Or what can you see during your stay in this special part of France...
Brittany is without question the most varied region of France. Combine the longest coastline in France with an inland area which in the space of a few kms will go from lush farmland, to moors, lakes, forests and market towns and you feel like you have visited 5 countries instead of one area... But beyond that is the number of specific sites that a cyclist can easily reach over a week's cycletour - or if based in the centre of Brittany as with our campsite/gites in Gouarec- there are many that are an easy day-ride away. What follows is an ever growing blog of some of our favourite places to visit...
And now for something completely different...
If you were trying to think of the least likely thing to be found in the heart of the country in central Brittany you'd be hard pressed to beat the largest Bhuddist temple in France!
One of Brittany's forgotten cyclepaths
We're so lucky in Brittany, especially the centre, in having some lovely family-friendly cycling routes. The most famous is obviously the Nantes Brest canal cycle-path, but you can cycle the V6 from Morlaix to the canal, cycle down the Blavet to Lorient and so-on. But one very unusual cyclepath is usually forgotten and that's the wonderful Rigole d'Hilvern
When the Nantes-Brest canal was built one of the greatest challenges was to supply enough water to enable it to work with it's huge number of locks - 238 in all. One solution was to make artificial feeder rivers to critical points, and the most significant of these is the Rigole d'Hilvern.
A gentle cycle to yet more of Brittany's industial heritage
Perhaps the heart of rural Brittany might at first seem to be an odd place to locate an electricity museum, but in fact nothing could be more appropriate – because the museum is placed at the foot of the oldest Hydro-electricity plant in Brittany, and all just over an hour's ride from our holiday base at Gouarec.
10 km from our base in Gouarec - The Lake at Guerledan
If the Nantes-Brest canal is a thread of gold running through the heart of Brittany then the Lac de Guerledan is the jewel strung at its mid-point. This is by far the largest and prettiest lake in the whole of Brittany (which is 30% bigger than Wales). An artificial lake formed when the canal at Mur de Bretagne was dammed between 1923-30 and designed to produce both electricity and also water for the centre of Brittany – all within a very easy cycle ride of our base at Gouarec.
17c ironworks - the industrial heritage of Brittany.
Of all the remarkable sites within easy cycling distance of Gouarec, one of the most unusual and spectacular is the 17-20c industrial complex at Les Forges des Salles.
Now, at a time when the centre of Brittany is known mainly for its rural idyll it's hard to believe that in the past it had major industrial workings – and we are fortunate that one such centre remains and has been preserved and restored to give at least an idea of how different life in Brittany was 300 years ago.
The Narrow Gauge Railway at Gouarec.
Who could have imagined when we started our cycling holidays in 1989 that we'd have something like this on our doorstep... At one time much of rural France and the whole of Brittany was linked by the 'petit train' or 1m narrow-gauge railway. It's hard to believe that thousands of km of track vanished, but at Gouarec a dedicated team of enthusiasts have managed to persuade the authorities to reopen the 3 km section between Bon Repos and Gouarec. See the Petit Train de Gouarec website here
l'Abbaye de Bon Repos
Just a 3 km cycle down the canal towpath from us is the Abbey at Bon Repos. When we first arrived in Brittany 27 years ago this was a complete ruin with even full grown trees springing up inside. In the last 15 years a third of it has been completely restored leaving the rest 'preserved' in a state of ruin, but very much tidied up and in a stunning setting.
5000 year old 'Allee Couvert' just 5 kms from Gouarec
The most famous Megalithic monuments in France are of course the 'Alignments' at Carnac which bring tourists in from all over the world. What is less well known is that Brittany is covered with many, many smaller sites, some of them (IMO) rather more interesting than the simple rows of stones at Carnac. We are lucky enough to have one of the most interesting right on our doorstep and those are the three covered tombs on top of the Liscuis ridge overlooking the Abbey at Bon Repos. Not only are they spectacular, they are also almost completely unknown and so even in summer you may find yourself alone at this magical spot.