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Beauport Abbey visitor guide

Photo of Beauport Abbey

Visit Beauport Abbey, France

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Beauport Abbey is a charming abbey in northern Brittany, just a few kilometres from Paimpol and in the Cotes-d'Armor department. It is one of the most visited - and most impressive - abbeys in Brittany and an interesting example of the early use of gothic style architecture.

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France This Way comment: it is a lovely abbey with substantial parts of the buildings and rooms remaining, and extensive well-maintaned gardens

The abbey was originally founded here in the 13th century, in an imposing location overlooking Paimpol Bay and covering an area of almost 125 hectares (300 acres). It was an influential abbey that controlled extensive lands both in Brittany and in England (these were a gift to the founder of the abbey from William the Conqueror, because of his help in the conquering of England).

The abbey also had income from local farmers and from trade in Paimpol Bay, so became quite wealthy for several hundred years.

ruins of the nave in the church of Beauport abbey

Beauport Abbey contiued to be a successful monastery until the 16th century, when its fortune started to decline. The decline continued until the abbey was successfully reformed in the second half of the 17th century, and it once again became prosperous. At this time the buildings were renovated and the gardens were expanded.

The monastery lasted until the French revolution, when it was dissolved (as were all French abbeys), and after which the buildings were used for various purposes including a Town Hall, a school, a manor house and a cider press.

In 1992 the Conservatoire du Littoral acquired Beauport Abbey and spent around 20 years carrying out work to ensure the future of the abbey and its grounds. These works had two goals: to preserve the buildings and to protect the wildlife that had become established in the grounds. The abbey was then opened to the public.

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There are several interesting parts of the abbey to see during a visit. You enter the abbey through the wing that housed the lay workers: the members of the abbey that carred out the manual work and farming, rather than the monks who carried out religious duties. The upstairs of this wing is the dormitory where the lay brothers slept.

From here you enter the cloister. Originally this had covered galleries on each side but these are now lost. At Beauport abbey the cloister followed the traditional layout with the south wing used for prayers, the east for accommodation, the north for eating and the west for guests. It is now a large open square with plants and trees surrounded by the cloister walls. The windows are a 17th century addition to replace the earlier medieval windows.

The abbey church is on the south side of the cloisters. Although the roof has been lost, the walls of the nave are largely intact and the most imposing part of Beauport abbey as well as being very pretty because of the flowers and shrubs that have been planted here.

Vaulted ceiling in hall of Beauport abbey

On the south wall of the cloister the main buildings are the sacristy and the Chapter House, where the monks had their daily meetings and discussions.

Just outside the north-east corner there is a large manor house called the Ducal House. This is thought to have been used as accomodation for visiting dignitaries, and has a large and imposing main room that is now used for various concerts and performances.

Next to the Ducal House there is a large walled garden that is now used for growing various types of apples, and retains a French style layout with formal patterns and lines. This is because in the 18th century apples were grown here for producing cider, and during renovation it seemed appropriate to preserve this historic element of the gardens. The main challenge of a visit is avoiding the temptation to steal one of these apples!

After the gardens, you return to the abbey through the refectory (canteen) which also has access to the kitchens and cellars. Although these are now quite empty apart from small areas of garden, their size gives us an idea of the importance of the abbey in medieval times.

At the end of the refectory there is a large gothic style window that has lovely views across Paimpol Bay.

Gardens and apple orchard of Beauport abbey

Attractions nearby

The principal town nearby is Paimpol, where you can take a walk around the port and in the historic centre.

The main attraction in this part of north Brittany is the Cote de Granit Rose, a pretty section of coast with lovely scenery around the town of Perros-Guirec.

You can find more travel ideas in the Cotes-d'Armor guide and the Brittany guide.

See also: 

Photos of Beauport Abbey

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Map of Beauport Abbey and places nearby

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Visit near Beauport Abbey with France This Way reviews

Beauport Abbey Gardens

Beauport Abbey Gardens

The gardens of Beauport Abbey form a charming setting for the evocative ruins.

Beauport Abbey Gardens guide
Paimpol

Paimpol

The harbour and the traditional small houses combine to make Paimpol a very interesting town to explore

Paimpol guide
Ile Brehat

Ile Brehat

The views and landscapes of the small island of Ile-Bréhat can be explored on foot or by bike; a lovely escape from the crowds

Ile Brehat guide
Pontrieux

Pontrieux

The canals, river and port in Pontrieux - and the famous washhouses - make it a very scenic town to explore

Pontrieux guide
Treguier

Treguier

The cathedral and the 15th century half-timbered houses combine to make Treguier a particularly interesting town to visit

Treguier guide
Treguier cathedral

Treguier cathedral

Tréguier cathedral is a gothic style cathedral with a beautiful cloister

Treguier cathedral guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Cotes-d'Armor

The French version of this page is at Beauport Abbey (Francais)

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