boite à outils

The Enclos Circuit by Bike

If you have visited Brittany, you’re sure to have heard of our unique parish churches known as ‘Enclos Paroissiaux’ - but have you ever thought of visiting them? Have you ever considered doing famous Enclos Circuit by bike?

The three main parish closes in Morlaix Bay are those of Saint-Thégonnec, Guimiliau and Lampaul-Guimiliau and they are fairly close together. So why would you take a car? There is an option that is far more simple, more pleasant and more environmentally-friendly … A bike, of course! You can even rent one from the Tourist Office in Saint-Thégonnec. What could be simpler?

JPEG - 81.1 kb
Enclos paroissial de Plouneour-Menez, Monts d’Arrée, Bretagne

The Enclos: the unmissable sites of Finistère

First of all, we need an explanation about these unique parish churches known as Enclos Paroissiaux. Regular visitors will certainly have heard about them, because they are unmissable places to visit in the area known as Léon, and they date from the time between the 15th and 18th centuries. However, even those who know about the churches don’t often know about the history, which is connected to the linen trade.

First, there were the ‘Julots’, merchant farmers of the period, who built their fortune by exporting linen canvas to the United Kingdom, Spain, Holland and even South America, mostly from Morlaix harbour. Before being woven, the linen threads were whitened in small wash houses that were called ‘kanndi’, from the Breton for ‘a whitening house’.

These unique parish churches and their flamboyant style reminds us of the exceptional economic prosperity of Brittany between the 15th and 18th centuries, which led to neighbouring communities competing to build the most beautiful church. A typical ‘Enclos’ comprises four essential elements: the monumental entrance, the calvaire (or stone cross), the ossuary (or bone house), and the church itself - but each had its centrepiece, one element which stood out.

The Enclos Circuit by Bike

JPEG - 184.1 kb
Enclos paroissial de Saint-Thegonnec, Finistere, Bretagne

Take to your bike and discover Saint-Thégonnec, Guimiliau and Lampaul-Guimiliau at the very heart of the land of parish closes.

The Enclos Circuit by Bike allows you to discover the three main parish closes of Morlaix Bay, namely Saint-Thégonnec, Guimiliau and Lampaul-Guimiliau.

So let’s head to Saint-Thégonnec where we can start our trail. Here in Saint-Thégonnec is where you will find the most complete example of the parish close. Notre Dame Church, built between 1563 and 1713, has magnificent altars and Windows. Having suffered from a fire in 1998, it was magnificently restored. The ossuary, built between 1676 and 1682, is considered the most beautiful and accomplished in Brittany. Inside, in the crypt, 10 life-size figures illustrate the laying in the tomb. Finally the calvaire represents scenes from the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ in chronological order.

To begin your circuit choose the exit on the south side of the churchyard, by the triumphal arch that dates from the end of the 18th century, then it’s on your bike and head towards Guimiliau.

saint thegonnec, sentier de bodinery

Passing behind the railway station, after 1.5 km, you’ll find the start of the Bodinéry Trail: make the most of the opportunity to enjoy a woodland walk that is accessible to everybody thanks to a well maintained, signposted path and perhaps even enjoy a picnic. Having rested while, you can carry on along the trail towards Guimiliau through the countryside surrounding Saint-Thégonnec.

In Guimiliau, the parish church is distinct from any other thanks to its monumental calvaire cross, built between 1581 and 1588, which is adorned with an impressive 200 statues spread over two levels. This parish church is also different because of its vestry, built between 1676 and 1683, adorned by a remarkable rotunda that brings a certain architectural harmony to the whole site.

Pick up the trail again towards Lampaul-Guimiliau, and you will find on your left a rest area named Aire de la Fontaine St-Miliau, where you can stop a while before completing the last few kilometres, at the end of which you will find the parish church of Lampaul-Guimiliau, which is your final stop. This parish close is dominated by the Notre Dame Church, built between 1533 and 1679. The entrance porch is the oldest element of the church, mixing Renaissance and Gothic architecture. The calvaire cross is very simple – in contrast to those of the two other churches - and traditionally represents Christ, the thieves and the Angels.

To come back to Saint-Thégonnec, you can make your way once more through the Léon countryside that includes hamlets in traditional local style, stone crosses and the Penzé Valley: there are so many natural sites and heritage sites to enjoy that are far more accessible by bike than by car. Of course, always be aware of the traffic when you are on the roads included in the circuit.

Once you are safely back in Saint-Thégonnec, you might be inspired to head off again to discover some of the many more parish closes of Brittany.

Practical Info

JPEG - 186.1 kb
office de tourisme de Saint Thégonnec près de l’enclos paroissial

The circuit, which is not signposted, covers about 20 km. We advise you to ask for the leaflet called ‘circuit des enclos à vélo’ at the Tourist Office in Saint-Thégonnec before you begin, so that you have a good idea of the circuit to follow.

To fully enjoy your visit, please respect the Highway code and good cycling practice.

Are you on holiday without your bike? No problem! The Tourist Office in Saint-Thégonnec office bike hire from April to the end of October.