Our summer vacation in Pays Bigouden this year was by far one of the most relaxed, laid back and enjoyable trips so far. 6 days spent in villages and small towns where time almost stands still, with walks on the beach, with a boat trip, with local food, everything enjoyed at a slow pace, taking time to absorb all around us.
Pays Bigouden is a small region in the South-Western area of Bretagne (Brittany) in France. Its name comes from bigouden, a distinctive headdress traditionally worn by the local women. We visited the area beginning of June, still off season , but yet summer enough to enjoy all the pleasures this place has to offer. Not that many people and tourists around allowed us to explore the area at ease, to admire the view, to enjoy all the quiet around.
It’s the first time we have contact with the non-urban France (after visiting Paris and Toulouse) and our first impression was more than positive. We enjoyed this relaxed, rather rural life style. With local markets happening once a week, with small bakeries selling fresh baguettes and croissants, with fisherman selling their fish in the port, after a full day of fishing offshore, with family-run restaurants, with walks on the beach at a low tide, with boat trips in style, with terraces facing the shore, with locals obviously enjoying the good life.
Out headquarters was Loctudy, where our good friend, Guillaume (716 La Vie) invited us to spend 6 days in his parents’ house and who took the time to guide us all around the region. For us it was the first time we had a vacation but didn’t plan anything in advance. No daily schedule, no routes, so we got a local guide and a personalized tour with everything this region has to offer included. Plus a personal driver and a 1977 Citroën 2CV – how classy French is that?
The communes of Pays Bigouden
I didn’t quite get if commune is more of a town or more of a village. Some we visited looked rather like small villages, other looked like towns. Either way, the communes of Pays Bigouden are definitely worth a visit, if you want to get into that seaside vibe. Here’s a list of those we checked out and a few characteristics of each of them.
As mentioned before, Loctudy was our headquarters, which meant that we had the chance to explore it more. Loctudy was and still is an important fishing port and specializes in langoustines, called demoiselles de Loctudy. Tuesday mornings are for going to the weekly market to get fresh vegetables, cheese and meat. Otherwise, you have small bakeries to buy fresh bread and other baked products, a fish market with fresh fish every day, a supermarket selling quite a lot of local products and a nice bar with the terrace facing the port.
Walking on the beach and on the small streets close to it, full of beautiful vacation homes with big gardens, is a true pleasure and a very relaxed activity, even on a cloudy day. The town center is so classy and elegant, with its old church standing tall.
Places to check out in Loctudy:
Crêpes de Loctudy – for fresh crêpes every day (salty ones with buckwheat and sugary ones with wheat)
Pâtisserie Briec – for sweet crêpes and ‘gateau breton’, one of the best desserts of the region
Poissonnerie Bleu Ocean – Fish market, with fresh fish every day
Café du Port – port facing bar, perfect for enjoying a drink with a nice view
Le Four a Bois and Boulangerie Pâtisserie Struillou Le Cléach – bakery shops, with fresh bread and others daily
Tuesday morning market in the town center, next to the port
Comptoir de la Mer – for clothing and souvenirs from the area
Formed of a main central borough and three ports, Saint-Guénolé, Kerity and Saint-Pierre, Penmarc’h developed thanks to fishing. Now it seems to be a very classy commune, for people who enjoy the sea and a laid back and quiet place for their holidays. Walking on the beach at dusk in the direction of Eckmühl Lighthouse (Phare d’Eckmühl) is very enjoyable. Going to the local cinema on Wednesdays is a very local activity and a good opportunity to check out the people of this commune.
Places to check out in Penmarc’h:
Le Doris – family-run fish and sea food restaurant, with a long tradition in the area. It’s the place we had dinner during our first night in Pays Bigouden and we were so impressed with everything this place offered us. Excellent menu, great view and a very nice and cozy interior. As we were craving for a long time for some proper sea food, this place was pure heaven for us, we enjoyed every dish we ordered.
Cinema Eckmühl – for movies
Pont l’Abbé is the capital of Pays Bigouden and a truly beautiful town to explore on foot. It’s one of the main places where locals go shopping, as you will find plenty of small local shops to chose from. Every Thursday morning, the weekly market welcomes stalls selling regional specialties, locally-grown produce, clothing, home ware, gifts, crafts and others.
Places to check out in Pont l’Abbé:
La Compagnie Bretonne – for buying canned fish and other fish goodies
Biscuterie de Pont l’Abbé – perfect place to get some edible souvenirs back home. They have the traditional breton galettes with their super boxes.
Boulangerie Huiban – for gâteau breton, kouign amann (another breton dessert) and other fresh pastry stuff
In Saint Martine we went for a couple of hours to enjoy a beer on a terrace in front of their small port. The view is so nice, with a small beach and all those small boats floating around. The XVI century chapel, next to the port, is also to be checked – its interior design has a lot to to with the marine world.
In Ile Tudy, which is just a quick boat ride from Loctudy we just went for a quick walk and a beer in front of the port. From there we had a full afternoon on a boat sailing around the area.
The boat trip was for sure one of the highlights of our stay in Pays Bigouden. We got the perfect weather for this kind of activity, clear skies, with a couple of fluffy clouds and just a bit of wind, exactly what our sailing boat needed to get a bit of speed. We got the chance to see the shore from a different perspective and to enjoy the calm of the sea.
A place very much worth mentioning when talking about Ile Tudy is Café de la Plage, that’s where we stopped for a few drinks (which turned into a few more) after returning from our sailing trip. It’s right on the beach, the vibe is super cool during the evenings, they also have some nice finger food options to chose from, lots of cocktails and good wine and a beautiful sunset.
I left Quimper last, mostly because it’s not considered to be part of Pays Bigouden, although it’s just some 30km away from Loctudy. It’s one of the biggest cities in the area and an important Bretagne cultural city. Quimper gets its name from the Breton kemper, which refers to the junction of two rivers: the Steir and the Odet.
Quimper’s most impressive building is its cathedral, which is said to be the best example of Gothic religious architecture in Brittany.
Its old town is formed of small streets filled with colorful half-timbered houses. A couple of hours are perfect for walking around and admiring the beautiful architecture. We enjoyed Quimper so much, it was such a pleasant surprise to discover this city. We’re not much into cities nowadays, but this place turned for sure into one of our favorites.
Places to check out in Quimper:
Art De Cornouaille Quimper – for local souvenirs, including personalized ceramic objects (the faimous faiances de Quimper)
Armor Lux – it’s a clothing brand from Quimper, following a marine/navy style, a bit high priced for my taste, but worth checking out
Ceili Pub – for some nice craft beers just next to the old town, but away from all the crowd
Other places we checked out in Pays Bigouden
Creperie du Ster – this is THE place for crepes when in Pays Bigouden. You get to try the true breton crepes and the must tries are: Complet – bacon, cheese and eggs; Pork and apples; Goat cheese, honey and lard and the sweet version – chocolate, honey and lemon. All served with a glass of a tasty local cider. The crepes here are for sure a true experience that’s part of this area’s personality.
Sterenn Hotel – Restaurant – this is where we had lunch in our last day in Pays Bigouden and it was the perfect choice to end our trip in this amazing region. The restaurant has a very local and short menu, using quality ingredients and going into the fine dinning concept, for quite affordable prices. The menu is mainly built around fresh fish which goes excellent with its location.