Walking around Dinard, with its Belle Époque villas and stripy beach tents, is like taking a trip back to the 19th century. Made popular by British and American visitors, Dinard was France’s top summer resort until the French Riviera took over in the 1930s. The former fishing village attracted wealthy celebrities and businessmen as well as European royalty, some of whom built fabulous villas; there are now more than 400 listed buildings in the town.
Held in late September every year, the Festival du Film Britannique de Dinard has quietly gathered pace to become an important fixture on the festival calendar. British films are often premiered to a French audience during the festival and famous faces grace the boardwalk – just as they might in Cannes...
Dinard has several beaches, which range from small coves to long expanses of sand. The jewel in the crown of this Emerald Coast resort is Place de l’Écluse, which is instantly recognisable in season by its rows of stripy tents; from June to September the beach organises gym classes, kids’ clubs and many other activities. Head to the Plage de St-Enogat for water sports.
The GR34 old customs officer’s path– now a popular hiking trail known for its superb sea views - passes through Dinard and a trip on foot to St-Lunaire, a favourite resort of rich Parisians and French film stars, makes an interesting day out. The village has some nice sandy beaches, an 11th-century Romanesque church and the area of Le Décollé offers sweeping views over the coast. Further west, the seaside village of Saint-Briac-sur-Mer has inspired such artists as Auguste Renoir and Emile Bernard and hosts a waterside 18-hole course, which is said to be one of Europe’s most beautiful golf course.
Order a platter of seafood, with Cancale oysters taking centre stage, and taste the freshness of the sea; all you need is a wedge of lemon on the side, and a drop of white wine to wash it down. Another local culinary treat is the bouchot mussel farmed in Mont Saint Michel Bay, which carries the AOP label (Appellation d'Origine Protégée). Two other local specialities are Mouton pré sale (from sheep left to graze in salt marshes) and salted caramel. The local gastronomy, while influenced by the sea, has plenty to offer if you’ve got a sweet tooth, including the craquelin (a very light wheat cracker) and the Dinan gavotte (a crispy, crêpe-like biscuit).
Heading inland, the spectacular medieval town of Dinan is a little gem waiting to be discovered. Its perfectly preserved cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and colossal walls transport you back in time – and offer plenty of shopping opportunities too. Built on a hill high above the Rance valley, the town still has 3 km of ramparts, four impressive gates, 15 towers and a lattice of cobbled streets lined with beautiful half-timbered houses. Every other summer, the Fête des Remparts brings Dinan’s golden age back to life, with traditional costumes and performances. From Dinan, carry on up to Léhon, designated a Small Town of Character thanks to its rich historical heritage, which includes an abbey-church attached to a former monastery and the ruins of a castle-fortress.