A defiant little headland, La Torche sticks out from the southern end of the wild Bay of Audierne, in southwest Finistère. Despite the Atlantic’s batterings, digs have revealed signs of communities here going far back into prehistoric times. Now, surfers love tackling the waves here.
Man makes his mark
La Torche’s low summit is crowned by a prehistoric tomb with the finest of views, along the whole 40km of the bay on clear days. A Nazi blockhaus stands firmly in place below the tomb – fearing invasion here, the Germans fortified the spot. However, natural drama now dominates. Despite the rugged terrain, men have long been attracted to La Torche. Finds going from Neolithic times to the Dark Ages have been found around it.
Look and learn
A fine collection of prehistoric structures from across Finistère is gathered in front of the old-fashioned but learned Musée de la Préhistoire beside Pors-Carn beach just south of La Torche. Inland, the isolated yet imposing Gothic chapel of Tronoën raises its head above the windswept fields. Next to it stands one of the oldest, finest calvaries in Brittany. The memorable, if worn, stone carvings depicting Christ’s life include a naked-breasted Virgin giving birth to Jesus.
Fragile beauty spot
New wooden fencing is helping sea plants stabilise the fragile dunes around La Torche. To the north, a line of ancient pebbles backs the long beach, but it is fragile, especially as people have been removing stones – now it’s being protected. Birds are attracted in large numbers to the marshlands behind this coast, as explained at La Maison de la Baie d’Audierne. The sandy soils around Tronoën prove excellent for growing flowers commercially; in season, daffodils, hyacinths or tulips vividly carpet swathes of land as if painted from above.
Dangerous tidal currents discourage swimmers around La Torche. However, walkers love the huge unbroken strand, while surfers congregate to ride the magnificent, long, ocean rollers. Windsurfing world championships have even been held here. Surf shops and crêperies have opened behind La Torche.