I went to a town called Carnac over the holidays, and I’m in love.
I really really love old things. A lot a lot. So, Carnac is the perfect place for me.
There are more than 3,000 standing stones erected by pre-celtic peoples, some as long ago as 4500 BC (Thanks, Wikipedia) in Carnac, a town on the coast of Brittany, in France.
It’s the largest collection of alignments in the world. (Suck it, Stonehenge.) The megaliths are rows and rows of meticulously placed stones, leading me to believe that those proto-celts probably suffered from an obsessive stone-aligning disorder. The other possibility (thanks again, Wikipedia) according to Christian myth, is that they are pagan soldiers turned to stone for chasing after Pope Cornelius. Or Merlin did it to the Romans. You tell me which theory seems more credible: Celtic OCD or magical transformation. The tourist pamphlet hypothesizes that they “could have served as ceremonial places.” To which I say, obviously, but what kind? It’s pretty much science and anthropology’s polite way of saying they have no freaking idea what they were for.
There are alignments, dolmens, tumulus, and they’re all amazing. The main concentration of alignments runs along one road, which is a little ways from the city center (distances? You want exact distances?) or 1.3 km from the city center, which, according to Google Maps, is a 15 minute walk.
I don’t know myself, because my roommate and I rented bikes and took a road along the coast before turning up to the road of alignments. The bike rental shop is less than a block away from the Office of Tourism, which is itself located right across the street from the bus stop if you arrive from Auray (more below).
I highly recommend renting bikes, because the road is a heck of a lot longer than it looks on the map from the visitor’s center.
To walk down the length of the road from the visitor’s center and back is around 10 km. This is what we did, despite the fact that we rented bicycles, because map scales are hard.
The walk started out with us gasping and exclaiming at each standing stone. “So amazing!” We said.
And ended with us cursing every rock we passed.
We started out at the first site, thinking, “Oh, it’s not so far. I can see the next site from here!” Five sites later, on foot, in unsupportive shoes, we were more than a little tired.
But the stones were so impressive and amazing, especially if you are a prehistoric megalithic nerd, like me (a very specific type of nerd), that I will absolutely be back. I also was too done in to go to the prehistory museum, so there’s that for next time as well.
I remember the tumulus the most—earth-covered tombs with entrances in the side of the manmade hill. The amazing thing about Carnac is that visitor s are allowed to wander in and out and around without restriction.
At the end of our unintended hike, we were about ready to collapse, but we wanted to make use of our bikes a bit more, so we biked through town and down to the coast. There’s a lovely bike path along the water that leads right back to the bike rental shop.
If you are in the very particular circumstances of going from Lorient to Carnac, the train from Lorient to Auray is only about €5 each way. If not, here’s the cost breakdown from Auray:
Free map and directions from the Office of Tourism
€10 bike rental, all day
€3 lunch if you restrain yourself and don’t buy a pastry. But let’s be honest, who does that?
€2 coffee while waiting for the return bus
€2 return TIM bus