An insider’s guide to Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany, including the main attractions to visit on holiday, the best towns and villages to live in, the major festivals and events, and buying property in Ille-et-Vilaine
The easternmost department in Brittany, Ille-et-Vilaine borders the regions of Normandy and Pays de la Loire which include the departments of Loire-Atlantique and Mayenne which surround Ille-et-Vilaine.
Popular with British holidaymakers and expats alike due to its close proximity to the UK, warm summers and mild winters, Ille-et-Vilaine has something to suit all tastes.
The gateway to Brittany, the department is renowned with travellers for its unspoilt coastline which stretches from Mont-St-Michael to St-Briac-sur-Mer, linking the ports of Cancale, St-Malo and Dinard, its varied landscape of countryside, medieval forts and elegant châteaux, and the vibrant city life of the department’s capital Rennes.
Plane: There are airports in Rennes and Dinard
By train: Eurostar to Paris and jump on the TGV to Rennes
By road: Rennes is 523km from Calais
By sea: The ferry port of St-Malo welcomes regular ferries from Portsmouth, Plymouth, Poole and Weymouth
Places to visit in Ille-et-Vilaine
Rennes is both the departmental capital of Ille-et-Vilaine and the regional capital of Brittany. In addition to a wealth of museums and stunning historic architecture to marvel at, there are numerous parks and public gardens to explore including the pretty, and perfectly manicured, Parc du Thabor.
While visiting the city allow time for browsing the large Saturday morning food and flower market in the Place des Lices in the elegant old quarter.
The department boasts a number of enchanting towns, including St-Malo. The bustling seaport was the earliest important town to develop along this stretch of coast, and during the ‘le tour des murs’ walk, you can discover the ancient ramparts which still guard the cobbled streets within.
Another delightful place is Dinard, first settled by St-Malo’s shipping merchants who built some of the town’s magnificent houses. Dubbed ‘la perle’ of the department’s Emerald Coast, it became a leading resort in the mid-19th century for the well-heeled from Britain, America and Paris. Nowadays expect lovely views of St-Malo from the coastal paths and several beautiful sandy beaches, complete with emblematic blue-and-white-striped tents.
Things to do in Ille-et-Vilaine
For those seeking peace and quiet, Ille-et-Vilaine’s La Forêt de Brocéliande is the place to go. With links to Arthurian mythology, it’s an enchanting place to visit, even if the 19th-century Celtic groups initially involved with its creation had a more romantic than historical approach. The Château de Trécesson, Tréhorenteuc village, Les Forges de Paimpont, Le Miroir aux Fées and Le Val-sans-Retour are all woven into the story.
The Pointe de Grouin headland to the north of the attractive fishing village of Cancale provides the ultimate viewing platform for the sparkling waters below, while the town of Cancale itself is worth a visit if just to sample its famed oysters.
Naturally seafood forms the base of many local dishes – mussels, oysters, whelks, lobster. Crêpes and galettes – sweet and savoury pancakes – are popular throughout Brittany, while Kouign-amman is a delicious Breton cake made with butter and sugar which is best sampled when piping hot.
Buying property in Ille-et-Vilaine
There are a range of property styles and prices in Ille-et-Vilaine from exposed stone and beamed fisherman cottages boasting beautiful views over the sea, large farmhouses with plenty of land and luxury Malouiniere houses found, as the name suggests, in St-Malo dating back to the 17th and 18th century.
The average property price in this department is around €182,000, a touch more expensive than the average property price in France (€157,600), and the most expensive department in the Brittany region (€149,000).
As you may expect property prices do vary throughout Ille-et-Vilaine, with the most expensive being the department’s vibrant capital Rennes with an average property price of €325,200 while Redon has an average property price of €122,700 and Fougères of €123,000.
You can find properties in Ille-et-Vilaine for sale on the France Property Shop website.
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