Wanderings along Brittany’s north coast

Ploumanac’h lighthouse: Pink Granite Coast, Brittany

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).

Plage de Tresmeur, Trébeurden
Sheltered bay in Trégastel
Pink-hued granite formations on GR34 trail from Perros Guirec to Ploumanac’h
Incredible colours of our Pink Granite Coast wanderings
Scenic Ploumanac’h lighthouse along GR34 trail
Plage de Trestraou, Perros Guirec
A walk to Pointe de Château for a panoramic view of Perros Guirec

Cap d’Erquy

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.

The faded heather and broom at Cap d’Erquy look amazing even in September
Beautiful bays and beaches along Les Plages Sauvages trail
Plage de Lourtuais, Cap d’Erquy
Walking trail along edge of Plage de Lourtuais
Overlooking the bay to the town of 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.

Trails through moorlands lead to Cap Fréhel
Cap Fréhel lighthouses
Panoramic view from Fort la Latte watchtower
Looking down to Fort la Latte’s courtyard
Misbehaved visitor at Fort la Latte

On the map, scroll out to see the location of Brittany’s north coast, scroll in for exact locations of the places mentioned.

Tips:

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.

Categories: France, Hiking | Tags: , , , , | 41 Comments

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41 thoughts on “Wanderings along Brittany’s north coast

  1. The pink granite is, of course, stunning but the heather and the cap lands are just sublime!

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  2. Wonderfully written and love those photos!!!

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  3. Pingback: Cycling France’s Brittany and Normandy coasts: Top 10 highlights | Writes of Passage

  4. ahhh, what a lovely trip to post about! I would love to be on the coast of somewhere right now!

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  5. Some of those beaches are positively Caribbean! I’ve never been to Brittany (or Normandy). They strike me as being a bit like Devon or Cornwall only with better food and nicer homes…

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  6. Caroline so wonderful to revisit Brittany through your eyes and glorious photos. It definitely is one of my favorite places that we have been to in France, although we did not see as many of the beaches as you both managed to! Ben wants to know where are the photos of the fabulous buckwheat crepes that the region is so famous for? Haha.

    Wonderful post, thanks for the memories.

    Peta

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    • Haha…tell Ben I gobbled them up before I could remember to take photos. It’s strange, I love eating and good food but I have so few food photos from my travels. Those Breton galettes are so satisfying. We were always happy to roll into a town around lunchtime and find a crêperie. I think my next post will feature Cancale (the oyster capital of the region) and I did remember to take a few photos there. Cheers!

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  7. Those are some glorious photos of Brittany’s north coast, Caroline! Having been staying inside my apartment most of the time for the past three weeks, I can almost feel the breeze when I looked at those shots. Fort la Latte is particularly stunning — I will remember not to miss this place if I get the chance to explore this part of France one day.

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    • Thanks Bama. I’m living vicariously too, reading travel blogs and dreaming of all the places I want to visit. What I originally thought might be a few weeks of isolation looks to be getting longer everyday. A month ago I wouldn’t have thought that summer travel plans might be jeopardized. But, I totally understand the need to get the situation under control. I’m glad you could feel the breeze (it’s a beautifully fresh one in Brittany).

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  8. You know, I’ve never had any desire to visit France. I’m not sure why, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. However, you’ve shown me a part of France that just might force me to change my mind. It looks rugged and beautiful and historic, and I had no idea the coastline looked like this! Thanks for the tour and for forcing me to confront my preconceptions.

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    • Interesting you say this Diana. France was not really high on my list, but after I got a taste of it, in Alsace, on our first cycling trip I started feeling differently. My hubby was really motivated to cycle in France again and there were a few things that initially got me interested in Brittany (mostly romantic notions about Saint-Malo and Mont-St-Michel) but I never would have thought I’d be so enchanted by its natural, wild beauty. I’m glad I could surprise you with a different view of France.
      By the way, I cringe to admit that when I first visited Paris when I was 23 I wasn’t overly impressed. This time, I was absolutely blown away by the city’s beauty, sites, architecture, parks, walkability, history…I’d return in a heartbeat.

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  9. Great post and fantastic photos. It’s amazing to see how much variety there is in such a small corner of the world. And I think that’s why we loved exploring Brittany so much. They certainly have some of the most beautiful lighthouses and beaches, not to mention cute villages and fantastic food! Thanks for sharing. Your photographs bring back lots of lovely family memories. Stay safe, my friend 😘 Aiva

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    • Thanks Aiva! I agree with you about the variety of things to explore in such a small area. That also made Brittany very appealing for us on bikes (this simply wouldn’t be possible where we live in Canada). Next posts will have more on pretty villages and good food. I’m glad this post brought you nice memories. You stay well too!

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  10. That Plage de Tresmeur is tremendous. And how I would love to drop anchor at Trégastel or Fort la Latte and to walk along that flowered path in Cap d’Erquy. I gasped at the beauty of the pink-hued granite formations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa, I was actually thinking of you and your boat when I inserted that photo of Trégastel. I’m not a boater, but all those pretty bays and interesting coastline seem to be made for boating

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  11. This looks like such an idyllic wander – all the places! Beautiful photos that make me want to explore there!
    Alison

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  12. That water is so, so BLUE! It reminds me very much of the rocky Maine coast. It’s been decades since we were in Brittany, yet it remains one of our kids and our favorite trips ever. Did you get to Dinard at all?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Growing up in Montreal, all my neighbours used to go to the Maine Coast for summer vacations. I never had the pleasure; my parents dragged me to Europe (rough life), though never to Brittany. I’m glad you have fond memories of it. We spent a few hours in Dinard before catching the ferry to Saint-Malo. It’s a pretty place (great beach where we shared a picnic lunch and too much wine with a gang of British cyclists) and I love the Alfred Hitchcock statue and wonderful path that goes around the tip of the peninsula. Wish we’d had more time.

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  13. Such gorgeous landscapes and so much variety. From your pictures it looks like Cap d’Erquy is a secret gem that I’ll have to remember for the future. .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it was the combination of superb weather, relatively fewer people and that amazing beach that made Cap d’Erquy my favourite. I’ve read that all these places get super busy during summer holidays, so if you go, I suggest spring or fall.

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  14. Pit

    Hi Caroline, beautiful pictures of a scenic coast! It looks so different to our usual visits in wintertime – and much more crowded. I know Cap Frehel as a very lonely and stormy place ;o)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pit! You are lucky that you live so close to this beautiful part of the world (relatively speaking). No doubt that summer brings out the crowds. If you go to Tofino in November it can look like a lonely place too. I’d love to return to Brittany in wintertime. Photos I saw of waves crashing against the Saint-Malo walls looked incredible.

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  15. Jackie

    That looks like it was wonderful. Always so nice to read your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What an incredibly scenic coastline. Looks like a lovely area to go for a walk and picnic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been spoiled with travels to scenic coastlines, and Brittany (and parts of Normandy I’ll write about) rank right up there. Thanks for your comment. Hope you are keeping safe.

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  17. Such a pretty pretty spot. I love water and rocks and I so enjoy walking along the headland overlooking the ocean. Beautiful photos. Thanks, Lyn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lyn! You are no stranger to gorgeous coastal scenery. There is something very soothing about a beautiful coastal walk and Brittany has made it very easy with their extensive trail network. It’s really impressive. Cheers!

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  18. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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