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An Idyll on an Ile

Ile de Bréhat is home to some 350 hearty folk who live most of the year in isolation -- until the summer crowds arrive. The tiny island (actually two islands, Ile Nord and Ile Sud, linked by a bridge, Le Pont Vauban) is in the Golfe de St-Malo, north of Paimpol. A visit to Bréhat is an adventure, even to the French. The only settlement on the islands is Le Bourg, in the south. The only bona fide beach is a strip of sand at Guerzido.

Walking is the primary activity, and it's possible to stroll the footpaths around the island in a day. Cars other than police and fire vehicles aren't allowed. Tractor-driven carts carry visitors on an 8km (5-mile) circuit of Bréhat's two islands, charging 13€ for the 45-minute jaunt. A number of places rent bikes, but they aren't necessary.

The rich flora here astonishes many visitors, who get off the ferry expecting a wind-swept island, only to discover a more Mediterranean clime. Flower gardens are in full summer bloom, though both the gardens and houses appear tiny because of the scarcity of land. At the highest point, Chapelle St-Michel, you'll be rewarded with a panoramic view.

The tourist office, place du Bourg, Le Bourg (tel. 02-96-20-83-16), is open Monday to Saturday mid-June to mid-September.

To reach Paimpol, drive west on D768 from Dinard to Lamballe, then take E50 west to Plérin, and D786 north to Paimpol. To reach the island, take D789 4km (2 1/2 miles) north of Paimpol, where the peninsula ends at the Pointe de l'Arcouest. From Paimpol, 5 to 10 CAT buses make the 10-minute run to the point for a one-way fare of 3€. Then catch one of the ferries operated by Les Vedettes de Bréhat (tel. 02-96-55-79-50; www.vedettesdebrehat.com). Ferries depart about every 30 minutes in summer, two or three times per day in the off season; the round-trip costs 9.50€. Visitors in April, May, June, and September will find the island much less crowded than in July and August. Cars are not allowed on the ferry.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.