From 1066, through the 20th century, to the modern day, Normandy and Brittany have been indelibly linked to British history. The latest invasion is a friendly one, thankfully, as overseas property buyers take the short trip across the English Channel – something you can’t do to Mediterranean hotspots – to this north-west corner of the country in search of idyllic rural French living.
As you explore Brittany’s dramatic coastline and immerse yourself in its proud Breton culture, it’s easy to see why this intriguing land is often compared to Cornwall in the west country of England. There’s a destination to suite all budgets around here, from upmarket Dinard to the family-friendly resorts that are spread along the region’s coastline. Brittany’s rural heartland doesn’t disappoint either. Here you’ll find medieval towns hidden away in thick forests, creating a bucolic appeal to rival Provence.
Here are a few popular spots to help you make the most of your viewing trip there.
Unlike some ferry ports along the north coast, St-Malo is more than just a gateway to France. In fact overseas property buyers often get no further than this historic walled city on the Emerald coast, with its stunning natural harbour. And who can blame them when you throw in the local sandy beaches and convenient access to and from the UK.
This riverside fairy-tale setting is all medieval ramparts, cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. Dinan’s historic beauty has been officially recognised by the Ministry of Culture who designated it a Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire – a “Town and Land of Art and History”. Plus you can get to your pad around here in less than 40 minutes from St-Malo.
Roscoff and Quimper
If you really want to get away from it all, Brittany is awash with little-known towns that offer an idyllic alternative to the region’s tourist hotspots. Places like Roscoff, home to 16th century granite houses and a picturesque fishing harbour, and Quimper, often regarded as the cultural heart of Brittany, which boasts a modern marina and impressive fortifications.
France’s answer to Devon provides a more gentle setting of lush meadows, bucolic farmland and long sand dunes, much like its English cousin. A viewing trip here will take you to historic ports, ancient villages, nineteenth-century seaside resorts and medieval cities. Some great examples of this diverse selection of picturesque settlements dotted throughout Normandy’s landscape include.
Just two hours’ drive from Paris, this port town is a popular spot with well-heeled Parisian looking for a rural retreat. Its beauty also has a history of inspiring artists such as Monet and Boudin, who came to paint the timber-framed houses, slate-grey facades, white sand beaches and pale skies.
Deauville and Trouville
Deauville and Trouville may only be separated by the River Touques, but in terms of style they couldn’t be further apart. Both contain a casino, beachfront boardwalk and Belle Époque villas, but that’s where the similarities end. Where Deauville is effortlessly chic with its designer boutiques, plush hotels and manicured gardens, Trouville has a more happy-go-lucky, fun for all the family vibe.
Nestled on the banks of the River Seine, Rouen, the capital city of Upper Normandy, is a historic gem. Thanks in part to its gothic cathedral and numerous churches, which inspired Victor Hugo to name it “the city with a hundred bells chiming in the air”. Getting to your rural retreat around here won’t take too long, with the Le Harve and Paris just a 70 and 90 minutes’ drive away respectively.
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