I’d walked past this little cottage on several occasions over many years, and had always noticed it.
Now, it’s my first-ever ‘own home’ (though I prefer to think of it as ‘reciprocal belonging’ for a little while; or custodianship). I decided early on that when I’m not there I would like to share it and its stunning location occasionally with other writers, artists, walkers, dreamers and similar romantics. I want others to have the opportunity to delight in the area as I do, and it’s also important to me that it contributes in some way to the hamlet and local economy.
Although it’s fine as it is, gradually I’m making it into ‘my home’, and hopefully also more ecological in the long run.
It’s small, but there are two double bedrooms up in the eaves, and a separate barn with wood store, and outhouse with washing machine. What really makes the house for me, apart from the forest and its silence punctuated by the gentle rural sounds of a small hamlet, is the conservatory with my writing desk which is light all day, and the patio which is a suntrap. There’s a little front garden and a private small rear meadow-garden. The photos don’t do it justice.
I am deliberately keeping it both simple and low-tech as a retreat space with minimal distraction and as few electromagnetic interferences as possible: there is no phone or internet, no microwave, and no TV. (There is usually a mobile signal however.)
There’s also no central heating (or any other heating beside the woodburner). Once it’s lit, the woodburner warms the whole cottage (wood provided).
The mainly broadleaf forest ‘proper’ begins at two minutes’ walk away. In town there are cafés and galleries, restaurants and bars, an arboretum, a Thursday market, and Sur La Route café-bookshop and other places that offer wifi. There’s an excellent 2nd-hand bookshop (French and English books) at the other end of a different forest walk.
Our nearest town is lakeside Huelgoat; it’s around 2-3kms in the car, and about 35-40 minutes’ walk through the very beautiful forest, headed with its Iron Age ‘Camp d’Artus’ off to the northern edge (the site is probably quite a lot older, as might also be the clapper bridge, below). There’s another, seasonal, café partway through the forest.
Huelgoat is a market town (an excellent Thursday market with organic and local produce), with most shops you might need for a short break, including a wholefood shop and two bakeries, plus grocery stores, banks and galleries. And there are several crêperies – not to be missed! Try the local blé noir (buckwheat) crêpes, with a cup of local cider. Local specialities (in addition to cider) are apple cakes, goats’ cheese, honey and artichokes.
There is a world-famous arboretum up the hill. A few miles away is the Wolf Museum (the last wolf here hung on longer than in Britain).
At the entrance to the Huelgoat lakeside entrance to the forest is this C14th mill.
There can’t be many places where a massive dolmen (this one’s ‘Le Champignon’) co-habits with a supermarket – which, along with the road, splits what was once a significant megalithic site. (A human is shorter than the supporting stones of the ‘mushroom’.)
If you are interested in prehistory, there are many sites to visit on foot or at a short drive. As in all such ancient sites, especially with a bit of wildwood left, the place is rich with legends and stories, some associated with King Arthur and the Matter of Britain. It’s easy to step over the threshold into the Otherworld here.
For walkers, you might know that the French (in which for these purposes I’m including the Bretons – I wouldn’t usually, as they very much consider themselves a Celtic people) are very good at randonnées – long-distance walking paths. Here, there are many miles of good footpaths in the immediate vicinity, all inviting (one is a section of the Camino de Santiago).
There is public transport from Roscoff to Huelgoat (train and then bus). It’s a hilly area, but there are good bits for biking, including a long stretch of ‘voie verte’, the old railway line from Morlaix to Carhaix Plouguer, the nearest big town. You can pick this up from Locmaria Berrien, on the Poullaouen road.
We’re around an hour by car from the coast.
STAYING AT GWYNVID
I give priority to people I already know, but if you are the sort of person to whom it would appeal, please contact me.
My first guest said: ‘I’ve fallen under the spell. Complete enchantment, and love for the place. The forest, and your cottage. I really can’t thank you enough. Every part of me feels restored. Deeply nourished. I absolutely loved it. Even with the rain these last few days [after a heatwave], I didn’t seem to mind a bit, and it did open up creative pathways, in a really fluid and natural way. The house just seemed so very welcoming too, like the woods. [And] I’ve been visited several times on walks by a fox cub, and in the forest, a close encounter with a fawn.’ (CB)