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L’Île de Batz: heavenly

L’Île de Batz: heavenly

Georges Rouzeau - 2009-06-08

Really get away from it all with an island holiday! Amongst the beautiful islands along France’s Atlantic coast, we visited the Île de Batz, the Île Vierge and the Molène archipelago’s Île de Quéménès, all in Brittany’s Finistère département.

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the island’s climate is particularly benign. It makes the ideal hideaway - perfect for a stroll, a bike ride (the best way to visit the island), or just relaxing in a quiet, windless cove. There is absolutely nothing to do on Batz, except indulge in that most essential of pursuits: taking the time to savour life. In fact, the island is often listed in French women’s magazines as being one of the best places to relax and replenish the soul.
The coast has many appealing white, sandy beaches. Those of the north-east, protected from the fierce waves and currents which buffet the western point of the island, are calmest. The best-known of these beaches is La Grève Blanche (Aod Venn).
The beaches of the south-west, near the lighthouse, are also worth a visit. Here you will find what our guide and taxi driver, Monsieur Cabioch, called ‘the most beautiful and least expensive campground in Brittany.’ True, there isn’t too much in the way of facilities - the Conservatoire du Littoral (Shoreline Conservation Authority) sees to that - but the view is magnificent.
At ebb tide a large section of the foreshore is exposed, turning the Île de Batz into a shellfish gatherers’ paradise. In addition, an extraordinarily diverse collection of seaweed awaits discovery - specialists have identified over 650 varieties.
The island (especially the northern part) is also the idyllic domain of market-garden farmers who grow top-quality early produce and harvest it up to a month earlier than their mainland peers. Shallots, lettuce, potatoes, cauliflower and fennel are cultivated in countless plots enriched beforehand with seaweed wrack.
There are still a few fishermen whose main catch consists of rays, monkfish and burbot. Some also set pots for langoustes and lobsters, but sadly, most are sold mainland in the Roscoff fish-markets.
To say that there’s nothing to do on the Île de Batz is only a slight exaggeration, but no sojourn is complete without a climb to the top of the lighthouse. Built from multi-hued granite in 1833-36, it is 44 metres high and provides a fine view of the Bay of Roscoff.
Finally, the Jardin Georges Delaselle is an enchanting and memorable visit. Delaselle was a Parisian insurance broker who fell in love with the island in 1897 and spent everything he had in order to create an exotic garden in the colonial style.
Often working alone, over the space of approximately thirty years he moved  several dozen tons of soil, built walls and dug basins surrounded by cypress trees to protect his plants from the violent winds.
Sold in 1937 and handed over to a works council in 1957, the garden very nearly disappeared completely in the early 1980s. Beginning in 1987, a handful of volunteers set out to save it from ruin, and it was bought in 1997 by the Conservatoire du Littoral.
Its resurrection has been exemplary. Two-thirds of the 2,000 plants, trees and shrubs which flourish there today come from southern lands such as China, New Zealand, South Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, Mexico and the Canary Islands.
With the rebirth of this Garden of Eden, Batz has confirmed its place in paradise.
Practical information
Syndicat d’initiative (tourist office)
29253 Ile de Batz
Tel: 02 98 61 75 70
Ferries to Batz leave from Roscoff’s Old Port (€ 7.50 return).
Eating out
La Cassonade
Le Débarcadère
29253 Ile de Batz
Tel: 02 98 61 75 25
An excellent creperie on the old port favouring local and natural ingredients. Bicycles for hire.
Taxi and guided tour:
Fabrice Cabioch
Tel: 06 09 45 23 64
Where to stay
La Maison du Bonheur
29253 Ile de Batz
Tel: 02 98 61 74 38/ 06 72 64 32 10.
Janine Creach
29253 Ile de Batz
Ty Va Zadou
Marie-Pierre and Jean Prigent
Le Bourg
29253 Ile de Batz
Tel: 02 98 61 76 91
The tourist office provides a list of the accommodation (including a hotel) available on the island.

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