As its name implies, Belle Ile, which is about 15 km south of Quiberon on the southwest coast of Brittany, is a beautiful island. Vauban built one of his citadels here, but it is far less impressive than the natural rock formations. Belle Ile is bound by relatively calm waters to the north and by the crashing force of the Bay of Biscay to the south. Home to 4300 winter inhabitants, the population rises to 35,000 in the summer. In discovering Belle Ile in 1886, Claude Monet made the island famous and it became a favourite with artists.
Belle Ile is the largest Breton island and once belonged to Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV‘s minister, and later to the English, who in 1761 swapped it for Menorca. The main village is Le Palais, a cosy port dominated by a 16th-century fortress, La Citadelle, surrounded by impressive ramparts which Vauban strengthened in 1682, following centuries of Anglo-French disputes over control of the area.
There are three other smaller villages, each located at one of the island's extremities - Sauzon, an adorable little pastel coloured port, Bangor with the Goulphar lighthouse dominating the Cote Sauvage and Locmaria . Other sights include the 2 standings stones Jean & Jeanne. Vast beaches of fine golden sand mark the northern coast, while the south offers a more rugged coastline with spectacular rock formations and caves. The famous Grotte de ‘Apothicairerie (Cave of the Apothecary's Shop) is an awesome cavern into which the waves roll from two sides. A pedestrian-only track follows the island's entire coastline.
The following 7 cruises call at Belle Ile.
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