Cairn de Barnenez

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This is the only large dolmen in Southern Finistère and is in the same league as the megalithic remains around Carnac.

Cairn de Barnenez is a massive stone structure built on the highest point of the peninsula and overlooking the sea. There is plenty of parking along the road and the cairn is hidden by trees. The Visitor Centre is carefully built into the hillside and is unobstrusive. It has basic toilets and sells a small selection of books and tee-shirts. Some of the finds from the cairn are displayed in the centre.

It is a short walk to the cairn which is on a grassy site although surrounding tree and shrubs restrict views

This is the largest and oldest cairn in Europe and was built in two stages. The oldest part of the cairn is the eastern part. It was built about 4500BC from green dolerite and contained five chambers. The cairn was extended to the west between 4200-3900BC using granite which is slightly paler in colour. Six more chambers were added. The cairn is made up of steps of stone which gives it greater stability. It was in continuous use for over 2500 years.

In 1955, part of the north western part of the cairn was removed when quarrying for road stone. This exposed several chambers. Quarrying was stopped and the cairn excavated, plant growth removed and stonework restored.

Most of the eleven chamber entrances are blocked. There is no entry to those which are not. The quarry at the back reveals the structure of the chambers with the use of large upright stones and carefully packed smaller stones. Some chambers have flat stone slabs. Others have corbelled roofs made up of smaller stones (and a bit like the beehive cells of the Irish Monks).

We drove to the small settlement at the end of the road with beautifully restored old stone houses and private signs everywhere. Guide books said there were excellent views of Chateau de Taureau and Ile Sterec from the tip of the peninsula.The footpath to the east dropped rapidly and took us the wrong way. To the west the path was surrounded by high shrub hedges so there were no views. We gave up. This is one of the ‘must sees’ in the area and ranks equal with the megalithic remains around Carnac.


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