Côtes d'armor castle Costaérès

Last Updated on by vincent

Funny coincidence, the last two times I went to Brittany, it was in the Côtes d’Armor. I didn’t make the connection at all, but last year I was in the area of Saint-Malo, Dinan, Cap Frehel (well I know, Saint Malo is not in the Côtes d’Armor, but it’s just the same!) and this spring I wanted to see Perros Guirec and the pink granite coast. I only made the connection a short time ago (you see the super-organised guy) and as I loved these two stays with a lot of things to do, I wanted to make an article with the main points of interest. And you’ll see, in 3 weeks there I had time to do a lot of things and it’s not enough! Let’s go for a windy change of scenery with a taste of salted butter

men ruz lighthouse in ploumanach brittany

Perros Guirec, Ploumanach and the Pink Granite Coast, the splendour of the Côtes d’Armor

You’ll see, there are many things in this department. But, the Pink Granite Coast is really the place that made the biggest impression on me. And it’s aptly named. It’s granite, it’s pink, and it’s a coast. Over 10km long, we’ll have some really surprising landscapes, stones with strange shapes, all round and somehow balanced. The pink granite coast is more than 10km of coast. It’s a magnificent location, with great villages like Ploumanach (hey, favourite village of the French in 2015!), fantastic beaches at Trégastel, and the Men Ruz lighthouse, like the king of the area.

What’s great is that you can walk the whole coastline in a day, starting from Perros Guirec (which you can discover here), to Trégastel and enjoy the heavenly beaches (if you forget the water temperature), the Renote peninsula and its rabbits, the Costaerès castle accessible on foot at low tide.

We’ll talk about it below, but all this path is the famous “sentier des douaniers“, a great section of the GR34 hike which goes all around Brittany.

So don’t forget to add all this to your list of things to see when you’re on the pink granite coast, you’ll really get an eyeful, like me. And again, you haven’t seen the great sunsets there!

lighthouse men ruz ploumanach brittany perros guirec
Visit Tregastel pink granite coast brittany
pink granite coast brittany tregastel
pink granite coast brittany tregastel

The 7 Islands Archipelago

Let’s stay in the area, and more precisely in Perros Guirec. Because this small seaside city (very nice by the way) is the starting point for a boat trip to one of the most beautiful bird sanctuaries in France. But not only that! The 7 islands is an archipelago of… 5 islands (the trap) to which they added 2 pieces of land visible at low tide to be able to respect the name which was transmitted with a mistake. But anyway. First of all, it’s a very nice boat trip around the 2 main islands which are l’ile aux moines (monks’ island) which owes its name to the fact that it was home to monks and l’ile Rouzic (which means redhead, because of the colour it takes on with the sun).

L’ile aux moines is a nice walk on an island where the monks didn’t stay very long because of the inhospitable nature of the area. Well, it must be said that this was what they were originally looking for (in the 15th century). But there are some great Vauban-style fortifications, which have recently been renovated. The walk is pleasant, you can go around the island and see seals.

For me, the highlight is the Rouzic island where you will find many, many birds. The island is especially famous for being a huge colony of gannets which completely cover one side of the island. It chirps in all directions, it flies everywhere to make the nests, it is really very nice. And it’s not over yet! Because on Rouzic Island, you can find the last puffin colony in France. Yes, you know, those cute birds with big beaks. But also penguins! So it will be a real pleasure for the young and the old because all this beautiful world is very easy to see.

I’m sorry for the crappy pictures, I didn’t have the right lens with me.

Island rouzic Northern gannets perros guirec
Island rouzic Northern gannets perros guirec
puffins 7 islands perros guirec
penguins 7 islands perros guirec brittany

The Valley of the Saints, the Easter Island of the Côtes d’Armor

It was a big and great surprise. Discovered a bit by chance, this famous valley is considered as the Easter Island of Brittany. Well, all things considered, but there are really similarities and the idea is that history will remember it in the same way. We are talking about more than 100 large statues of Breton saints, tributes, collective memory. Legend says there are more than 1000 saints in Brittany. It may take a little time but they are well on their way to doing them all!

For more than 10 years, many local sculptors have been working to bring this heritage to life and it’s really nice. First of all it’s something you don’t expect to see. Big statues perched on their hill, all different, it’s very aesthetic. Some are very classical, others a little bit perched, it’s a real happiness for photography, especially when the weather is involved because it really gives a funny atmosphere 🙂

There is also a “workshop” just next door, where you can watch the creation of the sculptures. And there’s a cute little church on the other side of the hill.

The entrance to the park is free and open 24 hours a day, but there is a charge for parking which is used to maintain and finance the sculptures.

valley of the saints brittany
valley of the saints brittany

GR 34 from Fort la Latte to Cap Frehel

Here, there are three things in one. Cap Frehel and Fort la Latte are two must-sees when visiting the area, and so is the walk between them. It’s a great day out with your hair in the wind, enjoying the cultural heritage as well as the beauty of the landscape and vegetation.

Fort la Latte is a great 14th century castle. I love it for several reasons. Firstly, its location at the end of the rocks, specially placed to be impregnable and to annoy the English. Secondly, its fortifications “à la Vauban” but in fact not made by him at all. And the fort itself, very well preserved, well presented, interesting, it is really a pleasant visit. Don’t forget to make the little visits next door to get some very nice views!

Cap Frehel, located a few kilometres away, is one of the most beautiful viewpoints of Bretage, and therefore of the Côtes d’Armor. It’s wild, windy, beautiful cliffs, lots of birds too! And above all, it’s a perfect place for the sunset.

Finally, between the two, there is a magnificent section of the GR34 hike. I present it to you from Fort la Latte to Cap Frehel, it’s really a must do, it will be one of the most beautiful days of your stay in the region.

fort la latte cotes d'armor brittany
Cap frehel brittany
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel brittany

Lannion and Tréguier, two of the most beautiful towns in the Côtes d’Armor

In the Côtes d’Armor, there are lots of nice little towns. Well, I haven’t been able to visit them all (yet!), like Guingamp which is said to be very nice, but there are two that really caught my eye.

First of all, Lannion. A small town that is not at all touristy and yet pretty as anything. We start the visit at the Brélévenez church, very nice, but especially just below its staircase. Really, it is magnificent, lined with pretty houses, old stones, superbly flowered. It is really worth doing, very, very photogenic!
Then, you have to go down to the city centre, the place du Général Leclerc and the small streets around. We’ll find some superb 16th century houses, absolutely not straight, half-timbered (or corbelled, I just learned this word). It’s really worth it to walk around these little streets, taking your time.

The little town of Tréguier is also very, very nice. It has a magnificent cathedral (the interior is a must) and cloister (which I couldn’t visit because of sanitary restrictions), a very nice medieval town centre and lots of pretty little streets and buildings. In the alleys, I especially recommend the rue Ernest Renan and its sublime half-timbered houses. But all those around the cathedral square and the route from the car park next to the school are very nice. And the food is good too.

half-timbered houses treguier
church treguier
stair Brelevenez Lannion brittany
half-timbered house lannion brittany

Paimpol and the cliff road

On the coast, Paimpol is a very nice fishing port. It’s a lively little town, with a pleasant and pretty centre, not incredible but very pleasant. And above all, you can eat very well, whether it’s seafood at a lower price, or great crêpes from the market. But what makes Paimpol so charming is its surroundings.

First of all, a few kilometres from Paimpol you will find the beautiful Abbaye de Beauport, an old abbey, part of which is in ruins and is very photogenic. We’ll also find some places in much better condition, including a superb gothic hall.

And it’s just after the abbey that the superb cliff road begins. So we are not in Etretat, but these are very nice cliffs with impressive views on the bay, on the beaches, on the islands. We will have the Pointe de Plouezec and its nice view on Port Lazo, the Pointe de Minard, Gwin Zedal (my favourite!) or the Pointe de Plouha, the highest point.

Another (very) major point of interest in Paimpol is the island of Bréhat, which lies a few kilometres offshore. Very lush vegetation with a Côte d’Azur feel to the south of the island, while the north is much more pristine, windy, with the super peacock lighthouse. It’s a bit like Ploumanach here. The rock is superb, really. And the water too! We’re between the emerald coast and the pink granite coast (the Bretons are really good at marketing!) so there’s a lot of potential.
To visit, I really advise you to take your time, especially as the island is large. And to take the boat that goes around the island. It takes a bit longer but the ride is really great and gives a very good overview of the island.

port of paimpol
Bréhat island perros guirec brittany
Port lazo paimpol brittany
oyster park brittany port lazo
mill of craca paimpol
abbaye beauport paimpol

The Sillon of Talbert and the Chasm of Plougrescant

Two curiosities between Paimpol and Perros-Guirec. The Sillon de Talbert is a very (very) large strip of sand that runs into the sea for about 3km. It is also an ornithological reserve. The location is very nice, it’s very windy, it’s a nice walk in a surprising place.

The Plougrescant chasm is also surprising. Big rocks, a cliff, the erosion which makes its effect in a funny way and… a chasm in which the waves crash violently. The panorama is really nice, we will also find a strange house, Castle Meur, which was built between two rocks. Surprising!

Sillon de Talbert Brittany
see Gouffre Plougrescant brittany
le Gouffre de Plougrescant

Dinan, the medieval touch of the Côtes d’Armor

Ouhlala it is beautiful! It seems that Dinan is the 2nd most photographed city in France. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a real favourite. First of all, the arrival along the Rance river is really pleasant. The path of hallage, the port (you have to sleep there to have the mist in the morning), lots of little places to drink a coffee at the water’s edge, and an architecture that only suggests good things. And indeed, Dinan is a real medieval jewel. Small cobbled streets, cute staircases, a lot of old houses, half-timbered, not straight, it’s a real return to the past.

You absolutely have to take the rue du Jerzual. Well, you can’t miss it, it’s the most touristic, the most photogenic. Try to get there super early to get the views without anyone on it! And above all, take the tiny streets on the sides, they are full of nuggets. It’s a real pleasure to go up to the old town by taking this street. Especially as the next part is also great.

At the top, you’ll find some magnificent buildings. I’m thinking of the Cordeliers school, which you can only visit in summer but which is a masterpiece. The city centre has a lot of great private mansions, it’s old, full of charm. Take your time! Take a walk, take any small street, you’ll be amazed.

Finally, the castle. The famous castle of Dinan, which overlooks the city, is still very well preserved and has very large ramparts over almost 3km. The visit is interesting because the place has quite a history during the wars between the dukes of Brittany.

city Dinan Brittany
Visit dinan Brittany

The GR 34 hike, the famous sentier des douaniers

The “sentier des douaniers” is THE hike in Brittany, the famous GR 34 which goes all around Brittany on more than 1700 kilometres. And the Côtes d’Armor section is really fantastic! I would say it’s the most beautiful of the whole trail, but… I only did this part so I can’t tell you if the rest is even more beautiful.

I did two small parts in the day, two magnificent walks. First of all the one that goes from Fort la Latte to Cap Frehel which I mentioned above. This one is already superb. It’s nature, beautiful cliffs, 5 very nice km between two places that are really worth visiting.

Then, the GR 34 at the level of the pink granite coast, there you can see a lot. I did the 10km from Perros Guirec to Trégastel (the rest is a bit less impressive) and ouhlalala! First of all on the Ploumanach side, we will have this famous pink rock, this superb granite, these stones with strange forms, polished by erosion, holding one does not know how in balance. Once past the superb Men Ruz lighthouse, we arrive at a succession of heavenly beaches. First those of Ploumanach facing the castle of Costaérès, then a few km further to the peninsula of Renote and especially to Trégastel. The beaches of Coz Pors, Grève Blanche or Ti Al Lia, always surrounded by this famous granite, will bring you to paradise, quite simply (well ok, a paradise with a little cool water).

Lighthouse Men Ruz Brittany
Sentier des douaniers Perros Guirec
Renote Island Trégastel pink granite coast brittany
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel Brittany
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel Brittany
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel brittany

What I have not yet visited in the Côtes d’Armor

So you will rightly say to yourself that there are things missing here. Indeed, there are! I’ve already listed a few places I don’t know yet but which are on the list for my next visit. Mostly several castles (la Roche Jagu, Bienassis, Tonquedec, Quintin…) mainly from the medieval period.

Practical information on the Côtes d’Armor

How long to stay in the region

It’s hard to say, but I’ve already spent almost 3 weeks in the area and I’m far from having seen everything. First of all a part of Saint Malo, then a week in Perros Guirec and a week in Paimpol. It’s really ideal for a 2-week holiday or a few days in a particular place.

In 15 days, you really have time to enjoy yourself without hurrying, to take advantage of the beaches, the towns and the main landscapes. In a week, you can easily keep yourself busy by staying in a particular area so as not to drive too far.

In a long weekend, it is also possible to stay either in Perros/Ploumanach, Paimpol, or Dinan. 3 days in one of these places is nice. It’s short, but it’s a change of scenery and you can still enjoy it.

So, I don’t take too much risk, I know, but the Côtes d’Armor will really suit any kind of stay and that’s really what makes them so charming.

Where to stay

That’s a big question! Many places are good to settle down and to go around. I think of Perros Guirec, Ploumanach, Paimpol (very central). Dinan is also a great place to stay but it’s a long way to Perros Guirec (for example). So it depends how far you want to go.

After that, the region is full of great accommodation in good locations. Here are a few examples:

Coming by train

So to come to the Côtes d’Armor by train, it’s quite easy. By TGV, we have Saint Brieuc (2h15 from Paris). But we also have the following stations on the line which goes from Le Mans to Brest (see the map below): Lamballe, Guingamp, Plouaret, Lannion. Stopping at Rennes can also be a good option to rent a car afterwards.

But there is also an excellent TER network. If you want to go to Dinan, Paimpol for example. I’ll also put you the map of all the stations. On the other hand, if you want to go to Perros-Guirec or Trégastel, you will have to stop in Lannion and take the TILT bus network.

Coming from Paris, Le Mans, Rennes or Nantes is easy. After that, it’s a bit longer. From Bordeaux and Lyon, you will have to go through one of these stations. A Bordeaux-Saint Brieuc journey takes 6 hours.

gares TGV bretagne
gares TGV TER bretagne

Coming by bus

Coming by bus can be cheaper and sometimes more convenient depending on where you are coming from. Flixbus serves Guingamp and Saint Brieuc (then Rennes and Saint Malo a little further on). For example, a Paris-Saint Brieuc journey will cost 25€ for 6 hours. From further away, it’s obviously longer but not much more expensive. A Lyon – Saint Brieuc will cost 35€ but it will take 13 hours, just like that.

So clearly, it’s worthwhile but not from all the cities of departure.

In conclusion

And there you have it! I’ve given you almost everything I know about the Côtes d’Armor. That is to say, a lot but far from being complete because it is really a destination with a lot of things to see. I would really advise to take your time. There is something for everyone, to enjoy the beach, impressive landscapes with the Pink Granite Coast, surprises with the Valley of the Saints, nice little historical towns with Tréguier or Lannion. Even puffins and penguins if you arrive in the right season! So what are you waiting for?

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