppressive. Brittany is divided into the following departements: Morbihan, Ile-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d’Armor, and Finestère.
Morbihan lies on Brittany’s south coast, which features sandy beaches, rivers, estuaries, and rugged coastlines. The region has a mild climate and is home to legendary forest of La Broceliande. Vannes is a medieval town constructed of half-timbered houses, shops, and crepe shops. Near here are prehistoric megaliths rising from both land and sea, and the breathtaking views that go with them.
Eastern Brittany is the location of Ile-et-Vilaine, and its charming towns of St. Malo and Rennes. The walled city of St. Malo was an early home to explorers and sailors, and still retains much of its old world charm with labyrinthine streets. The fortified towns of Vitre and Fougeres are also located here. This region is easily explored by taking a canal boat from Denan to the city of Nantes.
Côtes-d’Armor lies along Brittany’s northern coast and is a tourist magnet for visitors the world over. From the beaches at Erquy to the cliffs with their stunning views, the region is definitely a must-see. The more rugged coastline at Paimpol was a fishing center whose male population deserted the town every year during cod and whaling season.
Finestère is another region of wild coastlines, cliffs, and hidden coves, scattered with small ports. The Pointe de Raz and the Crozon Peninsula are two of the more popular summer spots, but there are also quiet areas north of brest, in quaint fishing villages such as Le Conquet. Finestère’s central region is the heart of traditional Bretagne culture of cider, crepes, lace bonnets, and strong Celtic influence.
In terms of gastronomy, whisky is produced by a few local distilleries like Plomelin’s Eddu distillery near Quimper. Glann ar Mor makes a popular peated single malt called Kornog. Kir Breton, consisting of cider and crème de cassis is a popular aperitif in Brittany.
Galettes are wide, thin pancakes made from buckwheat flour, and they are commonly served with savory fillings. In western parts of Brittany, these are referred to simply as crepes. Traditionally they are accompanied by Breton buttermilk known as lait ribot. Dessert crepes are popular for desserts as well as breakfast and are served with local butter. A dessert known as “far” is similar to a sweet Yorkshire pudding
The influence of Celtic culture, as seen in the many megalithic monuments is one of the most striking things about Brittany. The region is also known for calvary sculptures, which are carved crucifixion scenes located at crossroads in small towns and villages, particularly in the west. The region is also home to numerous manors and chateaux. Links with England and Ireland via the English Channel are found in the towns of Roscoff, as well as St. Malo, which is a popular link with the Channel Islands as well.