A microcosm of Brittany, the Pays de Quimperlé is without doubt the region’s best-kept secret, with its sprinkling of secluded harbours, dramatic coastline and shape-shifting seascape
Shape-shifting doesn’t come close to describing this wondrous land of rias – a lattice of inlets endlessly drawn and redrawn by the tides’ ebb and flow. This is just one of the many wonders dotting the Pays de Quimperlé’s shoreline. From Doëlan, Le Pouldu, and Brigneau to Rosbras and Bélon, the coast is trimmed with secluded harbours whose ever-changing seascape and marinas were immortalised by the Pont-Aven painters.
SUN, SEA AND SAND
With its rias-dotted shores, sweeps of sandy beaches – perfect for a game of volley ball – and intimate creeks to enjoy quality time with the brood, Pays de Quimperlé has plenty to offer sunbathers, families and adrenaline junkies alike. From sailing, canoeing and kayaking to stand-up paddling, it is the go-to destination for water sports enthusiasts – or novices itching to take the plunge. Surfers will get their fix of thrills and spills at Kérou Beach.
TAKE A HIKE
With a whopping 1,300 km of hiking trails and coastal paths winding their way through its rugged landscape, rocky outcrops and surf-tickled beaches (and jaw-dropping views at every turn), Quimperlé is a ramblers’ paradise. The most iconic of all is without doubt the GR 34 route, better known as the ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ (path of the customs officers). Created during the Revolution, it was intended as a sprawling lookout, stretching 1,800km along the entire Breton coast – 80km of them in the Pays de Quimperlé – for custom officers to root out smugglers. Venture inland and you’ll come across countless natural wonders and historic treasures on your ramblings. Chief among them are the Roches du Diable – boulders rising amid the gorges on the River Ellé, north of Quimperlé, and where, legend has it, Saint Guénolé defeated Satan himself.
LAND OF HISTORY
The gateway to southern Finistère, the city of Quimperlé has borne witness to the sweep of French and Breton history; and as such has been awarded the coveted ‘ville historique’ status. With more landmarks than you could possibly shake a selfie stick at, culture vultures will have to wake at the crack of dawn to squeeze in centuries of history in one stay. Among the must-see attractions are the Abbatiale Sainte-Croix, medieval bridge and Chapelle des Ursulines. Fountains, chapels and a sprinkling of megaliths aside, the rest of the Pays is brimming with heritage sites, including the Maison-Musée du Pouldu, which Paul Gauguin and a coterie of his friends called home in 1889 and decked out in vibrant frescoes. Don’t miss the Manoir de Kernault, a vast property snug in 31 hectares of lush parkland with four orchards producing more than 100 varieties of apple. Last but not least, be sure to take a gander at the remains of Saint-Maurice, a former Cistercian abbey on the tranquil banks of the River Laïta.
Foodies take note: from surf to turf and everything in between, the region has something to tickle every palate. Feeling brave? How about a platter of andouilette (chitterlings)? Time your visit right and you could gorge on the catch of day, hauled straight out of the nets at Doëlan and Bélon harbours. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. For more information visit www.quimperle-terreoceane.com
From France Today magazine