Although our journey along Brittany’s north coast was cycling focused, I’m glad we took time to explore some of the area’s great coastal walks. They serve up a dramatic display of rugged cliffs, pink rock, white sand beaches, heather-covered moorland, and a castle straight out of a story book. Wandering the well-maintained trails at Côte de Granit Rose, Cap d’Erquy and Cap Fréhel is a joy. These places are not far from each other, but they have distinctly different charms.
Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast)
Our cycling route along the V4 passes through Brittany’s famous Pink Granite Coast. We stop for the night in Trébeurden, the western start of the colourful coast. We have time for a short hike around le Castel headlands where we get our first glimpse of the red-hued boulders. While Trébeurden does not have the abundance of pink granite found a little further along the coast, we like the peaceful vibe, and Plage de Tresmeur, its main beach, is one of loveliest we’ve seen.
We had hoped to find accommodations the next day in the small town of Ploumanac’h, often described as the most charming spot on the Pink Granite Coast. Everything is booked so we pedal a few extra kilometres to Perros Guirec, a much larger resort town. The V4 cycle routing is spectacular, especially near the town of Trégastel where the sheltered bays and sandy coves are all pink-tinged.
Despite the touristy beachfront area, Perros Guirec is attractive and makes a great base to explore the Pink Granite Coast. A trail at the west end of the city’s main beach, Plage de Trestraou, leads us onto the GR34 long distance walking trail (also called the Sentier de Douaniers). From here we wander along the undulating path to Plage de St-Guirec in Ploumanac’h. It’s only a 4.5 km stretch (and an easy trail) but we’re so caught up in the beauty of the sculpted rock formations and aquamarine sea that we end up spending the whole afternoon on the trail. A couple of glasses of French wine in a cute outdoor café in Ploumanac’h tops off a perfect day of wandering (we’re quite merry on the return walk to Perros Guirec).
Unlike the popular Pink Granite Coast and Cap Fréhel (below), we hadn’t seen much about Cap d’Erquy in the guidebooks. For some reason it’s not frequented by as many visitors, but based on a short description I read in our cycling guide I had an inkling we’d like it. It turns out to be my favourite nature spot in Brittany and our coastal walk there is simply sublime.
The pretty town of Erquy provides easy walking access to countless trails on the Cap d’Erquy. Our guesthouse host recommends a 7.5 km trail called Les Plages Sauvages (the wild beaches). It’s well-marked and takes us up onto the clifftops that are covered with faded purple heather and remnants of yellow broom. The colours are still spectacular in mid-September and I’m imagining what it must look like in springtime. Paths lead down to beautiful bays and beaches, which are surprisingly empty. My jaw drops as we round a bend and get our first glimpse of a long swath of golden sand called Plage de Lourtuais. It becomes one of our all time favourite picnic lunch spots. We take a nap in the sun-warmed sand before continuing our wandering, which happily turn into 18 km, through the coastal paradise that is the Cap d’Erquy.
Cap Fréhel and Fort la Latte
Cap Fréhel is a wild, windswept peninsula with craggy cliffs and foggy moorlands. There is no development on the peninsula, but road access brings plenty of visitors who mostly just take photos at its scenic lighthouses. It’s easy to escape the crowds by taking a walk on the trails in either direction.
I’m glad we take the mini detour off the V4 cycle route to visit Cap Fréhel but I don’t find it quite as rewarding as Cap d’Erquy. Maybe it’s the overcast skies and the bar that was set so high. Hikers we talk to at the lighthouse tell us that the 4.5 km trail from Cap Fréhel to Fort la Latte (also part of the GR34 trail) is outstanding. Sadly we only have time to sample a little stretch before we hop back on our bikes for the short ride to Fort la Latte.
The castle, on a rocky promontory overlooking the ocean looks like a scene right out of a fairy tale. Fort la Latte was built in the 14th century, fortified in the 18th century under Louis XIV, and meticulously restored in the 20th century. Our imaginations run wild as we cross the drawbridge, peer into the dungeons and climb the watchtower. From our perch, Brittany’s majestic coastline unfolds in all its glory.
On the map, scroll out to see the location of Brittany’s north coast, scroll in for exact locations of the places mentioned.
If you’re short on time, base yourself in Saint-Malo for day trips to Cap Fréhel and/or Cap d’Erquy, which are approximately a one hour drive.
With a little more time, spend a night or two in/around Perros Guirec to visit The Pink Granite Coast, and/or in Erquy, which can serve as a base for adjacent Cap d’Erquy and Cap Fréhel, just a 20 minute drive away.
With even more time, consider visiting or staying in Trébeurden (Pink Granite Coast). Shout out to Pavillion de la Plage, a beautifully renovated old building turned boutique hotel, and nearby Restaurant La Tourelle des Roches Blanches—both in Trébeurden. The old fishing port of Dahouët and Val André, adjacent to Erquy are delightful.
All the places mentioned are on (or very short detours off) the V4 cycling route, which we really enjoyed.
For those who like hiking—short jaunts to multi-day trips—there are endless possibilities on the GR34 long distance hiking trail that snakes along the Brittany coastline for over 2000 km.
Next posts: The medieval town of Dinan, the oyster epicenter of Cancale, and a hodgepodge of other Brittany favourites.