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Report 1982: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 3 Northern Finistère

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 17 of 32: A Day Around the Abers - Pointe de St-Mathieu to Pont du Diable

photo by MAW

Pont du Diable

The Abers are the three big river mouths, (Wrac’h, Bentoît and Ildut) on the coast of north east Brittany. It is an area of low rocky coastline with sand dunes in places. It doesn’t have the pressure of tourists seen further east along Côte de Granit Rose.

We decided to do this clockwise beginning at Pointe De St-Mathieu, where there are the remains of 11/12thC abbey rebuilt in 14/15thC (shut) and Bishop’s Palace, now a museum. In the 17thC the monks used to light a fire on the top of the church tower to guide ships. There are now two lighthouses; a smaller square one at the point and a larger round one. The land around is very flat and there are no trees. The coast line is low, rocky and attractive.

Plans to see something of the coast between Le Conquet and Lampaul-Plouarzel were thwarted by lack of signs and my navigation. Having gone round in a circle three times in Lampaul-Plouarzel, Michael’s patience was beginning to wear thin and there were muttered comments about satellite navigation. For the sake of Michael’s blood pressure we decided to stick to yellow roads.

This is low flat countryside with fewer trees. Field boundaries are banks. There is more agriculture inland, especially cabbages.

We missed, or didn’t see the sign for St Govan’s Chapel but did manage to find a sign for Route Touristique which took us round the coast to Chapelle St-Sampson. This is a simple 18thC stone building beside the road which has been recently restored. St Sampson was a Celtic missionary who visited Armorique several times before settling here. Inside there are bare stone walls and wooden ceiling painted blue. A splendid altar takes up most of the east end with the processional banner of Virgin and Child and statues of St Sampson and St Yves. There is a statue of St Isadore on the north wall. Outside there are two old stone crosses and the fountain is below the church. There is good walking both ways along the coast but it was too windy to want to go far.

Portsall was where the Amoco Cadiz ran aground in 1978. It is a large settlement with a lot of boats in the bay. We followed the coast road along the sand dunes with no views of the sea to the long, straggling settlement of St-Pabu on Aber Bentoît. It was low tide.

We skirted Lannilis to pick up the coast road around the small peninsula to Brouënnou, which had nice views across Aber Bentoît to St-Pabu. Cezon Fort was disappointing, a round tower on an island.

Back at Lannilis, we headed north across the bridge over the Aber and then picked up the white road which ran back upstream along the aber to find Pont Du Diable. I was glad I had printed off a Google map showing its location as there were no signs and we would never have found it. We approached from the north side of the Aber rather than the south side as recommended by Michelin, as access looked to be better. There is a small parking area and it is a pleasant walk down a sunken lane lined with tall trees to the ‘bridge’ across the aber which is tidal here. This is in fact a causeway of large granite slabs with gaps to allow the tide to flow between them. It is possible to cross with care and a footpath leads up from the far side.

There seems to be some confusion as to the age of the causeway. Michelin describes it as Gallo-Roman stepping stones. Other sources believe it to 10thC. It would have been an important crossing point over the Aber.

According to legend a local miller was fed up of having to make the long detour around the Aber. He made a pact with the devil who agreed to build a bridge in exchange for the first soul that crossed it. Next morning the bridge had been built. The miller loaded a sack of flour containing his cat. When he reached the bridge he pretended to be tired, put down the sack and released the cat. Apparently drunk, peasants going home at night would fall off the bridge and drown - the devil’s revenge.

We stopped off in Prat Paul on the way back which has a nice little Chapel dedicated to St Pol Aurelien, a Celtic missionary who was one of the seven founding saints of Brittany and stopped here during his travels. It is a small stone building set on a grassy bank with a fountain. Unfortunately it was locked.

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