Huelgoat in Brittany is a secluded village, nestled in the Monts d'Arrée, that is home to the magical Forêt d'Huelgoat where unusual rock formations and fascinating myths and legends abound.
Meaning 'high wood' in Breton, Huelgoat was once the home of a Celtic Iron Age settlement and archaeologists have uncovered the ancient Celts' defences in the woods. Part of the Armorique Natural Regional Park, the Forêt d'Huelgoat is looked after by the French National Forest Authority. A remarkable area of amazing geology and rich in discoveries of prehistory, the forest is a mystical place associated with Arthurian and Christian myths and legends as well as some magical creatures. The village lies on an artificial lake which was built to provide water for the silver and lead mining industries that took place nearby. Today, it is a great place to go fishing with carp, pike, tench and perch among the species to be found here. On its bank sits an 18th century watermill that leads into the forest.
The Forêt d'Huelgoat is an enchanting forest where the River Argent splits into rushing streams and pretty pools with stepping stones, and waterfalls. At La Mare au Fées, the fairy pool, it is said that fairies comb their hair with golden combs beside the pool to see their reflections, whilst the boars' pool is so-named as the wild boars of the forest used to come here to drink. The forest is strewn with moss-covered boulders, said to have been hurled by the giant Gargantua who did not appreciate the boiled buckwheat broth the villagers gave him to stave off his hunger. Several striking rock formations have earned intriguing names such as the devil's grotto, Arthur's cave, where it is said he left some of his treasure, and a cave where a little imagination will open your eyes to the home of the Virgin Mary with a cauldron, ladle, bed and butter churn amonst other objects said to have been created from the rocks. The Celtic defences are also known as the Camp d'Artus, Arthur's camp.
Ever wanted to move a 100 tonne rock? La Roche Tremblante, or trembling rock is a huge megalith that pivots when weight is applied in a certain place - even a small child can move it! Little ones will also love Le Champignon, two boulders resembling a giant mushroom. If you look closely, perhaps you'll see fairies or korrigans, Breton spirits, moving about the beeches, oaks, and chestnuts or hiding amongst the ferns. Silver firs and Scots pines can also be found here. There is a circular signposted path from the watermill on the lake to explore the forest, or you can also take a tour to learn about the myths and legends of the forest. Writers and artists alike have been inspired by this bewitching place and there are many craftsmen and artisans in the town including ceramicists, leather makers, jewellers and enamellers. The Atelier Bozoc in one of the village's oldest buildings, is the workshop of Sylvie Bozoc, a painter and sculptor who opens her workshop to the public. The 15th century Chapel of Our Lady of Heaven was restored in 2006 and is made from local granite. The chapel's sacred fountain was built in the 17th century and can be found near the Arboretum de Poërop. The arboretum contains 1000s of trees and shrubs from around the world, including eucalyptus from Australia and medicinal plants from the Himalayas, and has beautiful views of the traditional Finistère countryside.
The village has lots of quaint shops, cafés, and crêperies - including one in a clearing in the woods! Try some locally made jams and marmalades, mushrooms such as chanterelles and padfoots, and local honey. Crêpes and their savoury buckwheat versions, called galettes, are extremely popular here. The traditional Breton dish of kig ha farz, meaning meat and stuffing, is also well worth a try. Made from a stuffing mixture, the farz is simmered in a broth whilst inside a cloth bag and the dish served with a variety of meats and vegetables. Like many traditional recipes, the exact ingredients vary from cook to cook depending on how their families cooked it! Along with restaurants across Brittany, fish and seafood from the coast also feature on the menus in Huelgoat. Enjoy your meal with some cidre Breton, the local cider, or a glass of locally produced mead.
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