"Ile d'Houat - "le Canard"" Houat by maykal

Houat Travel Guide: 4 reviews and 2 photos

When you are 14, obsessed with travel, and you've spent most of the year trying to persuade your parents that a holiday somewhere in Africa or South America really is a very good idea, the announcement that the family summer holiday will take place in France comes as something of a letdown. France?! But I've been there...it is cold, it is like Britain. France is for depressing school trips being sent to la poste to buy timbres for the sake of practising your bl**dy French. What's wrong with Albania?

Once I'd realised I'd never get anywhere by arguing, I consigned myself to France. If it had to be France, then I would find the remotest place, preferably the furthest place from Britain. The Pyrenees looked good, Corsica even better. Brittany? No way, I'm going to freeze. That's like Cornwall with croissants, isn't it?

So Brittany it was. For the third time. I was not a happy bunny in the car on the way down. Actually downright sour would be a better description. Too young to head off on my own, I took consolation in the fact that my older brother was coming along too, hopefully meaning I could escape the hired gite at least once or twice...and two against two is always a better way to persuade the parents to go out exploring.

We were based in a little seaside village called Penvins, on the Presqu'ile du Rhys on the south coast of Bretagne. Misty and miserable weather greeted us on arrival, providing me with valid arguments that we would have been better off in Senegal. My Mum made a stoic attempt to raise spirits by sitting in the drizzle in a suntop, screeching, "isn't this lovely!"...the stoic moment passed quickly as the downpout thickened. The following day however, I ate my words as the sun came out, I went swimming in the sea (albeit a rather chilly one) and realised that there were several islands around to visit.

The Golfe du Morbihan had plenty, and we made boat trips to a couple of them, but with the mainland completely surrounding them, they didn't really do it for me. Belle Ile sounded good, but a little too large for me. No, the ones that really interested me were the two tiny isles of Houat and Hoedic, lying a couple of hours out into the Atlantic.

It took hours of persuasion, and a bit of luck to find a sunny enough day, but eventually my brother and I embarked a smallish boat and we sped out into the choppy waves of the Atlantic, a tiny dot of land on the horizon our destination.

Ile d'Houat (which means le canard or the duck in the Breton language) is small enough to walk around in one day, big enough to lose the crowds (if there appear to be any, and in high summer there didn't). The small village is full of typical Breton houses, all quaint and cobbly, and down by the picturesque harbour, a number of cafes spread out tables by the water. However, we hadn't come for villages or to stuff ourselves on langoustines...no, we'd come to Houat for the spectacular beaches.

A ten minute walk from the harbour, we found the most beautiful of Houat's plages, a wide strip of white sand curving round a bay and doubling back on itself round the headland. The water was crystal clear, the waves totally still. Enough yachts moored offshore gave it the impression of being somewhere in the French Caribbean.

Nice as it was, I've never much enjoyed swimming in a dead sea, so we climbed a small hill at the end of a beach, tramped down the other side, and found our wild crashing waves. Another wide bay of white sand, but this time with an animated sea and enough wind to whip that towel from around your legs just at the moment when your pants are round your ankles (at 14 with an uneven tan, you worry about such matters!).

After nearly losing our swimming gear to a rogue wave, attempting to bodyboard without the board, and giggling at other bathers who'd been overpowered by the surf and found themselves looking like drowned rats in the shallows, we packed up and set off to explore the rest of the island. With three hours before the boat left, I wanted to see as much as possible, so we walked at a ridiculous pace, storming round the coastline, surprising closet nudists who'd thought they'd found their own private cove, deciding which remote house would be the best to live in, and munching on petits beurres. All too soon, it was time to go, not without the obligatory "will we make it" dash to the harbour which seems to cause excitement on most island day trips.

Houat could have remained in the depths of my memory had I not come across a stray photo of me looking very white on a beach. It took some remembering before coming to the conclusion that this was Houat. A couple more pictures were tracked down, and I'm sure there must be more somewhere, but organized is not a frequently-used adjective in this house.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed my witterings, and inshallah a few more pictures will be dug out soon. Practical details may be a bit thin on the ground, but I'm sure the general feel for the island hasn't changed all that much in 10 years...it seems to be one of those places, and as long as it is stuck out in the Atlantic, I don't think mass-tourism will do too much damage. One day I would like to re-visit Houat, perhaps also going one step beyond to the even more remote and even smaller Ile d'Hoedic, which looms in the distance. Again, the question is when?

  • Last visit to Houat: Jul 1994
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (4)

Comments (2)

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Jan 23, 2009 at 3:57 AM

    The duck island seems charming. (But doesn't it also mean malicious rumour?)

  • nickandchris's Profile Photo
    Feb 17, 2007 at 10:41 AM

    What a great story!! Not quite the far-away off the beaten track holiday you had yearned for but you made it an adventure of your own. Great ramblings.....



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