After visiting Saint Malo and Dinan, we headed south to our next accommodations (affiliate link) in Vannes. We really wanted to see the megaliths and Vannes was nicely located to both Carnac and Locmariaquer.
Originally, we really debated if it was worth the extra drive time to see the megaliths (it added 2 hours to get down there and then another extra hour to drive home at the end of our trip). I even asked a travel group that I’m a part of on facebook, Club Bebe Voyage, if anyone had gone before and if it was worth visiting. I knew that I really wanted to see them, but I was worried it wasn’t going to live up to what I was imagining in my head. Luckily another group member posted a photo of herself and her baby next to a megalith on my post and that helped to give a little extra nudge towards going.
The megaliths far exceeded anything I had imagined. There were so many of them and none of the sites were very crowded with it being November. We visited two areas: Locmariaquer and Carnac. They were within 30 minutes of each other and both were also 30 minutes from the place we were staying in Vannes.
When we woke up, it was pouring rain and so we originally planned on going to the Musée de préhistoire à Carnac first… which of course was closed until 2pm. So, we drove down to Locmariaquer and figured if we had time this afternoon, we could check out the museum after seeing the megaliths.
Locmariaquer had a little visitor’s center and was thankfully open for another couple of hours (they close for lunch during the off season). We watched a short film about the sites we were about to see and then headed out into the rain to explore the area.
Locmariaquer has 3 ancient sites: the Er-Grah tumulus (a passage grave), a dolmen called the Table des Marchand, and The Broken Menhir of Er-Grah. A path leads you along to see all three before heading back to the visitor’s center.
The Er-Grah is 140 metres long and dates back to around 3300 BC. It was the first thing we saw and while it was still really neat, it was definitely less impressive than the next two.
The dolmen was next and we were so excited to actually be able to go inside! For a long time, the dolmen was fully exposed and above ground until 1993 when it’s original appearance was reconstructed and thus protecting the contents inside. We loved walking inside and seeing the drawings on the stones.
Last was the menhir. It was thought that it was broken around 4000 BC. It is 20.6 metres long and weighs an impressive 330 tonnes. Today, scientists are still divided on how the people were able to transport the menhir. It’s truly amazing to think about!
When I originally looked up information about Carnac (which there really isn’t too much of), I pictured a similar thing to Locmariaquer where you showed up to a specific place and saw a field of megaliths that you could walk around.
It turns out that there are many sites in and around Carnac that all have row after row of megaliths (and a few even have menhirs and dolmens). While trying to find the Carnac megaliths, we stumbled upon a field of megaliths next to an equestrian school (I found out later that these were the Kermario alignments). We stopped and had a great time wandering through the field looking at all the stones. Best of all, no one else was there!
Well, we still weren’t sure where we should be going exactly, but luckily we found the visitor’s center (Maison des Megaliths) fairly quickly afterwards where we were able to pick up a map of where each site was located (and what was at each site). The map was incredibly helpful and better than any information we had found online.
Right across the street from Maison des Megaliths was a huge field of megaliths so we headed over there next. There were a few other people here, but still not busy at all. Plus the rain had completely stopped at this point so it was a great time to be out walking around.
There is still a lot of mystery around the megaliths. Most date back to around 3300 BC, but scientists are still unsure what they were used for or why they’re always in straight rows.
One fun little myth that I found on wikipedia when looking up information, was that Merlin turned a Roman legion to stone (and that’s why they’re in such straight lines).
To end our day, we headed back towards the Kermario megaliths towards where we would find the Manio Giant, a single massive menhir that stands over 6.5 metres tall.
Once we parked, it was a bit of a walk to the actual menhir. We mostly carried our girls or let them walk at times (the stroller would have been difficult to use). It was a nice walk though and was next to the equestrian school again so we got to see lots of horses along the way (much to Adeline’s delight).
When we got there, we first saw the Manio quadrilateral and then nearby was the menhir itself. Both were super interesting to see and a great way to end the day!
Some Final Thoughts:
- If you visit during the off season, make sure to check the hours for everything! And not just Google – more than once Google had completely different hours listed than what was actually correct (due to it, again, being the off-season).
- In Carnac, visit the Maison des Megalithes first to get an amazing map of where the different sites are.
- We got the coolest childrens’ book at the Locmariaquer visitor’s center. It’s called La Bretagne and has tons and tons of information on Brittany (way more than what we could find online…). We only saw it in French, but it is the cutest book ever (and still fairly easy to read if your French is as basic as mine 😉 ). We actually planned our final day in Brittany based off one of the castles it talked about in the book (more on that in a later post).