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Review: The Abers


Finistere, France

A day spent round the Abers

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2345 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • Sep 2011
  • Husband

55 people found this review helpful

The Abers are the three big river mouths, (Wrac’h, Bentoît and Ildut) on the coast of north east Brittany. It is an area of low rocky coastline with sand dunes in places. It doesn’t have the pressure of tourist seen further east along Côte de Granit Rose.

We decided to do this clockwise beginning at POINTE DE ST-MATHIEU, where there are the remains of 11/12thC abbey rebuilt in 14/15thC (shut) and Bishop’s Palace (now a museum). In the 17thC the monks used to light a fire on the top of the church tower to guide ships. There are now two lighthouses; a smaller square one at the point and a larger round one. The land around is very flat and there are no trees. The coast line is low, rocky and attractive.

Plans to see something of the coast between Le Conquet and Lampaul-Plouarzel were thwarted by lack of signs and my navigation. Having gone round in a circle three times in Lampaul-Plouarzel, Michael’s patience was beginning to wear thin and there were muttered comments about sat nav. For the sake of Michael’s blood pressure and we decided to stick to yellow roads.

This is low flat countryside with fewer trees. Field boundaries are banks. There is more agricultural inland, especially cabbages.

We missed, or didn’t see the sign for St Govan’s Chapel but did manage to find a sign for Route Touristique which took us round the coast to CHAPELLE ST-SAMPSON. This is a simple 18thC stone building beside the road which has been restored recently. St Sampson was a celtic missionary who visited Armorique several times before settling here. Inside there are bare stone walls and wooden ceiling painted blue. A splendid altar takes up most of the east end with the processional banner of Virgin and Child and statues of St Sampson (L) and St Yves (R). There is statue of St Isadore on the north wall. Outside thee are two old stone crosses and the fountain is below the church. There is good walking both ways along the coast but it was too windy to want to go far.

From PORTSALL, a large settlement with a lot of boats in the bay. This was where the Amoco Cadiz ran aground in 1978. we followed the coast road along the sand dunes with no views of the sea to the long, straggling settlement of ST-PABU on Aber Bentoit. It was low tide.

We skirted Lannilis to pick up the coast road to around the small peninsula to BROUENNOUT which had nice views across Aber Bentoit to St Pabu. Cezon Fort was disappointing – a round tower on an island.

Back at Lannilis, we headed north across the bridge over the Aber and then picked up the white road which ran back upstream along the aber to find PONT DU DIABLE. I was glad I had printed off a google map showing its location as there were no signs and we would never have found it. We approached from the north side of the Aber rather than the south side as recommended by Michelin, as access looked to be better. There is a small parking area and it is a pleasant walk down a sunken lane lined with tall trees to the ‘bridge’ across the aber which is tidal here. This is in fact a causeway of large granite slabs with gaps to allow the tide to flow between them. It is possible to cross with care and a footpath leads up from the far side.

There seems to be some confusion as to the age of the causeway. Michelin describes it as a Gallo-Roman stepping stones. Other sources believe it to 10thC. It would have been an important crossing point over the Aber.

According to legend a local miller was fed up of having to make the long detour around the Aber. He made an pact with the devil who would build the bridge in exchange for the first soul that crossed it. Next morning the bridge was built. The miller loaded a sack of flour containing his cat. When he reached the bridge he pretended to be tired, put down the sack and released the cat. Apparently drunk peasants going home at night would fall off the bridge and drown – the devil’s revenge.

We stopped off in PRAT PAUL on the way back which has a nice little Chapel dedicated to St Pol Aurelien, a celtic missionary who was one of the seven founding saints of Brittany and stopped here during his travels. It is a small stone building set on a grassy bank with a fountain. Unfortunately it was locked.

Through Plouuerneau we headed for the coast and to ILIZ-KOZ. This had been the site of a medieval village. During the 18thC the sand began to encroach and cover the houses. Eventually the inhabitants left and the sand covered the site. A new village was built in the mid 19thC. The site was rediscovered in 1969 when a bulldozer digging the foundations for a new house. The ruins of the chapel, Presbytery and part of the graveyard have been excavated.

The site is not well signposted. There is a small car park by the site. We parked in a large car park by the sandy beach, where a small sign directs you down a track which is about 5 minutes walk to the site. This is surrounded by a tall hedge with a partially hidden cross. There is a small ticket office. The custodian was showing a large group round the site when we arrived. We think he must have been describing every stone in detail as he took ages.

The church is surrounded by a graveyard with long flat grave stones. Carvings can still be made out on some of them – boat and anchor, spears, cross and two hands. The walls stand 3-4 feet high. There was a large porch on the south side with an attached ossuary to the side. Off the choir is a large chapel with graves of the Parscau Family. Beyond the church is a stone paved lane with high stone walls leads through an archway to the the remains of the Presbytery. There are the remains of a stone staircase, fireplace and windows.

Opening hours are quite restricted at the site. It was interesting to have seen but not worth planning a holiday around the opening times.

Further east along the coast is MÉNÉHAM. This was a small seaweed gathering, farming and fishing village which was almost deserted by the 1990s. It has now been immaculately restored and is a neat little village of stone houses with thatch or slate roofs. It has an inn, and craft workshops. The remains of the old fields can still be seen round the village. on a Sunday, the area was very busy with parked cars everywhere. There seemed to be some sort of event as there were a lot of vintage cars. Musicians were playing in the village to a large crowd. We drove past and eventually found a large car park by the beach were we parked. and then walked along the coast.

It is a beautiful stretch of coast with sandy beaches, sand dunes and massive granite blocks stretching out to sea. It is good walking country. The 17thC Vauban watchtower is a small granite building with small windows tucked between two massive granite rocks.

Back on the main road we drove to BRIGNOGAN-PLAGES, a large settlement with no obvious centre and some thatched houses. We drove past a huge menhir with a cross carved on the top to Chapelle St Pol, a 19thC stone building with a small calvary and surrounded by big rocks that had a lookout post on the top. There was nowhere safe to park so we drove on to the end of the road at Poine de Pontusvel where there is a small parking area. It has a nice sandy beach with a small lighthouse and keepers cottage on the headland. There were good views of the rocky beaches back to Brinogan Plage.

The stretch of coastline between PLAGES DE PORS-MEUR and MOGUÉRIEC has some beautiful sandy beaches with grass covered headlands with granite rocks stretching out to sea. There are a few harbours but apart from Mogueriec where there were a few fishing boats, the rest were marinas. There is a large parking area in KERFISSIEN which has good views of the coastline and access to the coastal path. On the headland there is the remains of a sea weed kiln – a long narrow pit lined with granite slabs which was in use until 1955. Seaweed was burnt for 24 hours and the soda blocks which were sold to a nearby factory to extract iodine for pharmaceutical industry.

LE GRENOUILLÉRE HEADLAND at Theven Kerbrat makes a good walk. There are several massive rocks and small stone granite 1744 guardhouse which was built as a relay for transmissions between guardhouses along the coast in case of threat of enemy ships.

This stretch of coastline from Ménéham to Roscoff is most attractive. It hardly gets a mention in the guide books. We found it as attractive as the highly promoted Côte de Granit Rose but without the solid mass holiday villas and people.

Our pictures can be found here:

and from here:

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