“ Country: France / Country Region: Brittany / World Region: Europe „
Guerledan Lake - Brittany.
Or Lac de Gueledan (Same place but in French)
That French sure is tricky.
We just returned from France after a not-so-gruelling two week stint in the heart of Brittany. Many things were done and many things seen but one of the best was this large man-made lake - the biggest, allegedly, in Europe.
Humorously, it's owned by EDF, the electricity supplier. They also supply my electricity, so this computer is being powered partly by the lake I am writing about. Perhaps 'humorously' was either wishful thinking or exaggeration. Or just a lie.
The lake is a big long affair and has the look of a a drowned valley, which it is. You always get suspicious when you see leafless trees sticking out of the lake about 20 yards from the edge of it that were once happy little trees until someone decided to drown the buggers. It always looks a bit eerie but there aren't a lot of them.
The lake stretches from Mur-de-Bretagne in the East to Bon Repos in the West, about 10Km altogether.
In the middle is a 'resort' named Beau-Rivage. This sports a 'beach' (man-made) which is small but well contained and clean. There is sand for bucket-fun but don't dig too deep as you hit the underlying clay quite quickly. The lake makes for good swimming. It's shallow near the edges thus minimising the risk of child-death but gets deep enough for a bit of thrashing around. The swimming area is marked of with buoys and it is a good idea to pay close attention if you wish to avoid being the next Kirsty McColl. There are a lot of water-skiers and jet-skiers around which make good viewing but the noise is annoying after a while. The area is fantastic for water-sports but personally I'm not into that kinky stuff. Kayaks and canoes are available for a very reasonable fee - about 7 Euros an hour and you can get three in a kayak. Be warned - the French call canoes kayaks and vice-versa. The fools. You can board one of the lake pleasure cruisers here as well. The beach area is surrounded by pine forest and craggy cliffs making the area just....well......pleasant.
There is plenty of places around for food just off the beach. The little kiosk by the campsite is especially cheap for crepes and frites. At the end of the beach is a posher restaurant-cum-bar which has an excellent view out over the lake with decking that extends into the water a tad. Parking is ample but the French do like to come here during their holidays so be careful if the sun is out, I could imagine it getting quite packed.
Mur-de-Bretagne is the largest town on the lake. I'd like to tell you a bit about the town itself but as I never went into it I can't. There you go. Relieved? Details can be found www.tourisme.fr/tourist-office/mur-de-bretagne which is the tourist office. I suspect they have actually been. However, we have been to the lake beach here and very pleasant it is too. The swimming is good and the beach, which again is very tiny, is backed by well maintained grassy parkland with a small climbing frame for the kids. Again, there are canoes for hire from a small shack of a caravan run (on our visits) by 2 small French boys, about 14 years old. They will try their best to help you and laugh at your pathetic French. Do watch out for the wasps. They hate the British and still have a grudge about the Napoleonic wars. I was stung twice in half-an-hour.
To be honest I haven't been to any other parts of the actual lake. These two locations took up about 4 days of our holiday and really entertained the kids. They were well catered for. We did visit Bon Repos on the river that exits the lake in the West which has a medieval abbey and a rather nice market. It has a old French feel and is worth a visit too. The people in this area were very pleasant and accommodating. They are used to a multinational tourism and know the ropes.
If you're in the area, this will certainly be one of the places you visit and with kids it's a godsend - there are only so many markets they can tolerate.
I am fortunate to live in the Guerledan Lake area of Brittany. This is arguably one of the most beautiful areas of France and I can do nothing short of enthusing about what the area has to offer the public. Why would I want an influx of tourists to my area ? Well, the fact is that it is so enormous, so widespread and so accessible that even on a busy day, it has a habit of camouflaging the tourists, and remaining a force of nature, and one that is splendid. The whole lake area is surrounded by the Quenecan Forest, which is privately owned by the Count, (locally known as Jaques). The significance of his ownership is that the area can never be developed, that it is forested in such a way as to preserve the very nature that has existed for centuries, and will never be spoilt like other forest areas that are dotted with private ownership and farm settlements.
Although the forest is privately owned, the Count has great respect for the area, and has allowed pathways to be cleared through certain areas of the forest, making it an walker's paradise, where you can forget time and hurry, and enjoy the greenery, the wildlife, and the adventure of all its' secret places, and believe me, even though there are hundreds of walks, you can always find that one that no one else chooses to tread, and rarely bump into other tourists.
The lake itself is a masterpiece of engineering, and leads off to the Nantes Brest Canal on both sides, and feeding a massive hydro system of electricity, and all manner of tourists are catered for. For example, for families, there are home made beaches such as Anse de Sordan, equipped with children's play area and very safe, as well as picnic areas and camping. For the more adventurous, Beau Rivage offers a wilder night life, beaches, water sports and activities. Neither of these areas is my favourite area of the Forest, although they are good going out places for families that have limited budgets, catering in the least expensive restaurants and offering good value entertainment like pedaloes, crazy golf, etc., and enough to keep the kids out of mischief and safe.
My favourite areas around the Guerledan Lake are the more discreet areas, like the many walkways around the lake, which have been improved upon in recent times, and where the walking is easy, and there is much to see. I also enjoy very much the pathways along the Nantes Brest Canal, which are ideal pathways for bikes, and really not crowded, and completely safe.
Eating in the area is so varied in choice. From Dish of the Day menus from 10 Euros, to Crepes or snacks, there are so many restaurants available and what I like about this area for eating is that children are seen as special, and are welcome to dine with families. There is no snobbery about having the younger members of the family enjoying themselves, and I really have never experienced children spoiling my experience. Here, in this part of France, evening meals start late, and are an event rather than rushed and nightlife is really up to you, making the most of the many romantic restaurants, or just savouring the atmosphere of a Creperie.
Access to this area from the UK, either Ferry to Roscoff, or airline to Dinan/Dinard or Brest, then towards Rostrenen, Gouarec. Easily found.
For those who are interested in Engineering, a trip around the Barrage where water makes electricity is an adventure, followed up by a visit to the Museum of Electricity at St Aignan, where even a child is encouraged to try the different machines to see how things work. What is great about the Forest and Lake area is that there is so much free parking space available, and yet you never see loads of cars, since the spread of the forest is such as to easily hide its wealth of tourists. Even stopping off points along the network of roads around the area will astound the visitor, and tempt them to stop to take photographs and capture the moment of their discovery.
There are two tourist offices for the area, one in Gouarec and one in Mur de Bretagne, and available at these offices are maps of all the randonees or walks, and the many cycle paths that take you through the forest and around the lake. The upkeep of these is impeccable, and even though this may seem like a Summertime pleasure, one should never forget the other seasons, the golds of Autumn, the magical snow white of winters that turns the tree tops into a wonderland, and the famous mushroom season, where the forest floor comes alive with colour and variety. Here, the locals are aware of the dangers of eating the wrong species, and have produced many brochures helping the tourist to recognise treasure or treachery. For the gourmand, or greedy, this is an opportunity to try out the local mushroom dishes, and every pharmacy advises of which mushrooms are the edible ones and what they are used for.
I love the forest. I love the lakeside, and last week skimmed stones across the surface, oblivious to the passage of time or age. Suddenly I was a child again, and one night we took one of the less familiar walks through the forest, played poo sticks, and watched like excited kids, as our sticks were carried under a bridge and along the gushing stream below. It's a magical place, where people get close to nature, marvel in the history of the megaliths, although less prominent than those at Carnac, follow the pathways that take them through the Valley de Daoulas and into an area of Neolithic covered alleys, back to a time when priorities were different, and the tourist feels sated with nature and all that it offers.
Accommodation in the area is relatively cheap, B & B from fifteen pounds a night, many Gites that can be found on the Internet, and hotel accommodation at 25 Pounds a night for a Double room. There are also numerous campsites, for both static caravans and for tents, and a choice between a tranquil or busy environment, dependent upon what the tourist wants.
Markets in the area are rather interesting. There are three main markets, one being at Mur de Bretagne on a Friday evening, one being at Cleguerec on a Wednesday evening and a very congenial market on a Sunday morning at Bon Repos Abbey, all offering local ware, and artisanal gifts and craftwork.
The wildlife of the Forest area around the lake is amazing. First thing in the morning, you can see the deer, wild rabbits and hares are rampant, and foxes and squirrels at peace and seemingly unafraid. Even the little field voles take a familiar daily path, and can be seen by the more observant of watchers. Birdwatching is popular in the area, as closeness to nature is stunning. What I also like is that in the more commercial areas around the lake, areas have been examined, the local flora and fauna studied and areas have been put aside for the protection of rare species. It's an evolving area, though one that never forgets the roots of what it offers, nor the importance of respecting the very nature that makes it so outstandingly beautiful.
A quick stop off at the Abbey of Bon Repos, a coffee or a picnic beside the canal, a boat trip with the family into a place where you can imagine yourself so far from today's modern civilisation. It's all there, waiting for you and it still amazes me as the mists lift in the valleys surrounding the lake, looking down from the hill and watching the magical coming of another day. Are there Korrigans, or little Faerie folk within the mystery of the Forest ? Who knows. I have seen their fairy rings of mushrooms, and made wishes, and am sure they were watching me. A snap of a branch, the movement of a leaf. Perhaps, though I shall never know.
From the Guerlédan Lake to the Nantes to Brest canal, the heart of Brittany unveils some of its mysteries: in the Quénécan Forest, the little iron-working village of Forges des Salles has been kept as it was in 1880, the date when the iron working operation stopped. Then the Guerlédan Lake, the biggest in Brittany, which is best explored by launch, to get a better idea of its peaceful beauty. Finally, in an enchanting site on the banks of the Blavet, the Bon Repos Cistercian Abbey has had a stormy past.