The Kermorvan peninsula is one of the main jewels of the Pays d'Iroise. It is at the same time an immense beach open on a splendid bay, a long walk on a steep path winding over a wild coast, an isolated islet surmounted by a 19th century fort, an emblematic lighthouse relegated at the very end of a rocky point and an unobstructed view of an active port that extends into a magnificent aber. Owned by the Conservatoire du Littoral, the entire peninsula is now protected and maintained by the Communauté de Communes du Pays d'Iroise.
The walking tour of about an hour and a half is worth it : the path, sometimes narrow, often crowded with rocky outcrops, equipped with stairs to climb the steepest slopes, follows a hilly coast that is a delight for joggers. If you are not too sure of your balance, bring hiking poles, especially if the ground is a little wet.
Strollers and wheelchairs : do not leave the small paved road. It leads without problem to the lighthouse located one kilometre away.
Coming from Brest or Le Conquet, take the road between the inner port of Le Conquet and the pond of Kerjan, direction St-Renan, Plouarzel. Turn left at the first crossroads towards Ploumoguer-Plouarzel. At the next crossroads, turn left towards the Kermorvan peninsula and the Blancs Sablons beach. Parking in the isthmus at the end of the road.
You are at the narrowest point of a long peninsula that separates the ria du Conquet from the cove of the Blancs Sablons and the Mer d'Iroise. On both sides the view is superb. The port and the houses of Le Conquet lie to the south, while to the north the large beach of Blancs Sablons extends for more than two kilometres.
Cross the barrier and walk along the small asphalt road.
As we pass by, we notice the remains of fortifications. The peninsula has always been a strategic place. This was the case since prehistoric times, when it was already a remarkable barred spur. Megaliths further testify to an occupation in the Neolithic period. The proximity of a port and the defence of a long beach where the enemy could land have made it an essential place for coastal defence at all times in history, as well as a ready-made training ground for the military.
150 m from the car park, let's go down to the coastal path that opens at the bottom of a wide staircase on the right.
We follow the eastern side of the peninsula. On the right is the long beach of Blancs Sablons, which is divided into four parts by three rocky spurs at high tide. It is the meeting place for lovers of all kinds of water sports and paragliding. It is also a meeting place for the many bathers from Brest over the weekend.
Mandala de plage aux Blancs Sablons le 7 avril 2019 © P.L.
Further on, opposite, we can see the Ploumoguer wind turbines, its beaches and the tip of Corsen, in the municipality of Plouarzel, where the buildings of the CROSS (Centre Régional Opérationnel de Surveillance et de Sauvetage) are located, in charge of ensuring, among other things, the naval safety of the entire Breton point, as well as rescue and pollution response operations.
Below the trail, the isolated rocks are the resting place for seagulls and cormorants. Further on, in a cove on the coast, you may see introductory sessions from the Diving Club of Le Conquet. In this place, the transparency of the water is remarkable.
The path then leads to a crosspaths. If you wish to shorten the route, you can turn left and then right to reach the lighthouse. But that would be depriving yourself of the most beautiful part of this itinerary. Instead, let's continue along the coast to the right. We'll come back here later.
We soon arrive at a small promontory that embraces a magnificent view of the Ilette dominated by its fort. This pretty name of the Ilette is in fact a pronunciation of its former name, the Ilet, by making sound the final t, as it is customary in Brittany. But the Ilet is the French deformation of its Breton name Lined. Fishermen refer to the northern tip of this islet as Korn Lined.
As for the fort, which makes it original, it is part of the fortifications erected along the coast in the middle of the 19th century.
The trail leads us to examine this fort more closely.
It is a crenellated guard corps, type n°2 of 1847, intended to defend the passage to the bay of Brest as well as to prevent any landing in the Anse des Blancs Sablons. Colonial disputes with England had led King Louis-Philippe to defend the entire area as a matter of priority. The work continued until 1852, regardless of the political changes that France underwent at that time. We can guess the difficulties associated with this site, which could only be supplied at high tide and in calm weather by shallow-draught boats.
This fortification included a permanent garrison that had several stores ( powder, food and military arsenal ), a cistern, and housing for its personnel under the artillery terrace. A drawbridge defended the entrance and one can still see the projecting bretèches, the wide openings for the guns and the battlements of shooting which, like medieval archways, are distributed in two rows over the entire wall.
Access is only possible on foot at low tide . However, the passage is difficult because the tombolo separating this islet from the mainland is made of large rocks covered with slippery algae and the time allocated to the visitor is reduced because of the rising tide.
Tide times today, click on the following link : SHOM
Leaving the Ilette behind us, we continue our journey on the path towards the south. In the distance, the tip of Kermorvan and its lighthouse soon appear.
The path now runs along the west face of the peninsula. Between the latter and the islands of Béniguet, Litiry and Quéménès, this part of the Iroise Sea is called the Four Channel. Further on in the direction of Molène and Ouessant, it is the channel of La Helle. Until the oil spill of 1978, triggered by the sinking of the Amoco Cadiz, much of the intense navigation around the Breton headland was carried out by this shortcut. It is now mandatory to use the Ushant line behind the islands. The channels of the Four and the Helle are reserved for fishing and pleasure boats, ships of the French Navy and, under certain conditions only, those carrying passengers.
On the way to Bilbao, the ferry Cap Finistère navigates along the Kermorvan peninsula
We pass by one of the many tobruks that the German occupier built along the coast during the Second World War. This type of individual concrete bunker was discreet and concealed a lookout armed with an MG-34 machine gun.
On the right, a path leads directly to Porz Pabu beach. Saint Pabu is the familiar name of Saint Tugdual1, a Welsh monk who reportedly landed on this beach in the 6th century to evangelize the population. This saint is one of the 7 main saints of Brittany and is the patron saint of the church in the neighbouring commune of Trébabu.
But let's continue on the wide upper path. We arrive at the crossroad of paths seen earlier. Let's turn right and go down on the GR-34 which runs along the beach of Porz Pabu whose access by sea fell during the war under the fire of two cleverly buried bunkers.
Not far from the Kermorvan lighthouse, we see below the coastal path a water reservoir closed by a low wall. At Le Conquet, it is called the German pool. This name is undoubtedly well founded, but well before the Occupation it was simply a freshwater reservoir fed by a cliff spring. The place is named after the Breton name of Aod ar Feunteun ( the fountain coast ) and must have been used not only by the keepers of the lighthouse, but also by the many sailboats looking for an easily accessible source to replenish their supplies of fresh water. However, after a storm, it was not impossible that this water might have been somewhat salty....
The fort and the lighthouse of Kermorvan now appear on the right. It is forbidden to visit them. From the outset, we are struck by the similarity between this fort and that of l'Ilette. They are indeed part of the same family. The one in Kermorvan is a type 2 guard house from 1846. Strategically very well located, it controlled both the Four Channel and the entrance to the port of Le Conquet.
As for the Kermorvan lighthouse, ideally located at the extreme tip of the peninsula, it is the most westerly land-based lighthouse in France. Commissioned in 1849 and with a total height of 20.35 m, it gives the direction of the Four Channel when aligned with the St-Mathieu lighthouse and the Helle Channel when aligned with Lochrist light. Remotely controlled from Ushant, its white glow every 5 seconds extends up to 22 miles, or more than 40 km. It is sometimes open to visitors. Information at the Tourist Office ( tel 02 98 89 11 31 ).
You can shorten the route and return directly to the car park by taking the small asphalt road. If you wish to continue on the coastal path, you can see the German bunker whose gun controlled the entire southern part of the channel as well as the entrance to the port.
And you will probably also have fun taking pictures of the Kermorvan lighthouse from unusual angles. 2.
You then follow the south face of the peninsula. It provides a magnificent view of the entrance to the port of Le Conquet.
The path continues in this way, allowing you to admire from different angles the pier, the port, the quays and the city that rises in front of the peninsula.
We finally reach the parking lot. From there, megalith lovers can continue their discoveries by following our page dedicated to the last menhirs of Kermorvan.
And if you see a paraglider flying silently over the beach and the ria, swinging its multicoloured wing from one bank to the other, don't hesitate to speak with him when it is on the ground. He will probably tell you that, seen from the sky, this peninsula is so beautiful that he now knows why birds sing...
-1- Read in french on the web the page entitled Saint Tugdual written by Jean-Pierre Clochon, historian of Le Conquet. He relates the arrival of Saint Tugdual and explains the origin of his nickname Saint Pabu
-2- Did you take a picture of this kind on the Kermorvan trail too? We can place it on this page if you send it to us by email with the written permission of the person listed on it.
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