Domaine de La Roche-Jagu ©Globus Liebe
Brought to you by Tourisme Bretagne (Brittany Tourism).
From stunning 15th-century architecture to immersive art galleries, this often-overlooked region of France is a dream cultural destination.
We love a hectic group holiday as much as the next person, but some trips call for something a bit more low-key.
Whether it's a quiet couple's holiday or a classy break away with a few pals, there's something to be said for a more peaceful, country destination, that still holds its own unique character when it comes to events or activities.
France has long been a front-runner when it comes to championing culture, art and history, but some regions don't get the same spotlight as others. Brittany, for example, while being a well-known spot for a beach holiday, is often overlooked as a cultural location.
The Guingamp-Paimpol Bay Area in Brittany holds all the appeal of a quieter countryside destination, with oodles of culture and things to see. With the added bonus of being situated along north France's sunny coastline, with convenient travel options from Ireland, it's the ideal spot for a more slow-paced break away this summer.
With that in mind, we've broken down everything you need to plan a break away in the Guingamp-Paimpol Bay area, from getting there to the top sights to see during your stay:
What to see and do
Pontrieux ©Maria Gracia Salas Rodriguez
This charming, picturesque town has been regarded as the little Venice of the Trégor region, as it extends towards the city's marina. This makes it the perfect spot to avail of some boat trips along the river, where you'll get to see the town's fifty famous washhouses up close and personal. Aside from exploring the waters, Pontrieux has a couple of must-visit historical sites worth seeing, including the 16th-century house nicknamed the Eiffel Tower after France's most iconic structure, the half-timbered and cut stone houses, and the 18th-century granite fountain.
Les Jardins de Kerfouler
Located in a small village nearby Pontrieux, the Kerfouler Gardens' grounds span over 10,000m squared, offering tourists a more slow-paced way to explore the region's natural aspect. The gardens are broken up into 16 different areas which are constantly being updated, with new trees, flowers and plants planted each season. Enjoy a stroll around the grounds, and be sure to and take in pretty kitchen garden. The gardens aren't simply reserved for the horticulturists amongst us, as they host regular art exhibitions and other cultural events on the grounds too.
Kerfouler Gardens ©LOeil de Paco
Abbaye de Beauport (Beauport Abbey)
Founded by the Prémonté order in 1202, this 13th-century abbey is regarded as one of thirty-three Grand Sites of France, and it's easy to see why. Aside from its exceptional architecture, stunning landscape and mesmerising seaside views, it's also steeped in French history. It's one of Brittany's most impressive religious structures; six centuries of monastic history passed through these walls throughout the ages, which you can learn more about on one of their guided tours.
It's also worth noting that Beauport Abbey hosts regular exhibitions and performances, so it's worth checking out their calendar to see if any events are taking place during your stay.
GwinZegal (Guingamp Prison)
GwinZegal Art Centre ©Alexandre Lamoureux
What was once home to thousands of prisoners has recently been transformed into a gallery of photographic art, showcasing snaps taken by some highly-acclaimed French and international photographers. Originally built in the 1800s, it was one of the first cellular prisons in France, but what makes this prison so unique is its stand-out architecture. The building's humanist design was chosen to improve conditions for petty offenders, in hopes this more aesthetic prison design would promote reintegration for those confined here.
While this unique architect serves as a work of art in itself, you'll also get the chance to view GwinZegal's current exhibitions, at your own pace or on a guided tour, chat with the artists in residence and take part in some interactive photography workshops, where you'll learn more about capturing the perfect snap.
Domaine de La Roche-Jagu
Nestled within more than 64 acres of grounds, this restored 15th-century castle is one of the region's most famous historical monuments. The oldest parts of the structure were built in the Middle Ages, strategically built to look over the estuary of the Trieux river. It's one of some ten medieval fortresses to have survived through the ages, offering unrivalled scenery. Venture across the old stones of the castle to take in one of the best viewing points in the bay.
Start your visit by taking in the Gothic structure's unique interior and exterior, before taking in the castle's picturesque grounds, which are free to explore. And if you work up an appetite, there's also an on-site café where guests can refuel and relax during their visit.
Restaurant Le Petit Jagu ©L’Oeil de Paco
How to get there
By plane: Fly with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Brest Airport, with the option of travelling by rail or car to Guingamp-Paimpol Bay.
By ferry: Brittany Ferries runs a ferry from Cork to Roscoff twice a week and the trip takes approximately 13 hours. Passengers can travel with their car, van, motorhome, bike or by foot, and pets are even allowed on board.
Where to stay
If you're travelling in search of stunning architecture and historical sights, it's only right that your accommodation matches up too. If you're looking to embrace the pastoral charm of the region, here are our top picks:
Hôtel La Demeure ©LaDemeure
La Demeure, Guingamp
Offering a stunning blend of historic and modern décor, La Demeure, a charming 18th-century townhouse hotel, is perfect for anyone looking to travel back to a different age while still enjoying the comforts of a typical holiday. Crucially, it's also located in the heart of Guingamp town, within easy access to the incredible pink granite coast, making it the perfect base for a bucolic holiday in the bay.
If you're looking for accommodation that's a little bit different, L'Escopti is the house of a sculptor who designed the property himself, blending modernity with rustic charm to create a one-of-a-kind holiday cottage that sleeps six. Located between Paimpol and Bréhat, it's the perfect base to relax in on the quieter days of your stay while still serving as a good location for anyone eager to discover the surrounding countryside.
Dream big, live slow in Brittany. Start planning your visit to Brittany today here.