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Where to live: Brittany – Little Britain

Dining outdoors in Brittany

You’re never far from the sea in Brittany in the west of France. Small bays, inlets, rocky outcrops and sandy beaches surround this luscious and beautiful country which has inspired generations of artists. This ancient land boasts menhirs and all sorts of pre-historic remains, their meanings lost in the mists of time.  As with any ancient land imbued with myths and legends, it boasts its own language. Breton (Brezhoneg) is related closely to Cornish and more distantly Welsh.  Joanna Leggett of award-wining estate agents Leggett Immobillier explains why Brittany is a great place to live or have a holiday home…

A potted history of Brittany

Once called Armorica, following the fall of the Roman Empire it was peopled by migrating waves of Britons in the 4th and 5th centuries. They gave this beautiful land the name ‘Little Britain.’ Later the Duchy of Brittany had its embassy in London on Little Britain street! In time it became known simply as Brittany.

Those early Bretons brought with them their own customs, language and knowledge of seafaring. And though the tribes were many, and divided, they had a common enemy – France! Several battles resolved the issue and the French king, Charles the Bald recognised independent Brittany as a Duchy. Brittany governed itself for the next 600 years – it took a marriage for it to become part of France. Anne of Brittany was the last independent ruler. She was married to Charles VIII of France (not willingly) and when he died (childless) in 1498, she married his successor Louis XII, in 1499. They had two daughters and under the terms of their marriage contract when her daughter Claude married Francis of Angoulême – who became Francis I – Brittany was eventually subsumed into greater France in 1532, though the Bretons still maintained some autonomy. It took the French Revolution to finally change this by abolishing feudal privilege.

Brittany has a unique culture

The Breton language is making a resurgence and cultural activities abound throughout the region with all sorts of festivals year-round to celebrate Breton culture. The Festival of Brittany showcases Breton culture with more than 300 events. The black and white striped Breton flag flies proudly at these events and throughout the region.

Brittany has its own delicious gastronomy – galettes (buckwheat pancakes) and Breton desserts. Fleur de sel harvested below the ancient walled town of Guérande is used to flavour everything. Surely Brittany has the best seafood in all France with briny oysters, fleshy lobsters and St Jacques scallops. Local tipples include pommeau and cider, and a mead type apéritif called chouchen, there’s even whisky made from buckwheat!

Where to live in Brittany

Brittany is made up of four quite distinct departments: Côtes-d’Armor, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine, and Morbihan. But they all share common traits – access to the coast as well as to the countryside, plus a laid-back lifestyle.

When it comes to property searches in Brittany, the closer you are to the sea means the bigger the budget required. Head inland for captivating countryside and plenty of properties for sale at affordable prices. Breton villages tend to be small, stone houses featuring whitewashed walls, glittering granite and marine blue shutters, are typical of the region. Fishing ports tend to be small and picturesque with white-washed granite houses.

Finistère the furthest west department of Brittany is slightly cooler than Morbihan in the south which is noticeably warmer with lovely warm summers due to its Atlantic microclimate. Ille-et-Villaine is home to Brittany’s capital, Rennes and is more urbanised than the other departments, while Côtes-d’Armor is more rugged.

Off the rocky coastline are many islands. The Golfe de Morbihan is said to have an island for every day of the year. Belle-Île, the largest island in Brittany, boasts its own micro-climate, and property here is much sought-after – and pricey!

Brittany has great transport options – several easy to access ferry ports and airports in St Malo, Brest and Rennes.

Brittany has its own distinctive character – beautiful historic small cities with half-timbered properties, charming small villages and magnificent coastline with numerous sandy beaches, and a great variety of places to live.

Joanna Leggett is marketing director at Leggett Immobilier – you can view their full portfolio of properties for sale in France at www.leggettfrance.com

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