Le Grand Penlan is a hamlet of about 35 houses located on high ground - walk a few yards in any direction from the cottage and you will see views across the fields and woods of the surrounding area. It is an area of big skies - large sweeps of blue sky with clouds scudding across a patchwork of fields. Most of the houses in the village are traditional stone cottages with their adjacent barns. Some have been restored to make beautiful homes, others are holiday homes; many are still occupied by local villagers - there are two working dairy farms in the village and several small-holdings. There is an ancient cross on the outskirts of the village and we are within a conservation area around the cross.
The adjacent village of Helléan, which is a ten minute walk from the cottage, has a charming church and two bars. Bread and other essentials are available in one of the bars. The area around the cottage is perfect for walking and cycling. A cross-country mountain bike route comes near the village; there are woods nearby for exploring, and lots of quiet country lanes. The river Ninian winds through Helléan – if you explore you can find a mill and the spring which is named after the local saint. This is gentle countryside with quiet corners to discover and wonderful bird song to listen to. For the bird watchers among you we have seen a hen harrier flying low over the hedges in nearby fields and have heard (but not seen) a nightjar in the field behind the cottage.
A ten minute drive to the west brings you to Josselin - a charming medieval town with narrow streets of timbered houses and a spectacular castle rising up from the banks of the Nantes-Brest Canal. There are bars and restaurants, small shops and a doll museum. The best view in town is from the dining room of the Hotel de Chateau looking across the canal to the castle - the food is good too! The wide towpath along the canal bank offers miles of walking and cycling through beautiful countryside. On the outskirts of Josselin there are two excellent supermarkets.
A ten minute drive in the opposite direction brings you to Ploermel - a pretty town with an ancient church, monastery (don't miss the astronomical clock), shops, supermarkets and a large weekly street market. Nearby is the Lac au Duc - a very large lake with a beach and swimming, sailing, pedal boats, water skiing, boules, volleyball, tennis, picnic areas, fishing and a golf course.
If you want to go further afield, about 20km to the north east is the Forest of Paimpont, an area full of Celtic history and legend - the forest of Arthurian tales. You can follow the steps of the Knights of the Round Table in the Val sans Retour and within the forest you will find ancient standing stones and tombs. Certainly a place of spells and fairies!
And there is still the rest of Brittany to explore! There are many picturesque villages, ancient churches, museums, a zoo, the standing stones at Carnac, and many other places of interest within an hour's drive. The medieval town of Vannes is about 45 minutes in the car and the Golfe de Morbihan with its boats and beaches is just beyond. The coast can be crowded in the summer and it's good to return to the peace and quiet of the cottage after a day at the beach.
Getting to the cottage
By ferry: driving time from St Malo is about one and a quarter hours; from Caen or Cherbourg about three and a half hours; four and a half hours from Le Havre; three hours or less from Roscoff (we haven’t done that drive ourselves)
Cheap flights to Dinan or Rennes: you'd need to hire a car - we're about an hour’s drive from both airports.
To find us on the map:
If you find Josselin and Ploermel on the map, Helléan is about half way between them, north of the N24 road. Le Grand Penlan is just south of Helléan.