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Contact Fax (by appointment) :
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Headquarters : 5 Hent Meneyer, 29 950 Gouesnac'h, France.
Postal address : 2 impasse de Kervégant, 29 350 Moëlan sur mer, France.

The Ponant Isles, focus on: Sein, Ouessant and the Molène Archipelago

Classed as a ‘Biosphere Reserve’ by UNESCO, and part of the Armorique Regional Park, the island of Ouessant and the Molène Archipelago offer a striking vision of untamed beauty, and their powerful lighthouses watch over one of the busiest seafaring routes in the world, the Rail d’Ouessant. Molène has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and Ouessant is redolent of Ireland. These are among the Ponant Isles, alongside Groix and Belle-Ile in Morbihan, the Glénan Archipelago in southern Finistère, and many others, because this grouping brings together fifteen islands, all of which are have permanent inhabitants. Starting from the English Channel (from north to south) they are: Chausey Archipelago, Ile de Bréhat, Ile de Batz, Ile d’Ouessant, Ile de Molène, Ile de Sein, Glénan Archipelago, Ile de Groix, Belle-Île, Ile de Houat, Ile d’Hoëdic, Ile-aux-Moines, Ile d’Arz, Ile d’Yeu and Ile d’Aix. In fact, the islands located off the west coast of France, in the Channel and the Atlantic, form a long archipelago which is referred to as the Iles du Ponant. This name is due to their geographic location, as the word ‘ponant’ means ‘where the sun sets’.
Features these islands have in common are that they have a status of ‘local collectivity’ (usually a ‘commune’, an administrative district), and that none of them have a road access link with the mainland (neither bridges nor tunnels).


Island life: pros and cons

Living on an island means being part of a small world, characterised by human kindness, solidarity and a feeling of pride in living in such a unique place, fiercely protected by the sea. It’s a truly special life! But there are also social constraints, living in a community where everyone knows everyone… the worry when there is an accident and when the weather is unfavourable when the helicopter is due to land. Transport limitations can also be frustrating, in an era when travel elsewhere is quick and easy. Services such as banks, bakeries and so on are few and far between. Other disadvantages include the high cost of living, lack of employment, competition over property, etc. These factors can vary greatly from one island to another.
Therefore, living on an island above all means a different way of life. Due to the isolated nature of an island, inhabitants must have employment, accommodation and services available in one place. If one of these elements is missing, it can be more like exile. Choosing or rejecting island life is often down to personal or economic reasons.


Discover our islands in northern Finistère

The island of Molène has been inhabited since prehistoric times. 1200 metres long and 800 metres wide, it is flanked by the smaller islands of Balaneg, Bannec, Béniguet, Quéménes and Triélen, and the archipelago is a UNESCO site, notable for the quality of its littoral and its coastal waters. 277 people live in the village on Molène, which faces away from the dominant winds, and its fishing port is sheltered to the east by the isle of Lédénes and to the south by a shingle bar. Lobster and kelp are the island’s main resources, along with some tourism, a hotel and a campsite. The name Molène means ‘bare island’, and indeed it has very little vegetation, and a lot of plots of land fairly cheek to jowl. In the village, the houses nestle around the church of Saint Renan and the semaphore station, a sentinel of navigation, from which a vast panorama opens up over the archipelago of little isles covered with kelp. It takes about an hour to walk around the island. Places of interest include the museum about Drummond Castle, an English liner which was shipwrecked here and whose rescue by the people of Molène gained official recognition from the British Crown. The marine wildlife that can be seen here includes: dolphins, grey seals, sea otters, and sea birds.



Molène




Classed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the island of Ouessant is part of the Armorique Regional Park. To get there, take a ferry from Brest, or from Le Conquet, a superb 45 minute ride during which you will be able to admire: Saint Mathieu cape, the Chenal du Four channel, the Pierres Noires and Pierres Vertes reefs, and the Molène archipelago. Hiring a bicycle is a must in order to explore the island… especially its prestigious lighthouses, which light the famous Rail d’Ouessant, one of the busiest and most dangerous shipping lanes in the world. As well as the lighthouses themselves – Créac’h, Jument, Stiff, Nividic – there is also a museum dedicated to them, Le Musée des Phares et Balises. Other things to see are the Ecomuseum and the Saint-Paul-Aurélien church, there are the many local specialities such as mutton stew to taste, and with its drystone walls Ouessant has a look of Ireland about it… Beautiful beaches of differing sizes and a stunning granite coastline. The charming village of Lampaul is the main settlement on the island, which is 7km long and 4km wide. Traditionally the menfolk were fishermen, and the women tended the land, the sheep and the home. A unique and special atmosphere emanates from this territory at the western end of the earth, and one cannot remain untouched by the colours or the force of the elements here.



à l'ouest de Ouessant




Both robust and fragile, the isle of Sein constantly defies the storms that rage around it, and allows itself to be caressed by sea breezes; it sits, like a mirage, due west on the blue horizon. Boats to Sein depart from Audierne, and during the crossing there is a superb view of the emblematic Pointe du Raz headland with its famous lighthouses. With a population of 250 in winter and 1500 in summer, the only means of transport on the island is on foot, and there are very few shops. Just a strip of sand and rocks, the village and the port, and of course the lighthouses, witnesses to the lifesaving expertise of the people of Sein. The island is within the protected area of the Armorique natural park.



Le Phare de Sein



On your next trip to Brittany, why not discover the islands; take the boat over in the morning, hire bikes for the day, and catch the ferry back as the sun sets in the west…

Philippe