First published in West magazine, August 2018
Seven days, seven beaches, all so nice it’s impossible to choose a favourite, says Fran McElhone about her recent summer holiday to beautiful Brittany
“Ou est la plage sil vous plait?” said I in my best (still terrible) French accent.“Which beach do you want?” came the answer.
This exchange between myself and a German mum-of-two, who was on a camping trip to Brittany with her family and, it transpired, had the low-down on the best beaches, pretty much sums up our recent summer holiday on the other side of the Channel.
Every day we (me, my three-year-old son and his grandma) packed a picnic and hit the beach. Sound dull? Far from it, the Côte de Granit Rose in northern Brittany is made up of a surfeit of sugar-soft sandy beaches which are not only beautiful but adventurous too, largely due to the peach hued rocks and boulders that protrude out of a crystalline sea, which disappears far into the distance at low tide exposing a prehistoric landscape skirting huge expanses of sand, speckled with shells.
Last year we summer-holidayed in southern Brittany and fell under its spell. Verdant forests and pastures of corn and artichokes give way to quaint towns characterised by their medieval architecture and weekly markets and villages with churches featuring lofty spires and bushes of sky blue hydrangeas. Its charming seafaring heritage, coupled with the ease of getting there and back with Brittany Ferries, enticed us to return again, this time to its northernmost fringe.
After disembarking from the Plymouth – Roscoff overnight ferry, en route to our base at the quaint and quiet village of Port Blanc (hugely underrated in our guide book) we stopped off at the seaside village of Locquirec for brunch (crusty bread with homemade rhubarb jam, coffee and freshly squeezed apple juice made with locally grown fruit) which turned into several hours on the beach, decorating sandcastles with shells and wandering around the boats as the tide receded. On our way back to the car, a small group of Renaissance musicians played to a small gathering in the shadow of the church.
The next day we wandered along a quiet lane leading to Port Blanc’s beaches, the coastline here curves round to the harbour and an imposing outcrop of granite with a bell tower on top presenting you with the tricky decision about where to unroll your beach towel. The next settlement round in a westerly direction is Port Royau where we clambered over crooked boulders reminiscent of giant “monsters” (one of which, according to my petit garçon, is now named “Winty”), the turquoise of the sea turning inky beyond the shallows.
Another day we headed to Trebeurden, a small town with “several” beaches. And after café au lait and chocolat chaud at a downtown patisserie, it was here that I got chatting to the family from Germany’s midpoint who were staying locally and sent us to the beach which was “best for kids”. What with it being fringed with pine trees and virtually devoid of people, it is a blissful place. And, such is the indentation of the coastline along northern Brittany – formed by ancient river valleys flooding the sea – it was here that I counted no less than 16 nearby sandy coves.
We arrived at Plage du Coz-Pors at Trégastel-Plage with the intention of taking McElhone Junior to the aquarium. We never made it because, what with all the pretending to be Bob the Builder on the rocks to be done, there is just so much to occupy yourselves. To your right are gigantic pink boulders, while boats bob around to your left, and like many of the beaches here, rock islets lie not far off the coast, making for adventurous exploration on land or on water via the locals’ favourite mode of water transport, the stand-up paddleboard.
Our late afternoon ferry meant we had time for one last beach stop at Carantec. Only 30-minutes from the ferry port and with a choice of three beachfront restaurants serving fresh fish dishes and a kids’ club area on the beach complete with bouncy castles, swings and other things popular with les enfants, if anywhere is going to make you wish you weren’t due on the big white boat heading into dock in the distance, it’s here.
Brittany boasts a warmer climate than the UK and we enjoyed perfect beach weather with daily temperatures hovering around the mid 20s. The sea temperature is warmer too. And in stark contrast to Britain, parking was easy and free.
Often the getting there and back part of a holiday can be a bit of a drag. One reason Brittany makes such a great family holiday destination, is the journey to and fro with Brittany Ferries, which has daily, if not twice daily, crossings from Plymouth. The boarding and disembarking operation is impressively well-honed and hassle-free and, such are the size of the vessels and their copious lounge areas, even at full capacity, it doesn’t feel busy onboard. However, should you want your own space and to get a good night’s sleep like us, quiet time can be had from the comfort of one of the cosy en-suite cabins. And, have you ever heard of an aeroplane with an onboard magician?
Brittany Ferries operates routes from Plymouth, Portsmouth and Poole to five destinations in Normandy and Brittany as well as to Spain.
Visitors can travel overnight by luxury cruise-ferry in the comfort of your own en-suite cabin, or be whisked across the Channel in as little as three hours.
We travelled from Plymouth to Roscoff and back; on this route, mid-season 2019 fares start from £305 return for a car plus two people, including an en-suite cabin on the outward overnight sailing.
Brittany Ferries offers a range of holiday packages and special offers are available throughout the year.
Visit brittanyferries.com or phone 0330 159 7000.