Belle Ile

At about 17 kilometres long, Belle-Ile, in the department of Morbihan is the largest Breton island, and the only one with ample supplies of fresh water.

Perhaps this explains the island's rather violent history - pillaged by pirates in 280 AD, invaded by the Normans in 910, given to Redon abbey in 1006. The monks managed to hang onto ownership of the island for five hundred years, but even so it was invaded and laid waste several times during that period.

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The island then passed through many hands for another couple of hundred years before finally being peacefully settled in 1766 by 78 Canadian families, ejected from their own province when Canada was ceded to the British. Many modern inhabitants of the island are proud to trace their descent from these families.

Today, its population of about 4,000 predominantly survive on tourism and fishing. During the summer the island's population increases dramatically, with many people owning a second home on the island, because of its secluded location and beaches.

The island has many beautiful spots to capture the imagination of visitors. Monet painted more than 30 pictures of the island; Sarah Bernhardt was so taken with it that she bought not one but five houses - and a fort!





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