Pointe du Raz – Grand Site de France
Pointe du Raz or Raz Beg ar in Breton is the westernmost land of France.
It is classified as Grand Site of France and attracts over a million visitors annually.
This rocky spur with 70m high jagged cliffs resembles a ship’s bow that projects itself into the raging waters of the stretch of sea locally known as Raz de Sein.
It is located on the Cap Sizun, the western tip of Cornouaille (Kerne, Kernev or Bro Gerne in Breton and Cornugallia in Latin), a former political and religious area of Brittany located in the department of Finistère.
This exceptional site offers a spectacular view of the Raz de Sein and Phare de La Vieille (the lighthouse off the Pointe du Raz).
From there you can also see the Phare de Tévennec on an islet off of the Ile de Sein.
The Phare Ar Men stands at the end of the Chaussée de Sein.
This 25km long granite formation is located in the extension of the Pointe du Raz.
Pointe du Raz, Raz de Sein … What is a raz?
This Breton maritime word means narrow passage, an underwater canyon where sea currents rush with force.
Sailors and fishermen will tell you that these raz are extremely dangerous.
Indeed, their currents can project the ships against the reefs as the narrowness of the canyon amplifies the tides.
The tides of the Raz de Sein strike the Pointe du Raz and surrounding littoral.
They create the jagged cliffs that turn the promontory into one of the most photographed natural sites in Brittany!
The Pointe du Raz delineates the northern side of the Baie d’Audierne and the southern side of the Baie des Trépassés – Bay of the Dead (a long wild beach).
You’ll find many other spectacular rocky spurs along this coastline (Pointe du Van, Cap de la Chèvre and Pointe de Penmarc’h.)
Raz and legends
The raz and their raging waters gave rise to many legends.
Sailors and fishermen agree that, by nights of storm, you can hear the prayers of those who drowned at sea.
They say that their souls rise from the depth of the raz and come knocking on the houses’ windows.
Sailors and fishermen worship the statue of Notre-Dame-des-Naufragés – Our Lady of the Shipwrecked that watches over the men at sea.
They look for the semaphore that guides them across the treacherous waters.
The semaphore is the former Phare de la Pointe du Raz.
The lighthouse was erected in 1839 but was made redundant and replaced by the Phare de La Vieille.
The wild beauty of the Pointe du Raz indeed inspired many ancient legends.
However, it also inspired many great French authors such as Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo.
All largely contributed to the notoriety of this unique natural site.
However, they also contributed to its degradation.
Indeed the constant flow of tourists led to environmental issues that worsened over the decades.
As a result, the Pointe du Raz has become an area protected under the label Grand Site de France.
Visitors, therefore, can’t roam free as they did in the past.
They must follow the marked paths in order to allow for the flora (mostly heather) to regenerate.
The French state and various patron funded this ambitious environmental program, which was put in place between 1996 and 2000.
This also led to the demolition of two hotels and the displacement of seasonal tourist trades that disfigured the site.
Finally, the car-park is now 1km inland.
Department of Finistère
Coordinates: Lat 48.039989 – Long -4.740395