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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 16 of 27: Presqu’île de Rhuys

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Oyster farming

This is the long peninsula that loops round to the south of Golfe du Morbihan.

We spent a whole day exploring the area. We left the main road at the Maison du Cider Junction and wiggled round the white roads which took us through St-Armel and an expanse of old salt pans. A causeway with two sluices controlled the flow into the pans which had earth banks round them to hold the water. The tide was just beginning to come in.

We drove down to the end of Le Tour-du-Parc road but there were too many trees along the roads to be able to see the salt pans there. It was rather boring scrubby scenery and a waste of time.

Next stop was Château De Suscinio, (next page) which is surrounded by a moat and large area of salt marsh. There is a small village on the seaward side of the château with stone houses and a road to the beach. There is a large car park behind the beach with lagoons and salt marshes. From the car park we walked across a bar of coarse gravel to the long sandy beach. This would be good tramping country.

Sarzeau is one of the largest settlements, with a lot of eateries and shops. There is a lot of new development and not as many “fine 17 and 18thC houses” as the guide books had led us to expect. It was disappointing and lacked character. The church is a large 19thC rather soulless building with white walls, ceiling and pillars. The round arches had crudely carved tops. The main alter has a carving of the last supper. There is an ornate open carved arch in the choir and a massive balcony at the west end with open carved front. There is a small display case with censor, communion plate and the processional cross.

After Sarzeau, we decided to follow some of the white roads around the inland shore of Morbihan hoping to get views. At Bénance there are a lot of oyster beds in large concrete tanks on the shore. The end of the road has large private signs and no views. The next headland, Pointe de Ruaut, near Gulay has a large parking area along a busy quay. Flat oyster boats were anchored in the bay. Some were being loaded up with large open mesh ‘sacks’ containing oysters which were being planted in cages in the open bay.

We then drove to the tip of the headland beyond Brillac, where there is a small parking area. The footpath round the headland goes through tall shrubs but there are good open views from the end across the Golfe du Morbihan to the islands. This is popular boating country and there were sailing and pleasure boats anchored in the Golfe.

Next stop was Arzon for Cairn de Petit Mont. This area is very built up with a lot of new development. The marina is full of boats and there is a definite holiday atmosphere. It was not a place we wanted to linger.

Cairn De Petit Mont is on a headland covered with tall scrub. There are footpaths across the headland but no views as the vegetation is so tall. It would be easy to get lost. It is a five minute walk from the car park to the ticket office in a small shed, selling a few books and postcards. There are guided tours in French. We were given a leaflet in English. No photography is allowed in the cairn and bags and cameras have to be left in the ticket office, although you can collect your camera to take pictures of the outside of the cairn after a visit.

The cairn is made up of four layers of stones and was built and extended over a considerable period of time. About 4600BC there was a low oval burial mound. Around 4000BC this was replaced by the first cairn which was built in the shape of a trapezium without a passageway or internal chamber. Around 3500BC the cairn was extended with a passage way leading to an internal chamber. Some stones were decorated. Around 2700-2500BC a further extension was added round the whole structure. This had two new chambers but blocked the entrance to the original chamber.

There is access to the undestroyed 3500BC chamber. We wished we were able to take pictures as one of the stones had a series of snake like patterns and another had two very clear footprints.

In 1943 the Germans built a bunker and flak emplacement in the south east corner of the cairn. This destroyed one of the newer chambers. All that can be seen are some fallen stones around the entrance. However, the bunker did break into the blocked original chamber.

The German bunker is reached down a long tunnel into the underground rooms which now house an exhibition. There are steps up to the flak emplacement on the top of the Cairn which has good views across Port-Navalo, Arzon and the coast. There is access from the German bunker into the original chamber which is lined with massive slabs and has huge stones on the floor. The central chamber has more carved stones. One has a prominent 'L' near the base. This is thought to be a crook, a sign of power. Another has wavy lines.

We drove to the port at Port-Navalo for the views. This was very busy with cars everywhere and nowhere to park. We continued to Pointe De Bilgroix where there was some parking at the end of the road. There is a grassy headland with views across to the end of the Locmariaquer peninsula. It was quite busy with people. There were a lot of boats in the bay. Our peace was shattered by a large pleasure boat with blaring loud speakers; one of the popular tourist trips around the Golfe. The tide had turned and was beginning to rush into the Golfe du Morbihan. We realised how dangerous this narrow entrance into Baie de Quiberon is.

We drove round Pointe Du Kerners, a narrow road with few views and a lot of buildings. We felt it did not repay time invested. We drove over the causeway and stopped to look at the 17thC Moulin De Pen Castel, which was a small tidal mill built on the causeway. Entry is free and it now houses a small art gallery. There are glass panels in the floor so you can see the water channels beneath the building.

Tumulus De Tumiac (Butte de Caesar), stands up as a pimple in an otherwise flat landscape. It was built between 4790-4530BC. It is unusual as it is made up of clay and not stone. Inside there is a small stone lined tomb which contained a body and burial goods. There is no historical basis for the legend that Caesar watched the sea battle against the Veneti from here in 55BC.

There is a small car park beside the main road and it is a short walk to the bracken covered tumulus. There is a rough path to the top, which involves a bit of a scramble which ruled it out for me. There is no access to the central tomb. This was a waste of time. Admire from the road.

We finished of the day by visiting St-Gildas-De-Rhuys (See page 18).

We really enjoyed Château de Suscinio and St-Gildas-de-Rhys, and these repaid visiting. However we felt the rest of the peninsula didn’t live up to expectation. Sarzau was a modern town with little character and the tip around Arzon was busy and spoilt by all the holiday development. Scenically it was only so-so.

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