Brittany is an outdoor explorer’s paradise, with a wonderfully varied geographical character and numerous adventurous activities on offer. Whether you want somewhere to walk, run, cycle or simply soak up the beauty of nature, we’ve put the spotlight on the best of Brittany’s outdoors to help you plan a healthy, active holiday for 2018.
Walking and hiking
Brittany has literally hundreds of walking trails, winding their way through the magical forests of Brocéliande and Huelgoat or across the salty headlands of Pointe du Grouin and Pointe du Raz.‘PR’ trails are short routes for around an hour’s walk, marked by a yellow stripe and suitable for all. ‘GRP’ trails are for circular hikes, marked by a yellow and red stripe and running for 140-200km, and these can be broken up in any way you choose. Try a section through the Brocéliande Forest or around Saint-Malo, Morlaix or Vannes. Serious hikers will be most tempted by the ‘GR’ trails marked by a red and white stripe – following the GR34, or Sentier des Douaniers (Customs Officers’ footpath), is one of the best ways of exploring Brittany’s coastline.
Read more on Brittany’s hiking trails here (External link).
Whatever distance you’re used to running, Brittany has a route to suit. You can test your physical and mental stamina in the city or in the country – not only do the routes incorporate the best of the region’s scenery and landmarks, they’re also great for training if you plan on tackling a race. Over 60 races are held annually in Brittany, covering distances from 7 km to 177 km. Here are the next three big ones to look out for.
Rennes Urban Trail (22 April 2018)
This newest addition to the urban race circuits crosses Brittany’s capital from one major landmark to the next, with some unusual detours. Three separate routes take you all around the city – the longest is 24km, with 1,500 steps to climb!
Ultra Marin Golfe du Morbihan, Vannes (28 June – 1 July 2018)
The longest of Brittany’s super adventure races totalling 177km, this one takes you in a loop around the Gulf of Morbihan, breaking off mid-way to cross the water in an inflatable dinghy. There’s a time limit of 42 hours to get back to where you started. Strictly for experienced runners!
Bout du Monde Trail, Plouzané (7-8 July 2018)
This group of four separate race routes – from 20km to 57km – follow the ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ coastal path (Customs Officers’ Path), with breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline. Passing the Vauban fort at Bertheaume and the Kermovan lighthouse, there’s a dramatic finish on the cliffs of Pointe Saint-Mathieu.
Trail des Ebihens, Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer / Saint-Malo (10 June 2018)
Off the peninsula of Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer is the wild Ebihens archipelago, accessible on foot at low tide. The crossing forms part of this 20km coastal race, on which experienced runners can enjoy lovely lungfuls of sea air at the same time.
Trail de Guerlédan (19-20 May 2018)
A demanding rural race starting from Bon-Repos abbey and snaking around Brittany’s largest man-made lake. The three routes – ranging from 13km to 58km – follow hiking trails with challenging sections and steep gradients. A real challenge for the early summer.
For more of Brittany’s top running races and routes, click here (External link).
Nature reserves and natural parks
Dreaming of wide open spaces with plenty of wildlife? Brittany’s protected nature reserves are great places for spending time in the open air, both inland and on the coast.
The Gulf of Morbihan is home to a glut of salt marshes, oyster farms and no less than 42 individual islands to be explored. Try kayaking or paddle-boarding for a different view of the surroundings. The Brière Natural Park is also best experienced from the water, being a network of canals and flood plains. Birds can be seen in the reeds or perching on the distinctive thatched roofs – so bring your binoculars.
The Parc d’Armorique became France’s second major nature reserve, stretching from the Monts d’Arrée mountains to the Crozon peninsula and extending into the sea around the Iroise islands. Adrenaline hunters should try paragliding from the 330-metre-high Ménez Hom peak. And at Brittany’s westernmost extremity beyond the Finistère headland, the Iroise Marine Park has some remarkably unspoilt landscapes and you can go seal- and whale-watching around the Molène archipelago.
Mountain-biking trails, ‘voies vertes’ (greenways) and longer-distance Véloroutes – Brittany has it all for keen cyclists. Two of Brittany’s most famous cycle routes are the Tour de Manche (which includes Normandy, and Devon and Dorset on the other side of the Channel) and the Vélodyssée, hugging the Atlantic coast all the way from Brittany to Spain. Other routes follow river or canal towpaths, disused railway lines and country lanes – so there’s plenty of variety across the region. Most have low gradients and are well marked and traffic-free, so they’re particularly well suited to family holidays.
Make for one of Brittany’s mountain-biking centres (‘espaces VTT’) for more adventurous trails on your two wheels. Spread across the region’s four departments, they offer bike hire and repair, organised treks, qualified instructors and even accommodation along the way.