Belle-Île

Belle-Île

Author Anne Plau

At 85 square kilometers, Belle-Île is the largest Breton island. It lies off the French Atlantic coast, fourteen kilometers south of the Pointe de Quiberon. The island lives up to its name: Belle-Île is indeed a beautiful island that fascinates visitors with its rugged cliffs, fine sandy beaches and lively port town.

Belle Ile - la Cote Sauvage

Belle Ile - la Cote Sauvage


History 

People have lived on Belle-Île since the Stone Age. Two menhirs, called Jean and Jeanne, date from around 3500 to 1800 BC. They are near the village of Kerlédan. Traces from the Bronze and Iron Ages can also be found on the island. The oldest places are Bangor and Locmaria. Bangor was founded as early as the 6th century, Locmaria in 1070.

In the 17th century, Nicolas Fouquet, King Louis XIV's finance minister, bought the island. It was later conquered by the English, temporarily belonged to England and Canada and then fell back to France.

military heritage 

The island's military fortifications were built from the Middle Ages to protect against pirates. The citadel above the port of Le Palais was expanded by the fortress builder Vauban on behalf of King Louis XIV. The military heritage is still visible on the island today.

The citadel of Le Palais

The citadel of Le Palais


Life on Belle Île

Belle-Île is 19 kilometers long and eight kilometers wide. The highest peak is 71 meters high. 5200 people live on the island, plus 5100 residents who have a second home on the island. In the summer season there are an average of 40.000 people on Belle-Île.

Belle-Île - near Antoureau


Belle-Île - near Antoureau


Le Palais - Quai Jacques Le Blanc


Le Palais - Quai Jacques Le Blanc 


The islanders live in four parishes and 120 villages. The places have merged to form the association of municipalities Belle-Île-en-Mer. More than 2500 inhabitants live in Le Palais, the main town of the island. Le Palais is the seat of administration and business. The port for passenger and cargo transport is the main connection to the mainland. The distance to Quiberon is 15 kilometers.

economy and agriculture

From the French Revolution to the end of the 19th century, agriculture, fisheries and shipbuilding developed. Belle-Île was considered a rich island.

Shipbuilding was abandoned over time. More than 10 boats operate in the fishery, mainly catering to the domestic market.

Le Palais - old cargo crane on the Quai Fouquet

Le Palais - old cargo crane on the Quai Fouquet


Agriculture is still of great importance. There is fertile farmland and pasture, and the climate is mild. In 40 traditional farms milk is produced or vegetables are grown, cattle and sheep are bred. Local producers offer a wide range of fresh products that come from Belle-Île.

Tourism

Today, tourism is the most important source of income on Belle-Île. The accommodation capacity is 30.000 beds. Ferries connect Le Palais with Quiberon, in season also with Vannes and Port Navalo, in mainland France. The two ports of Le Palais and Sauzon have 800 berths for yachts. Around 380.000 tourists visit the island annually.

Le Palais - Office de Tourisme and the Capitanerie

Le Palais - Office de Tourisme and the Capitanerie


Belle-Île for crusaders

Cruise ships rarely call at the small island. The narrow entrance to the port of Le Palais between two jetties is enough for the ferries from the mainland, fishing boats and yachts. Cruise ships are docked in front of Le Palais. Tender boats bring the passengers ashore. Two smaller cruise ships are expected in 2023 and 2024 respectively. The number of passengers on a large cruise ship should not be manageable on Belle-Île.

We appreciate the privilege of visiting Belle-Île with the small expedition ship WORLD VOYAGER. 

Le Palais - Quai Jacques Le Blanc


Le Palais - WORLD VOYAGER on roadstead


Le Palais - the tender boat is waiting


Le Palais - the tender boat is waiting 


In our article we report on what there is to see and do on Belle-Île Belle Ile tourist attractions.

September 2022