From Camaret-sur-Mer, we had an hour's drive to get to our next destination, going around the Rade de Brest, a huge inlet from the Atlantic Ocean, and through the port city of Brest which, we could see from the Pointe des Espagnoles, hosts a substantial navy base. We didn't stop in Brest, but to approach it we had to cross two major bridges, come in from the east on a motorway, then leave to the west via crowded old town streets and around an old fort or castle. We saw that Brest has a brand new looking lightrail system running. Brest is the second biggest city in Brittany.
Our destination was at the extreme west of Brittany, the Pointe de St-Mathieu on the edge of the town of Plougonvelin. We came here to see the derelict abbey, but more importantly, maybe, to stay in the luxurious accommodation at the Hostellerie de St-Mathieu which is literally on the opposite side of the road to the abbey. In fact, we left our Corolla in the abbey car park.
The Hostellerie was exquisite, selected to give us a really comfortable place to relax for a few days. Our room was at the top end of their range, so it was uber-spacious and modern, with a fabulous bathroom, and included a huge lighthouse mural on the wall. The Hostellerie claimed to be an "eco" establishment: we found that what this means is that room heating (hot water radiators) turn off during the day, and during the night, a minor irritation really, but we couldn't get past thinking it was really no more than a cost saving measure. The bar and restaurant at the Hostellerie were both stylish and great, and we partook in the pleasures of both (there being virtually no competition nearby).
Directly opposite the hotel was the Pointe which was cluttered not only with the abbey, but also a military semaphore station (photography prohibited) and a grand lighthouse, all ridiculously close to each other. We read a comment that it was a "bizarre juxtaposition"! And within 25m or so, a war memorial. A tower in the abbey, derelict anyway, had to be part demolished to give the lighthouse full rotation, so we too are a bit bemused as to why it (the lighthouse) was built so close.
Pointe de St-Mathieu and the tight juxtaposition of the semaphore station, the lighthouse, the abbey and a chapel.
The abbey, Saint-Mathieu-de-Fine-Terre is named after Saint Matthew the Evangelist. The first abbey here was built before 555AD by Saint Tanguy on land he had inherited (so goes the story), the site deliberately chosen for its isolation. That abbey is gone. The current ruins are of a Benedictine monastery from the 11thC and modified later, but it was abandoned after the French Revolution. Monks sold off what had not already been looted, it seems. The ruins are amazing abd overwhelming - the abbey is large and some of the roof is still in place.
The lighthouse was built in 1835 among the ruins when it could have been located 50m away on a site now occupied by the war memorial. It's distinctive decoration is to have the words "Saint Mathieu" painted on it in huge letters. This is a big lighthouse in the Brittany portfolio, and can be seen 55km away. From our bedroom, we could see the beam flashing by every few seconds. Within the lighthouse structure is a separate navigational beacon which at first we thought would be a historical artifact, but at night flashes red or green to specific adjacent directions as part of the very complicated navigational aid system in part of Brittany.
We didn't relax as much as planned. We did laundry at Plouzaine, and had a look around Plougonvelin finding a great protected beach (looks like it is blighted by jet skis in summer) and yet another old fort (this one rebirthed as an exercise park operating in summer). And we drove to Le Conquet which we read is the westernmost town on mainland France, and a beautiful one at that, with an unnavigable maze of tiny twisty streets around the port area. One claimed touch with fame - Henry VII apparently unintentially landed at Le Conquet in a storm when he was escaping exile from Wales!
The Fort de Bertheaume has been fitted with zip lines and converted to an adventure park. At Plougonvelin.
Small and protected Plage du Perzel is backed up by a large camping ground and must be a haven in summer.
Our navigator liked to take us along remote local roads, this one through a farm of, we think, artichokes.
At the end of three days based at St-Mathieu we set out to the city of Morlaix near the north-west coast of Brittany.