boite à outils

To be a pilgrim: a whole new holiday adventure

They would set off in spring, returning only in autumn...
Walking through Brittany in the steps of pilgrims from days gone by, you can follow trails that date back many centuries, yet have a totally modern and pleasantly surprising adventure.

Traditionally, believers would set off on pilgrimage from April to October. The Breton ’mountain’ of 384 metres would pose no problem; the pilgrims simply enjoyed the wonderful coastal landscapes, and drew comfort from meeting other like-minded souls.

Of course, this is also the land of les enclos paroissiaux, unique, flamboyant parish churchyards of particular architectural interest. It’s a landscape dotted with churches, chapels and roadside crosses, a culture of processions and pardons, where pilgrimage trails lead to The Way of St James (Camino de Santiago de Compostela) or the Tro Breiz, so Morlaix Bay and the Arrée Mountains are a special destination when it comes to pilgrimage routes and religious tourism.

Morlaix, given its significant history and heritage, is the stopover point in this route.

The Tro Breiz

Since the Middle Ages, people in Brittany have walked in the footsteps of the Seven Founder Saints known as the Saints Fondateurs! The Tro Breiz is a pilgrimage to honour Brittany’s Seven Founder Saints.

Breton peasants would take the pilgrimage in September - after the harvest - and return one month later ready to plough. It was a pious journey, but it was also a pleasurable one.

There was no defined departure point. Peasants would travel from their own village to the nearest bishopric, then come back. The Tro Breiz is split up into 7 sections, which are the 7 bishoprics or dioceses.

Since 1994, the Tro Breiz has enjoyed something of a revival and each year an organised walk is held, connecting one diocese to another. Completing one stage each autumn, then, you’d need seven years to complete this pilgrimage.

For more information: Association du Tro Breiz

Crypte de St-Melar Lanmeur

The Breton part of The Way of St James: Saint-Jacques de Compostelle

Get to know the other side of Finistère!

Walk in the footsteps of long-ago pilgrims and discover a whole new side to Finistère. Morlaix is at the crossroads of two trails that begin on either side of the bay: the small fishing port of Moguériec to the west, and the spa town of Locquirec to the east.

The ’northern trail’ leaving from Locquirec, was re-opened in 2001, and officially recognised on 14th May 2011. It comes into Morlaix, crosses over the Arrée Mountains, revealing the marvellous sites of le Cloître Saint-Thégonnec and the Abbaye du Relec among others, then comes out in Quimperlé… and if you carry on another 1,927km, will take you to Santiago.

Today, as was the case centuries ago, the return journey is made in September, when you’ll see pilgrims carrying the St James symbol of a yellow cockle shell. More and more pilgrims each year are discovering or re-discovering this route.

Contact: Association Bretonne des Amis de St-Jacques de Compostelle

Chemin de St-Jacques de Compostelle borne 0 Locquirec

The Saints’ Shore Way

This is a cultural bridge between the St James ’Compostela’ pilgrims and those of the Tro Breiz.

The Saints’ Shore Way was inspired by Cornwall’s ’Saints Way’ in the UK, which traces the probable route that British migrants took to Brittany at the time of the Saints. The Saints’ Shore Way brings this idea over to this side of the channel, following the coast of north Brittany, where the settlers then founded religious sites and other communities.

From Roscoff to Lannion, the trail - which is about 130km long - mostly follows the GR34 coastal path. This unites the historic pilgrim routes, the Tro-Breizh and the Breton sections of the St James Way. It’s also a cross-channel approach, bringing to mind the linen trade as well as smuggling and corsair activities from long ago.

The English-language Guide Book is for sale in Tourist Offices throughout the Morlaix region.

Sentier des douaniers GR 34 Guimaëc

At any time of year, grab your walking staff and your backpack, head off on foot, on your bike or even on a donkey and discover the sacred trails of Brittany.