Ways of travelling to Brittany from the UK
There are few places on the planet which are easier to travel to than Brittany from the UK. Land, sea or air, it’s all there, together with land options of rail or road. However there are potential pitfalls so make sure that you are clued up!
Brittany has handful of airports of which two are accessible from the UK, which are Dinard, on the north west tip of Brittany, and Brest which is on the edge of the west.
Direct Flights to Brest from the UK used to be serviced by Easyjet, but for some reason Easyjet has stopped those flights leaving fewer options for direct flights. Those options include some direct flights from Flybe or for more choices, and a bit more expense, you may decide to fly to Paris and then change for Brest.
Dinard, on the other hand, enjoys regular flights from the UK all year round, although the frequency of those fights has dropped and is around three or four a week, with less in the winter and the flight prices also taking a tumble out of season. On which note if you are not concerned about when you fly, you can get some real bargains in peak or low season. I go back and forward Dinard to Stanstead all the time and simply book the cheapest flights in advance. I know Ryanair get criticised sometimes on TV and in the press, but the other day in peak season I booked a flight online at £5.49 with most of my flights around the £10 -£30 mark. Who else does that?
Ryanair is the only purveyor of flights from the UK to Dinard at the present time.
Dinard airport is a small but functional airport with a bar/café offering tea’s coffees, alcohol and a limited food menu. There are a handful of car hire options which include Thrifty, Hertz and Europcar.
The staff at Dinard are very helpful and friendly; if I had a criticism, it would be about the way the customs sometimes only has one single member of staff on duty, attempting to deal with an incoming flight, which sometimes results in queues that stretch back to the incoming aircraft.
It has been known for another operative to usher the back of the queue into the confines of the customs area so they are now side by side with the front of the queue resulting in complete pandemonium, with the people who were formerly at the front of the queue pressing up hard to maintain their pole position.
Aside from this, Dinard is a lovely airport, I much prefer it to the impersonal major airports in the UK such as Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. How many airports do you know, where the terminal staff give a friendly nod to you as you arrive, and where the customs officers have a laugh with the passengers but still seem to do their jobs thoroughly?
Travelling to Brittany by Ferry is a great option; there are ferries from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth which service Caen in Normandy, St. Malo, which is very close to Dinard airport, and Roscoff in Finistere
If you decide to travel from Portsmouth to Caen in Normandy and then drive down the A84 motorway in to Brittany, the only benefit will be the fact that the sailing time is only about five and a half hours, but then you’ll have a further hour and a half boring motorway before entering Brittany.
Depending on where you are in the UK and where your destination is in Brittany, it is a lot better to take the ferry into either St.Malo or Roscoff and enjoy the night time sailing, arriving refreshed the next morning.
The Ferries are of a good standard and have an onboard restaurant offering a menu which includes a full English breakfast, which continental and healthy options, and a comprehensive menu throughout the journey. There is a well stocked bar, cinema, and most important of all, sleep cabins.
There are different styles of cabins; all of the ferries run by the Brittany Ferries group have en-suite, air conditioned cabins with linen towels and toiletries provided. There are various options of cabins with different offers, such as tea and coffee facilities, TV.
Whether the cabin is in or facing out towards the sea. The choice is yours.
If you wish to browse the internet, no problem, there is internet access.
The are facilities for children too, including play areas, toys, games and changing areas, and there are dedicated menus for the little-ones with prices to match.
If you want to bring your pet cat or dog with you, that should be no problem; all you will need is a valid certificate such as a pet passport, but do check with the ferry whether you will require any additional paperwork or permits as laws change.
If you wish to make your way to Brittany by train, there are a couple of ways you could approach the journey; either take the Eurostar to Paris, and then the TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes in Brittany. From Rennes you can change according to your destination. Most of the TGV trains will continue to Brest, stopping at Lamballe, St. Brieuc and Guincamp
Alternatively, you may wish to take the Eurostar to Lille. Apparently changing from the Eurostar to the TGV at Lille is more simple than in Paris, as it’s just a case of changing platforms rather than stations.
There are the SNCF train lines that cut right across Brittany allowing access to many parts, and as well as the TGV links Rennes, with Lamballe, St.Brieuc, Guingamp, Plouaret,(which links to Lannion), Morlaix, Landemeau and Brest across the north of Brittany heading East to West, and then Rennes, Vannes, Auray, Lorient, Quimperle, Rosporden and Quimper going from East to West across the Southern part of Brittany.
There are further links which will take you to more central areas such as Loudeac, Carhaix, Brest and Roscoff.
Plan your journey carefully, and check that the train stops at your intended destination, as the french will alter their timetable according to demand.
The other reason to check ahead is that the French railway network is prone to occasional strikes or “grêve” (pronounced ‘Grave’)
This will happen with very little notice and without the option of buses laid on to compensate. So again, Check Ahead!
That said, most of the train journeys that I have taken have been on time and quite comfortable, and on the TGV routes there are buffet facilities.
Seating on the train.
Whilst on the smaller network, SNCF you can sit where you wish, with the TGV the seats are allocated. These are shown on your ticket, but are not immediately obvious when you get on the train. There is the carriage number and the seat number.
To save you getting on the train and walking the length of it when it’s moving, there are designated parts of the platform marked A,B,C and so on. These correlate to where the carriages stop. Just ask the platform conductor if unsure. With most TGV trains there is a small window to the left of the door which gives the carriage number and in between the carriages there are carriage numbers. Once you have identified your carriage, the seat numbers are lit up on the top of the head rest of each of the seats.
All of this said, most of the seats are pre booked for only part of the trains total journey, so the chances are that if you are only going for a couple of stops you can sit anywhere, and just move if asked.
Obviously you have the option to bring your car by ferry, the benefits are that you’ll arrive less stressed and tired, and have less distance to drive when the ferry docks at Brittany.See “By ferry” above
If you really want to motor through France and enjoy the freedom of deviating into interesting villages, towns or sites of interest then get to the Eurotunnel at Folkstone.
Before you leave home, try and book an advance ticket that will allow you to beat the queues. Also ensure that you have all of the legal requirements. If you are unsure of what these requirements are then please read the section Driving in Brittany featured on this site.
Directions as follows:-
From London take M25 to M20 to Folkstone to Calais, then A16 changing to the A28/E402 towards LeTreport/Rouen/Le Havre/ and then continue on the A29 following signs to Le Havre and Caen.
After Caen merge onto the A84 which then will eventually give the option of Rennes in Brittany or the E3/401 which will take you to the rest of Brittany.
A small part of this route is toll so have some Euros or a debit or credit card available.
There aren’t a great deal of fuel service stations, so if you do find yourself running low, don’t take any chances.
Most of the fuel stations are self operated, where you insert your card, enter your pin number, it will then return your card giving you credit up to a certain amount. You will have selected either 95 or 98 (Normal unleaded) or Gaz (Diesel) Fill up and away you go.
Make sure that you have a debit or credit card with you because these filling stations do not accept cash unless they are manned.