In the heart of Finistère, in north-western France, the Armorique Regional Natural Park extends from the mountains of Arée to the rocky coastline of Brittany’s Crozon Peninsula. Little coastal roads hug the clifftops before dipping down into beautiful little coves like this one, the Plage de Postolonnec.
Other beaches such as this one at Carmaret-su-Mer open into vast stretches of pale sand (a product of the white/light grey Armorican Sandstone). These border clear, blue seas.
Up on the cliffs, on coastal walks among the grasses, the wild fauna and flora of the park can be enjoyed along with fine views out to sea. The Park is one of the few in France that has such a long and unspoilt coastline.
The Park also extends to three small, inhabited islands of Iroise Sea – Molène, Sien and Ouessant (pictured) which is also known as Ushant.
Although it looks peaceful in the sunshine the Iroise Sea (French: mer d'Iroise) is one of the most dangerous in Europe for sea-going vessels. In winter, there are often violent storms with huge waves. In March 1978, the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground at Portsall about 19 miles (31 km) from the island, leading to major pollution of the Brittany coast.
Back on the mainland, on the rocky peninsula known as Pen-Hir point, the the fortitude and sacrifice of the Breton people is commemorated in the Croix de Pen-Hir. This austere granite monument in the form of a double-barred ‘Cross of Lorraine’, the symbol of the Free France resistance movement during the Second World War, was inaugurated by General Charles de Gaulle in 1960.
It was created in 1949-1951 by architect Jean-Baptiste Mathon and sculptor Victor-François Bazin and is often referred to by the first line of its carved inscription ‘Aux Bretons’:
Aux Bretons de la France Libre - MCMXL - MCMXLV - La France a perdu une bataille, mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre. Dans l'univers libre des forces immenses n'ont pas encore donné. Un jour ces forces écraseront l'ennemi.
‘To the Bretons of Free France – 1940–1945 – France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war. In the free world immense forces have not yet given up. One day these forces will crush the enemy.’
On the back of the cross is an inscription in Breton, Kentoc'h mervel eget em zaotra, taken from the motto of Brittany: ‘death rather than defilement’.
The traditional piety of the Breton people means that many roadside crosses can be seen as you travel the roads towards the rocky heartlands of the Park.
On the way you can stop off at the Menez Meur estate to stretch your legs on its winding paths lined by ancient moss-covered trees.
And you can pay a visit to the many rare and protected Breton breeds it cares for. Among others, you can see Breton Pie Noir cattle, Isle of Ushant sheep, the white pigs of Western Brittany, deer, and wild boar. And, of course, these goats!
From Menez Meur it is not far to the heights of the Monts d'Arrée, Finistère's rocky spine.
A climb through heather and bracken leads to spectacular views.
Whether high on the Monts d'Arée or gazing out to sea, Armorique Regional Natural Park has accessible beauties and peaceful delights for all.