Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Island of Ouessant, Brittany

Also known as Ushant, this little island off the coast of Brittany is the perfect holiday escape.  Accessible by private chartered plane and passenger ferry, visitors are allowed only two modes of transport on the island: one's own feet and bicycles. 

This is one of France's most westerly points, and it holds significant maritime history for Brittany and also for France.  The most guarded architectural treasures are the lighthouses, most if not all of which are still in use.  As the island ushers roughly 50,000 ships into the English Channel each year, the lighthouses are far more than decorations for the landscape: the Créac’h lighthouse (the one with colours resembling a
piano keyboard, see photos) gives off the strongest beam in the world.

Food is another guarded tradition on the island.  The array of seafood served here rival those on the mainland, and being the home of the Ouessant sheep, lamb dishes dominate the meat carte.  French crepes are also a favourite here, as is Ouessant's own beer.  

It seems like a small island but after two visits I still find it exceedingly spacious to explore with a bike.  While the focal point of the island is the church (here you can take the bus to the ferry pier), a spit distance away from the post office, supermarket, souvenir shops and restaurants, it is the natural landscape and the sea that draws visitors to venture to the rest of the island.

Closest city and airport is Brest.  Flight from Brest: http://www.finistair.fr/.  Note: due to frequent heavy fog in the region, flights are not guaranteed.  Both times I booked the flight but met with heavy fog and had to race 32km to Le Conquet for the ferry instead. 

Ferry from Le Conquet: http://www.pennarbed.fr/en/island-of-brittany/Ushant.  Find the car park; ticket office is in the car park.  Ferries are often crowded during peak seasons (and sometimes even during off-peak seasons).  It's a short ride that also makes a brief stop at Molene, another small island before Ouessant. 

Official Ouessant website for tourists: http://www.ot-ouessant.fr/

3 bike rental companies set up booths at the pier where you can pick up and return your bike.  Affordable and reliable.  Easy peasy. 

Brittany remains one of my favourite regions of France, and it will be a wonderful side trip for those visiting France.  Frequent flights from all over Europe serve Brest's airport daily: from London, Barcelona, and of course from French cities such as Paris and Marseille.  Finistair's terminal for Ouessant is just next to the main airport building, with free parking space. 

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