Brittany - A region with a strong identity


Brittany – a region shaped by tides, winds and legends

Brittany is made up of four departments: Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor and Finistère. Surrounded almost entirely by the sea (the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west and the English Channel to the north), the region is the fourth most visited region in France, with 9 million visitors a year. Thanks to its unique cuisine, its exceptional landscapes and its distinctive traditions, Brittany is worth more than just a detour. Breton culture has been experiencing a true renaissance since the 1970s.

Shaped over the centuries by tides, winds and legends, Brittany holds as many enchanting landscapes as it does cultural riches. The region benefits from an oceanic climate and is divided into six climatic regions. Due to the influence of the tides and strong winds, the weather often changes several times a day. Of the 86 Breton sites awarded the Natura 2000 label, two thirds are coastal or water areas.

The 2730 km coastline is characterised by dunes, archipelagos, cliffs, estuaries, salt marshes, rias (deep bays, former estuaries washed over by the sea) and about 50 lighthouses. Thanks to this varied landscape, Brittany is home to an exceptional diversity of bird species, such as the famous puffin, which has chosen the archipelago of the Sept-Iles as its breeding ground. Sea fishing and shellfish farming play a key economic role and help to preserve the region's gastronomic heritage.

The inland, called Argoat is made up of heathland, moors, groves and forests. Since the Palaeolithic Age, Brittany has experienced several population flows. These include the famous Celts, who have left an indelible mark on the region like no other tribe.

Native Bretons have very strong ties with their home region: only 23% live in another region. However, those who leave Brittany at a young age are also the most likely to return. This inspiring region has produced many influential personalities: great navigators, artists, humourists or even famous footballers, some of whom are known all over the world.


How sustainable is Brittany?

Brittany is a huge peninsula covering more than 27,000 km² and boasting a spectacular coastline, varied landscapes and extremely diverse biodiversity. However, the demand for building land is particularly high on the coasts. Therefore, the State Coastal Agency is particularly active in protecting these areas.

The former land of bocages underwent radical changes in the 1960s, mainly due to the land consolidation policy, aimed at unifying agricultural land. This represented a severe setback for landscape and nature conservation and led to an increase in intensive farming, a standardisation of the landscape and agricultural production, and an increase in water pollution. Particularly affected are the groundwater and the coasts, which are exposed to an uncontrolled spread of green algae. It is only since the 1990s that the region has been slowly (re)developing environmentally-friendly agricultural practices. Even though the local authorities regularly have the beaches cleaned, the spread of green algae remains one of Brittany's biggest environmental problems. The only real solution to this problem is to put in place a sustainable agricultural policy, that limits the use and discharge of nitrogen fertilisers.

Of the 62 % of the region's land that is used for agriculture, only 4.1 % is used for organic farming. These numbers are very similar to those in the rest of the country. Cultivation is still dominated by hay production (70%) for livestock. But here, too, organic farms are on the rise. However, there are currently only about ten certified Demeter farms in the entire region.

The Breton coasts can be explored on the famous GR34 hiking trail. The former customs trail stretches for almost 2000 km from Mont Saint Michel to the Guérande peninsula. The bicycle paths are also well developed, alongside old railway lines, towpaths and secondary roads. In addition, the long-distance cycle route Eurovelo 1, which connects the North Cape in Norway with Sagres in southern Portugal, runs from Roscoff to Saint Brévins les Pins over a distance of 1200 km across Brittany. Another interesting fact: some of the Breton islands are car-free, including the islands of Sein, Houedic, Houat, Bréhat and Molène. Find out more on our blog!

Some facts and figures

3.197.975 Inhabitants, including 23% pensioners
118 inhab./m²
Three quarters of employees work in the service sector
Major urban centres: Rennes and Brest
27.208 km² surface area
3010 Listed buildings and 33 provincial museums

Source: INSEE