6 Unique Things to Discover in the Bay of Morlaix, France
But it would be unfair to completely overlook Finistère’s northern coast. Probably less touristy than its Southern sister, it is certainly not without charms. And the Bay of Morlaix has a few hidden up its sleeve.
The Bay of Morlaix has a loooong history that can be traced back as far as the 5th Millenium BC. And a rich past – I mean literally rich – that attracted at times unwanted attention from across the Channel. Morlaix would pay dearly for that.
Every time I research about the Bay, more evocative nuggets of the past emerge. The historic Bay of Morlaix has stirred my curiosity since the day I visited the fortress that guards its entrance and still I keep coming back to its shores.
If you are ready to get behind the wheel, I devised a list of things you shouldn’t miss if you visit the Bay of Morlaix in Brittany, France.
The construction is a gigantic mound of dry stones with 11 burial chambers inside, each accessible by a narrow passage (but closed to the public for safety reason). Enigmatic symbols on the walls are still to be deciphered today. The site was used as a quarry (eyes rolling) before it could be saved from further destruction. Some of the chambers are therefore exposed. At least it allows the visitor to see inside the mound.
The reason why the people who lived there millenia ago chose this location to build such a humongous structure is a mystery. But I couldn’t help myself looking for clues in the landscape as I was sitting there, on a bench, admiring the soothing view over the Bay of Morlaix. Maybe that was it, the inherent calming quality of the place is perhaps what made it the perfect location for a mausoleum.
CAIRN OF BARNENEZ€6
Address: Barnenez, Plouezoc'h
Tip: Guided tours available in French only at specific times during the day. Documentation available in English.
The Viaduct of Morlaix | Admire the Old Town from Above
You don’t have to get yourself a train ticket to admire Morlaix from above though. At about 13 meters high, the first level of the bridge is accessible to pedestrians. But you have to earn it! Look for the narrow and (very) steep streets under the bridge and start walking up. Don’t worry, it is only a 15 minute climb and the view is well worth every drop of sweat!
VIADUCT OF MORLAIXfree
Address: Old Town, Morlaix
Tip: Access through a gate which might not be open late in the evening. Preferable to go up there during the day if you don’t want to find the gate closed.
Maisons à Pondalez | Morlaix's Unique Architectural Treasure
A “maison à pondalez” is a three storey half-timbered town house built in the 16th century by the rich linen merchants of Morlaix. The houses were built on the same pattern around a central courtyard where a massive fireplace heated the whole house. A central winding wooden staircase connected indoor walkways at each level.
Unfortunately lots of these centuries-old houses have been destroyed, a real loss for Morlaix. The best ones remain in Grand Rue, a street now filled with busy boutiques and cafés. The houses and their crooked timber frames are a real challenge for the photographer, you never seems to find the right angle!
One of them is called “Maison de la Duchesse Anne” (Duchess Anne’s House). It has been saved and opened to the public in Rue du Mur. For only 2 euros, you get to step into 16th century Morlaix. The dark wooden staircase is the masterpiece of the house. It was built around a 11 meter long timber carved with images of Saints guiding the visitor’s eye all the way to the top floor.
DUCHESS ANNE'S HOUSE€2
Address: Rue du Mur, Morlaix
Tip: Open from May to September only.
Château du Taureau | Unwavering Sentinel of the Bay of Morlaix
The fortress was built in the 16th century by the people of Morlaix. In 1522 the city was plundered by the English, attracted by the wealth of its merchants (told you money got Morlaix into troubles…). A fort was built in the middle of the bay to increase the safety of Morlaix.
Under the direction of Vauban, Commissioner General of Defence of the King of France Louis XIV, the fortress was remodelled and grew in size and height during the 17th century. The bulky, oval-shaped fort that opens its doors to visitors today was finalised in 1745.
Eclectic use of the place was made along the centuries. From impregnable military fortress to damp prison, from holiday home with unbeatable sea-view for the adventurous or just plain eccentric, to renowned sailing school, the tour is not short of exciting and hard-to-believe-but-true-I-swear anecdotes to bring home.
CHATEAU DU TAUREAU€15
Address: Departure from Kelenn beach in Carantec where you’ll find a ticket desk. Tickets also available from Tourist Office Centres and online.
Tip: Check online for the next visits as they are dictated by the tide timetable.
Saint-Pol-De-Léon Cathedral | Architectural Gem of the Bay Of Morlaix
The cathedral is a brilliant architectural achievement that deserves a stopover if you are driving along the Bay of Morlaix. The structure boasts many unusual and elegant features, starting with its two dissymmetric spires towering 55 meters above the town and the 66 artistically carved oak stalls from the 16th century. Lots of polishing required, I reckon.
Address: Rue du 4 août 1944, Saint-Pol-de-Léon
Tip: Open all day so just push the door!
Garden Georges Delaselle, the Ile de Batz's Botanical Oasis
The visit would be incomplete though without a tour of the botanical garden Georges Delaselle. And this is non negotiable! The garden lays on the southeast of the island, just a short walk from the main (and only!) town.
GARDEN GEORGES DELASELLE€5
Address: Ile de Batz
Tip: Open from April to October only. Don’t forget the map at the entrance or you might miss out on certains parts of the garden.