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When I heard of Ile aux Moines, France I knew right away I needed to investigate! An island in Brittany with few cars and only accessible by boat. A floating paradise 7 km in length and 3.5 km at its widest point. Just the right size to explore. It sounded like my favourite island in Canada.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to run into any monks or not but it turns out the Island of the Monks was a gift from the king of Brittany in 854 to the monks in the nearby Abby in Redon and no monks ever actually lived on Ile aux Moines France.
I arrived straight from Paris and the minute my feet touched the ground on Ile aux Moines, I felt my shoulders relax, my grin widen and my breaths deepen. Ile aux Moines, this paradise in Brittany, might be exactly what your soul is searching for.
1. Where Is Ile Aux Moines France?
Ile aux Moines is situated in the Gulf of Morbihan in the south of Brittany, France.
But where on earth is the Gulf of Morbihan? Morbihan means “little sea” in the Breton language and indeed this gulf, with its own micro-climate, shelters its islands from the Atlantic Ocean.
There are forty-two islands in the Gulf of Morbihan and Ile aux Moines is the largest. It is just off the coast so an easy boat trip from the mainland.
2. Getting To Ile Aux Moines In The Gulf Of Morbihan
Ile aux Moines is easily accessible. Bring your sense of adventure and pack wisely as you can’t bring your car across to Ile aux Moines!
Getting There By Train And Bus:
Train To Vannes:
Take the train to Vannes which has a lovely medieval centre full of winding roads and half-timbered homes. The train trip from Paris is two and a half hours.
Bus To Ile Aux Moines, Morbihan:
Directly across from the Vannes train station is a parking lot full of buses coming and going. This is where you will find Bus #23 that will take you to Port-Blanc in Baden.
Read the bus timetable carefully. Here is the schedule. This bus only runs six times a day and the schedule changes on September 1 of each year and on July 6.
The bus costs 1.50€ and the journey is approximately 45 minutes.
Note: For my return journey I had only a fifteen-minute turnaround between the bus arrival and my train departure. A local advised me that this was plenty of time as the buses are very punctual. I took her advice and made my train!
Alternately, if you miss Bus #23 there are taxis in front of the train station. A one way trip to Port-Blanc is 30€.
Boat/Water Taxi From Port-Blanc:
As soon as the bus arrives at Port-Blanc we all made a mad dash for the boat/water taxi. Purchase your return ticket (5.50€) onboard, sit back and enjoy the sea breeze on this very short crossing.
The schedule says that the crossing is every 30 minutes, but in September 2020 I observed that the boat crosses about every 15 minutes. There is a significant lineup as Ile aux Moines, Morbihan is a very popular day trip destination.
Tip: You can bring your own bicycle across on the water taxi.
Getting There By Car:
There is a large parking lot at Port-Blanc with many free parking spots.
Ile aux Moines, France: How To Enjoy This Paradise In Brittany
Whether you arrive for an afternoon or a few weeks holidays, Ile aux Moines France is sure to please. Hikers and bikers abound as well as people enjoying a typical Breton lunch in the sun, a guided tour, sailing and paddleboarding or reading on the beach.
When you arrive at Ile aux Moines there is a tourist office to help you plan your trip. There is a fabulous map with all the biking routes and walking trails. Also if you are thirsty after your trip, there are several waterside cafés.
3. Bicycle Ile Aux Moines From One End To The Other
Cycling Ile aux Moines, Morbihan is an ideal way to see the island. There is no traffic, so it is a far cry from cycling in Paris! The country roads are lined with typical Breton homes.
The island has three designated routes: yellow (5 km), red (6.5 km) and blue (11 km). Arrows are painted on the roads to keep you on track!. Follow the guidebook to discover the tucked away standing stones, coves and crosses.
Exploring by bicycle was ideal for a short trip. Aside from following the route, there are plenty of opportunities to lean your bike up against a tree, follow a path to the sea or meander up a tiny laneway between houses. You are on island time, after all.
Where To Rent A Bicycle:
Along the pier are several places to rent bicycles. The rates are all the same at 12€ per day. And of course, there are rates for shorter periods of time. I rented a bicycle for the same rate from my accommodation, La Voile d’Or.
4. Hike The Coastal Paths On Ile Aux Moines, Morbihan
The seventeen kilometres of coastal hiking paths are for pedestrians only. There are plenty of hikers following the routes that take you right by the sea. I would like to return one day to hike these scenic trails.
5. Find The Megalithic Sites On Ile Aux Moines France
In this southern area of Brittany, there are more than 550 megalithic sites. What a journey that would be to visit and study them!
The Pen Hap Dolmen
Ancient sites such as the Pen Hap dolmen never cease to amaze or inspire one’s curiosity. Who arranged and lifted these massive boulders and for what purpose?
The Pen Hap dolmen is, in fact, a megalithic tomb that has been around for about 5500 to 6000 years. At one point in history, Ile aux Moines was part of the mainland and this height of land was a burial ground.
There are marvellous views to the east and the west from the Pen Hap dolmen.
The Cromlec’h de Kergonan
Also listed as a Historical Monument, the Cromlec’h de Kergonan has 24 standing stones in the shape of a horseshoe. Possibly there were at one time more stones creating the shape of a D.
The hypothesis as to what these standing stones were used for varies but an astronomical landmark to do with the seasons is the most accepted.
6. Relax At A Beach And Go For A Swim
It is not hard to find a beach on Ile aux Moines. Are you ready to dip into the chilly Atlantic waters?
7. Discover The Churches On Ile Aux Moines
Eglise Saint-Michel with its white tower is worth a stop and a peek inside. You know you are in a community that thrives on the sea when a sailing ship is hanging from the church ceiling.
This darling chapel built in 1680 is a private chapel belonging to the Château next door. It’s a prime spot for weddings and in fact, I stumbled upon wedding preparations the day I cycled by.
8. Sit In A Pine Forest And Just Be…
It smelled like home. The pine grove covered the point with windswept trees perfect for sitting under to admire the evening light on the Gulf.
9. Admire The Breton Homes on Ile Aux Moines France
Brittany. Stone houses. Stone fences. Hydrangeas. Of all colours. This is Ile aux Moines, Morbihan.
Keep your eyes open for thatched roofs as well.
10. Find All The Crosses
The stone crosses that dot the island are a reminder of the significance that religion played in the lives of the inhabitants of Ile aux Moines.
11. Have A Breton Delicacy In Le Bourg
Follow signs for Le Bourg, the town. In the main square, there is a café or two, a grocery store, a lovely gift shop and a few restaurants. Closeby is a boulangerie and several other restaurants. In September, do not count on anything being open in the evening.
I ate a typical Breton meal of a galette and cider with a crepe for dessert (did you see the chocolate and the pear?!) at La Chaumière. The food was excellent as was the service.
Of course, being on an island in France there are also oysters and other seafood available. If I had stayed one extra day, oysters were up next. As, you know, oysters and I became friends this year!
12. Enjoy The Stillness on Ile Aux Moines
I was on Ile aux Moines, Morbihan the week that school started back up. Several people told me that it is much busier in the summer. Obviously.
Nonetheless, the birdsong and the breeze in the trees are an open invitation to be still.
13. Discover The Wells And Fountains On Ile Aux Moines
There are ancient wells and fountains still found on Ile aux Moines. They served the inhabitants close by and their animals.
14. Watch The Sunset On Ile Aux Moines, Morbihan
Island life just has to involve a sunset. Or a sunrise. And this perfect island in the Gulf of Morbihan is no different!
More Travel Info…
Where To Stay on Ile aux Moines:
I booked at the last minute. I was planning to do a day trip from Vannes but checked Booking.com at the last minute. Staying on the island was an amazing experience. I stayed at La Voile d’Or. Here is a list of other hotels on Ile aux Moines. There are also many bed and breakfasts available during the summer season.
Camping on Ile aux Moines:
There is a campground called Le Vieux Mouline which might be your preferred way to travel. There are tent pitching sites as well as lodges (already set up tents with a little terrace). More information on Le Vieux Moulin camping site is here.
Use Vannes As A Base
The town of Vannes can also be used as a base to explore the Ile aux Moines or further afield in the Gulf of Morbihan. The old town itself is full of half-timbered houses and ramparts. See tours to the Gulf of Morbihan below.
Plan Your Trip Through Brittany
Guided Van Tour:
This one hour guided tour in a mini-bus departs from the port four times a day. Reservations can be made by calling: 06 88 17 24 23
Boat Tours in the Gulf of Morbihan:
If you want to explore further afield and visit the neighbouring Ile d’Arz, check out tours here.
Navix has various tours and departure points including Vannes and Port-Blanc. Check out their tours here.
Compagnie du Golfe is another company with different departure points and a variety of tours to give you an experience in the Gulf of Morbihan. Their tours are here.
Let me know what you think about this treasure, Ile aux Moines, floating in the Gulf of Morbihan.
Until next time,