Brittany delivers the goods for a family camping holiday

Although a late convert, Eoin English is smitten with family holidays ‘en France’.

Brittany delivers the goods for a family camping holiday

It’s normally the kind of errand that would fill me with dread — a 7am walk to the shop for bread and milk.

But not while on a camping holiday in France. I volunteer for the mission every day. Well, most days anyway, depending on the previous night’s volume of wine consumption.

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s just a two-minute stroll away — or five in flip-flops.

Maybe it’s the warm, early-morning sunshine and the wonderful aroma of freshly baked croissants and baguettes wafting amongst the campsite hedgerows.

Maybe it’s pretending to myself that my chats with the shop keeper, using my best Leaving Cert French coloured with the wonderful Cork accent, prove that I could actually live and work full-time in France.

Or maybe it’s barbecuing for dinner every evening and watching the wisps of smoke spiral up through the pine trees while sipping a beer or enjoying a €4 bottle of wine you know you’d pay €14 for back home.

Whatever the reason, I’m smitten with camping ‘en France’.

I’m a late convert — travelling to the north west of Brittany first about eight years ago when our eldest was a toddler, and again when our second boy was two.

It’s our kind of holiday — self-catering, relaxed, chilled out and focused on the kids — which has left us with cherished memories.

So with three kids in tow, we travelled with Brittany Ferries again — but this time to southern Brittany with Eurocamp.

Eurocamp’s user-friendly website includes customer reviews of all their campsites and features video postcards which gave a good impression of the facilities.

The coastal parc, Beg Meil l’Atlantique, ticked all of our boxes — not too far from Roscoff ferry port, a nice pool complex, and a safe, sandy beach nearby.

The Eurocamp couriers based there texted a few days before we sailed to say they were ready and waiting — and when I asked for a weather update, they replied with good news.

We sailed from Ringaskiddy in Co Cork on board the Pont-Aven on Saturday afternoon and woke up in Roscoff at 5am the next day.

Within three hours, we were sitting outside our spotlessly clean three-bedroom ‘classic plus’ caravan, which came with a high chair, booster seat, and a deck guard.

Three brief power cuts aside — all dealt quickly with by ever-smiling courier Natalie — the campsite impressed us, and passed the ‘would you go back again’ test.

Like other sites, it has a little supermarket and a bar. But it had a fantastic pool complex, a playground, basketball, tennis and soccer pitches.

Our boys (aged nine and seven) really enjoyed Eurocamp’s free kids’ camp activities run by Jen, Hilde and Kristel.

The night-time entertainment is yours to take or leave. We left it, spending most evenings in the playground with the kids, or watching them play with the neighbours’ kids.

The campsite’s takeaway struggled to cope with a large queue the one evening we opted for pizza. We didn’t even get to place an order.

You could spend your time on the site and never get bored, but we like to get out.

A long, safe, sandy beach is a 10-minute walk through the Marais de Fouesnant, a protected area of marsh and pine forest criss-crossed with walking paths and bike trails. Bike hire is available on site and it’s just five kilometres to the wonderful sand bar near Mousterlin, and the peaceful lagoon located behind its protected dunes.

The Le Grande Large bar right on the Pointe de Mousterlin a kilometre further west is a gorgeous spot to watch the sun go down.

The parc was also an excellent base from where to explore the region — a mixture of lush pine forests, green fields, sandy beaches backed by wooded dunes, nature reserves and pretty harbour towns.

Benodet, a bustling town wrapped around an arc-shaped beach which backs right up on to the main strip, is known for its water-sports, especially sailing, and its high-end spas and restaurants, from where the ferry for the protected Iles Des Glenan sails.

A thriving artisan market at the west end of the town is well worth a visit, with a wide variety of local meats, cheeses, and leather goods on offer, as well as the obligatory crepes.

We ate in Le Sans Sousi, which has a terrace overlooking the beach and harbour. It was €70 for one starter, four main courses and four soft drinks, and the kids fulfilled their long-held ambition to taste escargot.

With a nice mix of pool, beach and cultural trips and activities, all enjoyed under almost constant blue skies and balmy temperatures, hovering around 22C, Brittany delivered again for us.

Things to do

L’Aquarium Audierne

Perched on a stunning site overlooking the estuary in the scenic fishing village of Audierne, the aquarium is about an hour’s drive north of the campsite.

Amongst the incredible display of fish is a huge luminous tube of jellyfish, soothing enough to enduce sleep and a tank which allows visitors touch a variety of sea creatures, including a ray and starfish.

The centre is also home to wild birds of prey, including a majestic bald eagle, which feature in an hour-long display.

Well worth the €40 entrance fee to sit overlooking the estuary and watch the eagle swoop inches above our heads, see a kite dive at over 100kph, and see cormorant fish from a large water tank.

www.aquarium.fr

Cap du Raz

A 20-minute drive further west is Cap du Raz, the western-most point in Brittany, perched at the end of a peninsula of outstanding natural beauty. It was declared a protected area in 2013.

It’s a dead-end drive so don’t take the road there unless you are prepared to pay the €6 car park fee and walk the 20-or-so minutes to the headland. A shuttle bus operates regularly from the visitor centre to the headland, €1 each way. Guided tours are available.

Once you’ve enjoyed the scenery, try the koignettes, or any of the delicious biscuits, macaroons or chocolates from Maison Georges Larnicol, one of many outlets at the visitor centre.

www.pointeduraz.com

Carnac

The megalithic stone alignments at Carnac, one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites, are a 90-minute drive south from the campsite.

Strung along a four kilometre stretch just outside the town, the four main sites are as mysterious as they are incongruous — huge standing stones lined up like sentinels across several fields for reasons we can only speculate on.

The visitor centre at the largest site at Menec was a bit chaotic the day we visited, and a bit of a disappointment, but there is a good museum of prehistory in the town itself.

There are several lay-bys along the road where you can pull in and view the alignments from behind fences.

Visitors are only allowed to walk amongst the stones between October and April — they are closed in peak season to protect the vegetation and are only accessible by appointment.

But there is a tall round tower about two kilometres from Menec which provides an amazing view over one of the fields.

GETTING THERE

Brittany Ferries 2015 season of Cork to Roscoff sailings begins on March 21, with the Pont Aven sailing from Cork every Saturday evening until October 31. The return sailing leaves Roscoff on Friday evenings, arriving in Cork the following morning.

Prices and booking on tel: 021-427 7801 or www.brittanyferries.ie

It’s about a two hour drive from the ferry port to Benodet.

WHERE TO STAY

A seven-night stay with Eurocamp in the Beg Meil, L’Atlantique campsite in South Brittany, in June, based on a two-bedroom Esprit mobile with decking, starts at €473. July prices start at €767 with August prices from €1,341.

Extras such at flights, car hire, ferry or airport transfers can be booked at an extra supplement through Eurocamp’s sales office tel: 021-4252300 or visit www.eurocamp.ie.

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