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Report 1981: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 2 Morbihan

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 12 of 27: Carnac Alignments

photo by MAW

View of the alignments from the old windmill

The Carnac area contains one of the largest concentrations of megaliths in Europe. There are stone circles, alignments, dolmens, menhirs, passage mounds and tumuli. It features on everyone’s ‘must see’ list and rightly deserves to be.

The area has been inhabited since 5700BC and the megaliths were built in a moorland/grassland landscape after trees had been cleared for agriculture. Rows of standing stones march across the landscape for as far as the eye can see. No-one really knows why they were erected and there are suggestions they were part of a giant astronomical observatory. One thing is sure. They were designed to be seen.

If the land reverts to forest, tree roots can disturb the foundations. The area around the Carnac Alignments is now grazed to stop regeneration. Pressure of visitors is also a problem and was causing damage to the vegetation. The alignments are now fenced off and during the summer, entry is by guided tour only. However during the winter months it is possible to enter the site and walk around the stones.

Most people head to Maison Des Megaliths at the western end of the alignments where there is plenty of parking and entry is free. Pick up a free guide in English here. It is possible to climb onto the roof for aerial views. There is a video presentation and the shop has a good selection of books with several in English, although mark up on those priced in pounds sterling is big. Postcards are also expensive. The toilets are in the car park and let them down.

We spent a whole day exploring the area and even then didn’t have chance to see everything. There are about 3000 stones arranged in lines which stretch for 4km across the landscape. Most are 1-2m tall. They are split up into the Alignments of Ménec, Kermario and Le Manio. Most people visit the Ménec alignments and drive past the rest.

A road (rue du Tumulus) runs along the side of the stones and has good views of the stones. It is busy and although there is a grass verge it in not advisable to walk along the road. Small car parks are provided at the main sites, but many people pull off and park on the verge. When driving, there is a need to watch out for pedestrians who in their excitement to see the stones forget about traffic. There is also a Tonka Train which trundles slowly along the road while passengers take photos. Traffic builds up behind it and it is impossible to overtake.

We began at Maison de Megaliths and crossed the road to admire and photograph the Alignements De Ménec before walking into the small hamlet of Ménec where there are good views along the rows of the alignments. Even though this is so close to the stones it has turned its back on tourism. From here it is possible to pick up the footpath which runs along the alignments on the side away from the road. The first section does get busy but you soon lose the crowds.

There are smaller car parks for the Alignements De Kermario. We parked here and walked to take a picture of the Kermario Dolmen at the corner of the alignment by the roadside. A short distance beyond is a layby on the roadside near a footpath which cuts across the alignment to an old windmill. If there is space, park here and walk to the windmill. The view from the top gives one of the best views of the alignments and is much better than that from the top of Maison des Megaliths.

There is a small parking area just off the road before the Equestrian Centre for the Alignements De Kerlescan. It is 15-20 minute walk through the trees to the Manio Quadrilateral, a large rectangle of stones, thought to be the remains of an enclosure round a long gone dolmen. Close by is the impressive 6m high Géant, a single standing stone.

There is a footpath signed to Le Petit Ménec from Kerlescan but they are not signed from the road. Tourists rarely visit these and Michelin describes then as an “enchanted place.” You reach them by turning left onto D186 and after about 250m there is a right turn onto a minor road into the forest. There is a small parking area on the left after about 400m and the stones are on the right. There are three rows of stones among the trees. Some have been used as part of a stone wall. Few people find these stones and you are able to wander freely among them. It is a delightful place and we had it to ourselves.

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