Great Brittany

By on January 20, 2014
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France’s northwest corner is an atmospheric Celtic charmer, with a dramatic coastline wrapped by the wild Atlantic. The region is hugely popular with British homebuyers. Fleur Kinson tells you where and what to buy.

It various islands and peninsulas stretching far out from northwest France to embrace the lively Atlantic, Brittany is a region with a special atmosphere all its own. Its rugged and dramatic coast is akin to the wilder parts of Cornwall. Beautiful and unspoilt, Brittany’s coast is second only to France’s gilded Mediterranean Côte d’Azur in terms of visitor popularity. Meanwhile, the region’s culture is a bewitching mixture of French and Celtic. The Bretons are an artistic and musical bunch, as well as a tough and resilient one, and the Breton language (which is as Celtic as Irish or Welsh) still thrives. Ancient stone circles, dolmens and menhirs complete the mystic magic.

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Historically, Brittany was part of ancient Britain. This was in the days when sea travel was easier than overland travel. And you might be surprised to learn that this small French region is the reason we are still called ‘Great’ Britain today. ‘Brittania Major’ was a term used to distinguish our large island from ‘Brittania Minor’ (Brittany) across the sea to our south. Big Britain and Little Britain. There’s still an intimate connection between our nation and this sea-gazing French region today – with British homebuyers being among the most smitten with the area. Brits and Parisians form the majority of holiday-home owners in Brittany. There are around 8,000 homes owned by Brits who live permanently elsewhere. And substantial numbers come to Brittany to retire, or simply to start a new life surrounded by countryside and coast.

Proximity to Britain puts Brittany within short, easy reach. There are ferry links in Roscoff and Saint-Malo, and airline connections in Brest and Rennes. For all its rural charm, Brittany’s road and rail networks are well-developed – providing good access to other destinations in France. The parts of Brittany most popular with British buyers are the Morbihan gulf, the Côtes d’Armor and Finistère. Houses in these places ask between €150,000 and €250,000 on average. Or you might look inland and away from any of the larger towns to find lower prices. While popular coastal areas see abundant modern apartments, inland Brittany is dominated by houses built of local stone with traditional grey slate roofs. There are renovation projects to be had here too, and these can prove a good route to an ideal home at a low cost.

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Brittany’s property market remained relatively unscathed by the recent economic downturn that has troubled the property markets of so many other places. Older and inland properties were the most affected, with sales slowing and prices sinking a little. Such properties might make a wise buy right now, as you’ll be getting more home for your money than you would have done several years ago. Newer, coastal properties, meanwhile, have been least affected by the international financial crisis – especially those in Brittany’s most popular resorts. The minimal amount of damage done to Brittany’s property market overall by the recent crisis certainly points to what a safe and stable area this is. Homes in Brittany have robust value.

Naturally, such a popular part of France enjoys very strong holiday rental prospects. You might choose a home near a place of particular interest to tourists, such as Quiberon, Vannes, Carnac or Saint-Malo. Just about anywhere on the coast is going to appeal to visitors. But inland areas also receive ample holiday rental clientele – especially where the sea is only a dozen or so miles away. Brittany is blessed with some truly charming inland villages which are visitor attractions in themselves. A rural home with a sense of privacy and seclusion, near a lovely village and not too far from the sea, will surely pull in the rental clients.

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Brittany provides a quick and easy getaway for British lovers of France and the French way of doing things. While the landscapes are reminiscent of the western extremes of our own big island, the weather is better and the unique French savoir-faire is everywhere in evidence – in the wonderful food and wine, the strong sense of community, and the easygoing pace of life. A home in Brittany provides you with a delightful mix of the half-familiar and the deliciously exotic. What’s more, you get to carry on the tradition of our ancient ancestors, who were always popping over to ‘Little Britain’ from ‘Big Britain’ and back again!

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