Cap Sizun is the southernmost point of the department of Finistère, which is the westernmost part of
continental France, a land full of character, contrasts and legends. Being very isolated, Cap Sizun has maintained a very specific identity proudly defended by its inhabitants, called Capistes. Cap
Sizun is mostly known for the fishing port of Audierne and the Pointe du Raz, one of the most visited sites in France. The place was so crowded that a conservation and restoration plan had to be set
up some years ago.
Communauté de Communes (a public institution aimed at the joint development and management of the towns and villages) of Cap Sizun, was created on 17th December 1993. The members are: Audierne, Beuzec-Cap-Sizun, Cléden-Cap-Sizun, Confort-Meilars, Esquibien, Goulien, Mahalon, Plogoff, Plouhinec, Pont-Croix, Primelin and Enez Sun. The Community has its seat in Audierne.
Pointe du Raz (Breton: Berg ar Raz) is a rocky headland of wild beauty protruding out into the Iroise Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Plogoff, as if akin to a giant granite Breton, obstinate and unwilling to leave the sea in peace. With its cliffs towering 72 metres above the sea, it is one of the emblems of the granite coasts of Brittany. As it has achieved world notoriety and visitor numbers have grown, a major environmental plan swung into action to restore the vegetation, mainly Heathers. This involved demolishing two hotels, closing the RD784 beyond the new car park and Visitors Centre that has been built about a kilometre or so back from the cliff edge. The only vehicles allowed to proceed beyond the Visitors Centre are the staff of the Weather Station and the specially built Eco-friendly Shuttle Bus that runs on Natural Gas.
This work was carried out between 1996 and 2000, being financed by the State and local industry, today it is one of the “Grand Site National” of France being managed by a consortium of the Conservatoire du Littoral, the Conseil Général du Finistère and the Communauté de Communes du Cap Sizun.
The new car park costs 6€ per car, regardless of the number of passengers or your length of stay. As you enter, you are given an invitation to collect a FREE map of the area that defines the safe footpaths across the heath and heather from the Information Centre. Come walk with us along the pixie footpaths, lined with gorse and heather, where moor meets ocean and discover the wild beauty of this place, where people’s lives and traditions are inextricably intertwined with the elements. Leave your children in the capable hands of the guides, who will take them on a treasure hunt, following the footsteps of Iwan, the naughty little pixie. Our grandchildren have enjoyed this fun guided walk to the end of the earth, set in the world of legends, full of surprises and lasts one and a half hours.It’s magic!! If you prefer not to walk to the Pointe, there is our Eco-friendly free shuttle bus for your convenience, provided by our friends at Gaz de France Foundation.
Eight kilometres to the west is Enez Sun, islands separated from Pointe du Raz by a strait of such ferocity that in times past it took many a sailing ship. Since the dawn of time this strait has been a very dangerous place to navigate, especially in bad weather and at night because of the ferocious and violent currents. Mariners, who have sailed through this strait have told me; “At times the sea boils”. Hence we get the name Pointe du Raz, the literal translation into English being “ The Point of the Strong Currents”. It is thought that the word “Raz” could be Breton for “Race” as in a tidal race, such as the Severn Bore.
Two lighthouses guard the strait: La Vieille (Ar Groac’h in Breton) , was built between 1882 and 1887 on
La Gorlebella (Breton – The Farthest Rock) replacing the original built in 1829, which now serves as signal station. Towering 70-metres above the raging sea at the end of a mythical world on a chain
of coral reefs. It was lit, for the first time on September 15th 1887, Noël Fouquet, Jean Donnart, Michel Rozenn and Guy Lasbleiz were the last keepers to spend the night, before it was automated on
November 14th 1995, the second to last lighthouse to be automated in France. Its partner, Grand Phare de Ile de Sein (Le Guéveur – Breton: Ar Guéveur, Ar Guiveur) was destroyed by German troops,
having previously looted it of its optical equipment, on August 4th 1944. The building you see today was constructed in 1951/1952. At the northern end of the strait is Phare de Tévennac, built on a
small island between 1869 and 1874. Many myths and legends surround this lighthouse, the most common being that the keepers became insane, that others would suddenly die for inexplicable reasons.
Maybe there is some truth in the stories as this was one of the first to be automated in 1910. The fourth lighthouse, Ar Men, (The rock or stone in Breton), was built between 1867 and 1881 on an
inhospitable rock to the west of Chaussée de Sein.
On the headland is a statue “Notre-Dame des Naufragés” in memory of those who died or were shipwrecked in the strait and the Semaphore/Weather Station. The local people have narrated many legends and the guides at the Visitors Centre have perpetuated these.
L’Enfer de Plogoff, a gallery dug under the headland by the sea is thought to be the place where the dead were brought and laid to rest. Apparently on a still night you can hear the tormented souls moaning.
The beauty of this headland is enhanced by the coastline as it arcs north around the Baie of Trépassés with it’s huge sandy beach to the Pointe du Van and beyond to the Baie du Douarnenez, entry to which is very difficult as it is guarded by and even higher and more solid mass; the Cap de La Chèvre.
To the west of Cléden Cap-Suzun is Pointe du Van, the little sister of Point du Raz, the guardians of Baie des Trépassés. This area is more friable than its bigger sister, thus more susceptible to the ravages of the sea. The walk to the point is somewhat more difficult as there are many rock falls and paths that lead nowhere. Thus it takes longer than you expect to reach the headland. However, the walk is very worthwhile as the are numerous huge boulders to be seen, including the Morgane boulder to the west of Chapelle Saint Thay, which is only metres from the cliff edge.
Between the village of Trouguer and Pointe du Van are the remains of a vast Gallo-Roman settlement, some of which has been excavated, exposing a quadrangle about 120 metres square, particularly the mosaic floor of the thermal bath of the villa. It’s believed that the walls surrounding it were around six metres high.
To the south, the bay extends to Audierne (Gwaien in Breton), a fishing port situated on the estuary of the Goyan, at the foot of a wooded hill. This fishing village with a large sandy beach, in earlier times it was an important fishing harbour, today, it’s a haven for yachts. The only remaining fishing industry in the area is Grand Viviers, a fish farm, with 30 pools of lobsters and crabs, where you can buy the delicacy fresh from the sea. Access to the fish farm is by Quai Pelletan and the scenic coast road. Opposite the fish farm is “La Chauminière”, a thatched cottage furnished with 17th - 18th century Breton furniture and other objects from that era. Keep an eye open for the replica of the early 20th-century Langoustier “Cap-Sizun”, a vessel that was used to catch Langoustines (Crayfish).
Beside the harbour is the main shopping area, with Bars, Cafés, Restaurants, Créperies, Boutiques and Estate Agents as well as the Town Hall and Tourist Office. Saturday mornings are especially busy as that is market day, when the local people and the tourists mingle amongst the stalls.
As you come down from the high ground that surrounds the village, you will see the various Dolmens, Burial Monuments and Tumuli that have been rediscovered in recent years, thus denote that this area was inhabited from around the Neolithic period. It would appear that the harbour possibly dates back to the time of the Roman invasion of Gaul and the Gallo-Roman era as a harbour, Vindana Portus, is known to have been located close to the present day harbour.
At the seaward end of the village is an area known as Esquibien, from here the boat sails daily to Île de Sein, taking all the islanders supplies as well as tourists. Please, do not think you can take your car, as there only a few narrow streets in the village, totally unsuitable for vehicles and a narrow track to the western end of the island. Everybody walks, unless you would like a scenic tour of the island on our cousin’s tractor and trailer!!
Ur pont war ar Gwaien, gant ur vilin-vor, hag eus al lec'h-se ez a straedoù pavezet da grapat war-zu un dosenn hag a gaver, war lein anezhi, savadurioù
relijiel espar hag ur marc'hallac'h, lec'h ma oa bet ur voudenn feodel da gentaii, setu aze kêr-benn bra ar C'hab.
Deuet eo Pontekroaz diwar ur voudenn leodel ha goude-se ur c'hastell, a oa bet savet war ul lec'h dibar. En XIIvet kantved e lakaas aotrouien allec'h sever iliz Itron-Varia Roskudon a zo un arouez eus pinvidigezh Pontekroaz. Diwar an illz-se e vele deuet ur “skol” dibar e Kerne a-let tlsavouriezh. Brudet e oa Pontekroaz war dachenn ar relijion hag er XVllvet kantved e voe savet kouent an Ursulinezed, lec'h ma voe stallet ar c'hloerdl bihan en Xlxvet kantved. Er c'hreiz-ker kozh ez eus bet miret tiez-annez bray eus ar XVvet ha XlXvet kantved, Ti ar Markiz dreist-holl, a oa gwechall un ti nobl, deuet da vezañ mirdi ar Glad. Da-h~ul straed al Liorzhou hag he gloriettaoù, ha goude-se ar ruioù Cher Vihan ha Cher Vras, ez eer betek ar stêr, ar Gwalen hec'h any, hag ar pont a zo stok outañ unan eus ar milinoù-mor koshañ e Breizh. Eno emañ ivez ar porzh kozh gwaskedet a zeue ar bigi donvor betek ennañ gwechall, allec'h pouezus eta evit ar c'henwerzh er c'hornad etre ar XIVvet hag an XlXvet kantved. En tu all d'ar stêr emañ Keridreu, a zo unan eus karteriou koshan Pontekroaz, hag a oa ivez ur greizenn evit a selle ouzh an armerzh gant ul labouradeg pallennerezh hag ur fritur.
Adalek eillodenn an XIXvet kantved e voe dedennet neuzierien ha lennegourien gant Pontekroaz. Dont a reas un asez “oaled an arzou” war wel en-dro da leti ar veajourien. Eno eo bet Paul de Lassence, Lionel Floch. Gaston Bouillon, Da Silva, Max Jacob, Emile Simon, Henri Matisse ... ha hvourien ken brudet all. Kement a awen a vez degaset bepred gant ar straedigoù a gayer an eil re a-us ar re all eus ar pont betek ar beg-douar roc'hellek. Hiziv an deiz ez eus arzourien hag artizaned arz hag a zlskouez e talc'her gant al lans krouln e Pontekroaz.
A bridge over the river Goyen flanked by a tidal
mill and reached by paved, narrow streets heading up towards a summit crowned with remarkable religious buildings and a market place complete the picture presented today by Pont-Croix, originally a
castle mound, such is the modern-day picture of the capital of the Cap Sizun headland.
Pont-Croix developed around a castle mound and subsequently a chateau constructed on this exceptional site. In the 13th century the local lords founded the church of Notre-Dame-de-Roscudon, symbol of the town's wealth and said to be the origin of the development of a Cornouaille "school" of architecture. The spiritual Influence of Pont-Croix persisted through the middle of the 17th century with the establishment of an Ursuline convent which housed the Catholic secondary school in the 19th century. The historic centre contains beautiful 15th- and 16th¬century houses, such as the "Marquisat". an old aristocratic mansion now the heritage museum The Rue des Courtils with its gazebos and the Rues Cheres lead the visitor down towards the river Goyen, Its bridge which has one of the oldest tidal mills In Brittany. This is also the site of the old, sheltered harbour, once accessible to ocean-going ships and key to local trade between the 14th and 19th centuries. On the opposite bank stands Keridreuff, one of the oldest quarters In the settlement which was also a centre for economic activity associated with tapestry weaving and canning.
From the second half of the 19th century, Pont-Croix attracted artists and writers. An "arts club" was formed based in the Hotel des Voyageurs. Paul de Lassence, Lionel Floch, Gaston Bouillon, Da Silva, Max Jacob, Emile Simon, Henri Matisse and many other well-known painters stayed there. The narrow streets that rise in stages up to the rocky promontory are still lust as Inspiring today. Today's artists and crafts¬men show that creativity has remained a continuing and vital feature of Pont-Croix.