Coastal gem or inland idyll? The western départements of Ille-et-Vilaine and Vienne both have a lot to recommend them, but which would you choose?
With its beautiful countryside, miles of beaches, accessibility and rich history, Brittany has long been popular with retirees and holiday-makers. Thankfully, Ille-et-Vilaine, with its Emerald coastline, has attracted less attention over the years from Parisian weekenders and British buyers alike – especially its rural heartlands. It’s home to Brittany’s capital Rennes, which has a university and airport so could offer attractive investment opportunities. Historic Fougères (above), with its imposing fortress, is a great spot for house hunting, as are Vitré and Bécherel. If you have set your heart on a coastal property, check out chic Saint-Malo or elegant Dinard.
Getting to anywhere in Brittany from the UK is a doddle, with ferries operating from Plymouth to Roscoff and Portsmouth to Saint-Malo. There are also services to Normandy ports: Cherbourg, Caen and Le Havre. Direct flights run to Dinard and Rennes. Paris is an hour and a half by train to Rennes.
Ille-et-Vilaine can be overcast and rainy – whatever the time of year. It gets cold in the winter, though its coastal location means the weather tends to be mild, with little snow.
Despite the region’s popularity, it’s possible to buy a detached family house with land in Ille-et-Vilaine in good condition for around €150,000, particularly if you’re buying inland. Meanwhile you could snap up somewhere with two or three bedrooms needing some TLC for less than €100,000. Traditional Breton longères with bags of charm can be had for €250,000 and up, while larger maisons de maître will set you back from €450,000.
On the département’s Emerald coast you’ll find some of Brittany’s most glorious beaches not to mention gems such as fortified Saint-Malo and Belle Époque seaside resort Dinard. Inland, try exploring its picturesque trails and circuits by bike, on foot or on horseback. History lovers should head to bustling Rennes or the fortress town of Fougères.
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This inland département east of Vendée, with its vast expanses of corn and fields of bobbing sunflowers, played a key role in the hundred years war and was once home to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Vienne is an affordable base for the popular delights of La Rochelle, Île de Ré and the sandy beaches of France’s west coast. Its capital Poitiers (above), like Rennes, has a large university, as well as historic architecture and a nearby airport. Futuroscope, one of France’s top theme parks, attracts around 1.8 million visitors a year to the area north of Poitiers and a gîte or other tourist-orientated business in this area could be very lucrative. You’ll find many cheaper properties in need of renovation in this département, particularly in rural locations, and many homes come with several acres of land and outbuildings. Popular spots for property hunters include Civray, Montmorillon and Charroux.
Unlike Ille-et-Vilaine, Vienne is completely landlocked. Ryanair operates flights direct to Poitiers, as well as to Tours and Limoges airports, about an hour’s drive away. Poitiers is just 90 minutes from Paris by TGV.
The weather in Vienne is mild all year round – cold in winter and lovely and warm in summer, but it does have more than its fair share of rain.
It’s certainly possible to find properties for under €100,000 – and indeed under €50,000 in this region – particularly if you were to focus your search around, for example, Civray and Montmorillon. Elsewhere in the département, you can snap up a three-bedroom character property with land on the edge of a town or village for €200,000-€400,000, while bigger character properties cost upwards of €600,000, and you can bag a two-bedroom apartment in Poitiers for less than €100,000.
It might not have a coastline, but at Saint-Cyr there’s a lake with a man-made beach where you can swim, mountain bike and enjoy water sports galore. Another big draw for families is the Futuroscope theme park. Add these to its glorious countryside and historic nooks and crannies and you’ll never be bored in Vienne.
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