The great French outdoors: planning the perfect Brittany hiking weekend
With over 1600 kilometers of well-marked coastal trails alone, Brittany offers some of France’s best hiking. But taking a few minutes to plan ahead can make your hiking weekend that much more enjoyable.
1. Plan ahead for lodging
Especially in July and August, the best (and cheapest) hotels and B&Bs book out fast and if you are traveling by foot, you may not have the luxury of widening your geographic sphere. Some of the smaller towns will have only one hotel or B&B, if any. So before you set out, be sure you will have a place to stay at the end of each day’s trek.
2. Don’t forget the islands
The islands off the coast of Brittany offer some of the region’s most breathtaking scenery and each island has a special culture and character of its own. But for hikers, the islands provide a special bonus: there will inevitably be a loop trail along the perimeter of the island that allows you to avoid backtracking. I recently hiked the loop trails of Île-aux-Moines and Île d’Arz in the Gulf of Morbihan, each 17 kilometers (about 4 hours) around. Both islands are exceptionally beautiful, but what is more surprising is that these two next-door islands are so different from one another, both in their landscapes and in their cultures.
3. Consider not using a car
I almost always recommend hiring a car if you want to see the best of beyond-Paris France. However, if you can structure a hike that forms a circuit (an island or a peninsula) or starting at one train station and ending at another, you will save time, money and hassle by leaving the car behind.
A few ideas for TGV or TGV + ferry hiking itineraries:
- Auray TGV station to Vannes TGV station (about 70 kilometers or just under 90 if you add in a sidetrip to Île-aux-Moines or Île d’Arz)
- Île de Groix (27 kilometers around), accessible by ferry from Lorient
- Belle-Île-en-Mer (100 kilometers around), accessible by ferry from Vannes
4. Dress for any kind of weather
It rains in Brittany. A lot. So invest in a decent waterproof breathable jacket and plan to hike rain or shine!
5. Invest in a decent map
Although most of the trails are well-marked (in particular the GR34 along the coast), it is helpful to have a map in certain spots and for pre-trip planning purposes (where to sleep, how far each leg of the hike will be, etc.). In my numerous hikes in the Morbihan, I have found FFRandonnée’s topo-map guide invaluable for the planning stage if not also for the actual hiking.