|28 September 2009
The Penmarch peninsula, on the very far bottom left of the sticky-out bit of Brittany, is exceptionally rich in prehistoric monuments, perhaps only second to the Carnac area in their frequency and variety.
We tried to use only our road maps, whatever road signs we stumbled across and a 1984 edition of Burl's 'Megalithic Brittany' to find our way around. But they weren't good enough. There is so much here you need a really good guide if you can one. We eventually found a copy of 'La Bretagne des Megaliths', by Pierre-Roland Giot, published by Editions OUEST-FRANCE (Itineraires de Decouvertes), (ISBN 978-2-7373-4236-3) in a supermarket the day before we came home. Too late to help us, but we bought it anyway. It's in French, but as a complete gazetteer it'll be enough in combination with the blue maps to get you around so you don't miss stuff.
We started with the Kerugou dolmen
In the fields by a bucolic lane near Plomeur, the Kerugou dolmen is actually a dinky T-shaped passage grave with two chambers at the far end of the passage. Its still got one capstone up which looks at first sight like two because of the way it has been restored. The whole monument stands proud; the lane passing it is at a lower level than the field its in so as you approach it looks much bigger than it actually is.
I noticed a strange smooth round cylindrical stone right next the monument lying on its side. It was in the unmistakeable shape of a giant penis. None of the books or info I can find about this site mentions it at all. Very weird.
Next came the chambered tomb on the Pointe de la Torche.
It's in a very dramatic setting, right up on a little headland, sticking out between two wide sandy beaches popular with surfers. It's next to a massive concrete structure which was probably some kind of war emplacement. As well as a central passage it's got five chambers; they're a bit difficult to 'read' as the monument is in some state of disrepair, but it's well worth going to see it for it's gorgeous seaside location alone.
Now clearly 'La Musee Prehistorique' is not in itself a prehistoric monument, but the sheer number of prehistoric monuments which have been saved and re-erected in its grounds make it worthy of inclusion on the website – and not just as a 'facility'.
I'm not going to list them all, because there are so many – cists, menhirs, dolmens, stele, and get this, the complete restoration of an entire allee couverte which was saved from destruction and rebuilt here, stone by stone.
Musée de la Préhistoire Finistérienne
657 Rue du Musée Préhistorique
Phone: 02 98 58 60 35 / 06 83 54 63 39
Easy parking opposite.
There are so many menhirs around Penmarc'h that I was beginning to suffer from menhir-fatigue. I now only wanted to see the biggest or most spectacular in some way. And so we found the Kerscaven menhir.
It's at the far side of a field which is clearly marked 'Private Property' so we didn't venture too close, but even from a distance we could see it was really big – 9 ms tall - and dramatic. It has a wider splaying top, down which run deep ridges formed from weathering. From the side you can see it's actually wedge shaped. Whether it was originally like this, or it is just weathering that has caused this wedge shape is hard to tell.
It's one of the largest menhirs in Penmarc'h.
We found it just hanging out in a dense wooded hedge down a lane just north of the D785. A nice passage, big stones and two capstones.
At Quélarn, near Plobannalec, we found a complex site with all kinds of monuments going on: cists, chambers, and dolmens abound. There are three passage graves, all of which are quite trashed, and it takes some imagination to 'rebuild' them in your mind.
There are zillions of other menhirs and some very sexy dolmens near Plobannalec such as Tronval, Rue Jules Ferry, Kervadol, and Kervignon. But we missed them as we didn't have a good enough map, nor the aforementioned ace bookie by Pierre-Roland Giot. So plentiful are they that most don't have road signs.
I thought we'd have trouble finding the Kerfland alignment.
I think in the end we stumbled across the Kerfland alignment – I know we asked at a farm and an old blokey told us to go left and left again, pointing roughly in the direstion we needed to go. There might have been a sign; anyway, we found them down a path off a narrow lane and they were well worth it.
Among the trees stand 3 tall menhirs about 3 or 4ms tall stand very close together, perhaps on 1 or 2ms apart. Each stone was a broad flat blade, weathered at the top and they were lined up in a row, narrow edge to narrow edge. They reminded me a lot of the stones at Stenness.
At Lechiagat we found the mighty menhir du Lehan.
Paddling in the marsh at the back of dunes, alongside egrets and herons, the menhir du Lehan stands 6.5ms tall. It would be a pretty ordinary sort of menhir anywhere else around here, but with its feet in the water it looked great.Perhaps just 1.5kms away from Lehan is another whopper, the menhir du Reun.
This handsome beast is six metres tall (although it seems taller) and standing, somehow, among flat bedrock outcrops. We could get right up to it, and today it was glowing warm with sunshine. It's an absolute beauty, really chunky and thick. It feels sooo heavy. How they hell they cut it, moved it and raised it I can't imagine. Nearby on some of the outcrops are cup marks.This blog by no means charts all the monuments you can see in such a small area. Grab yourself a copy of Pierre-Roland Giot's book and check out the rest for yourself.